by Meg Guiseppi on April 22, 2010
When I first speak with potential c-suite clients, we discuss their job search target and goals, and which of the services I provide they’ll need to accomplish their career goals.
They often want to know more about biographies — what they are, how they differ from resumes, and if they really need one.
The dictionary defines “biography”:
“An account of a person’s life written, composed, or produced by another.”
I’m sure you’ve read a typical bio that walks you through the person’s career progression and provides hard facts. Aside from touching briefly on marital status and perhaps hobbies, they lack vibrancy. They give you little feel for what kind of person you’re reading about and what drives them.
A brand biography is a storytelling tool that breathes life into an otherwise flat rehash of your resume. For job search and career management, a bio affords the opportunity to reinforce your brand with storytelling in a way that a resume doesn’t allow.
What you can do with a bio that you can’t do as well with a resume:
- Showcase your leadership and management acumen through softer skills and “good fit” attributes, and link them to your value proposition.
- Personalize your C-A-Rs stories and use them to reinforce your brand attributes and key strengths.
- Generate chemistry around how you use your key personal attributes, passions, strengths, and motivated skills to make things happen for employers.
- Help employers connect with you and envision you on the job, having a positive impact.
At the senior executive level, your career bio and executive resume work in tandem as the foundation for all your personal brand marketing communications online and offline.
When I’m creating online profiles for clients, I use pieces of both their resumes and bios, mixing it up a bit to distinguish profiles from each other, and provide a little additional info in each. If you look at my LinkedIn and Google profiles, you’ll see that the content is not duplicated.
My clients and I have already defined their personal brand attributes and value proposition when we start working on their career bio. Here are some of the questions in my executive bio worksheet:
1. What are 3 or 4 defining moments for you as your career progressed? Think of events or things that shaped your career path, had the most impact on making you who you are today, and led you to add value to your companies.
2. Which of your personal attributes have been most beneficial to you in your career? Explain why.
3. How have adversity and challenges made you stronger and a more valuable employee?
4. What are the two or three most important lessons you learned along the way that others could benefit from?
5. Who have you mentored and how did your guidance impact that person, your team, your department, and
your company? How do you describe your leadership style?
Incorporate these tactics to move your bio from bland to brand-solid:
Pack a punch in the first paragraph.
Compel readers to want to continue to the end. Capture attention by leading with your brand positioning statement, or a quote from an industry celebrity or subject matter expert. Or compose a quote of your own that encapsulates your brand value — it could be something that others tell you you’re always saying — or a direct quote about you from someone you’ve worked with.
Make it a good read!
The writing should come from your own voice and follow a consistent theme reinforcing your brand attributes. For instance, if you’re known for turning around failing business, weave that driver throughout your mini-career stories.
Format the document for visual appeal and ease in reading.
Break up long, dense paragraphs into 2 or 3 smaller ones to add more white space, drawing readers’ eyes down the page and compelling them to read the entire document or web page, if it’s an online profile. One innovative technique is to include high-impact sub-headings throughout, which is also an opportunity to build in more relevant keywords. I used this innovation in my own brand bio .
Include a sneak peek into your life outside the workplace.
Definitely write about your community involvement and any volunteering activities. The commitment to giving back is an important trait for any leader worth her or his salt.
At the end of your bio, talk about your spouse and children noting briefly what they’re doing. Talk about your leisure passions and hobbies, but take it a little further than just listing them. Often your key brand attributes come into play when you pursue these activities. Wrapped up in a brief story, your favorite pastimes can spark interest from those who share them.
Your career biography offers value in job search and beyond:
The “About” page on your blog or website, or your company’s website, is actually your bio. Remember that because most recruiters and hiring decision makers are searching online to source and assess top talent, they may see your bio (or About page) before they see your resume. It has to stand on its own as a personal marketing document.
Bios are essential introductions for speaking engagements. When making a presentation or giving a speech, give your bio to the introducer ahead of time.
Encapsulate your full bio into a tidy one or two paragraph mini-bio to include when you guest blog, write articles or white papers, or publish anything online or offline.
Follow up networking events by sending your bio (or variation) to people you’ve connected with. It’s less formal than your resume.
You can see how executive branding and career storytelling come together in a bio I created for a CEO Global Operations Management client. All identifying information was fictionalized.