You're probably wondering: What is a professional bio, and do I need one? Have I not been getting calls for interviews because I'm sending an old fashioned resume and cover letter, and hiring managers are looking for newfangled materials?
A professional bio doesn't replace a resume in any way, and you should absolutely, unequivocally, never submit one in lieu of a professional resume or cover letter when applying for a job. Rather, a bio is a supplemental tool that will help you present yourself to your colleagues in a variety of settings and boost your career in a more general sense.
In particular, a bio can be useful for writers, directors, or other creative-types when sent as a precursor to general meetings (generally, an agent or manager would send it for you). Resumes for these types of professionals typically take the form of a credits list, but a bio will allow you to showcase some information that might not make it into the resume -- awards, fellowships, uncredited development experience, interesting personal anecdotes, and even some humor. By sending a short bio in advance of a meeting, you save executives from Googling you and trying to piece your story together themselves.
Bios also make up a part of your online presence. Many companies feature C-level executive bios on their websites, and some smaller firms have short blurbs on every person at the company! If you have a personal website, you should certainly include a bio somewhere on it. It allows you to summarize both your personal and work experience in one place, and it will help a viewer decide whether they want to learn more about you and guide them to the parts of your portfolio that are most relevant. Additionally, if you’ve ever been asked to speak at an event or contribute an article to a website, you’ll probably need a bio that will likely live online somewhere. This can only help you in your professional career -- having your bio posted on another organization’s site will inevitably give you some extra credibility. Bios are also a component of fellowship applications, and if you’re accepted, your bio will typically be featured on the program’s site. Needless to say, given the public nature of a bio, it’s important that you make it GREAT!
But writing a bio can be tricky. You want something well-written that flows nicely, so if grammar or written storytelling aren’t your forte, you’d do well to have someone write your bio for you. Plus, an outsider can often help you identify the most impressive aspects of your career and lay them out in an organized way. Writing a bio can sometimes feel like you’re being forced to brag about yourself, and most people are uncomfortable doing so. Remember those awkward times that your professors asked you to write your own letters of recommendation for them to sign? Bio writing can sometimes feel a lot like that. At the very least, we suggest having a friend or family member help you with your bio. But that’s why we’re starting our new service -- to help you with this very important component of your professional career.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan