You want me to write what?

This article was first published in the June edition of Face Magazine.

Though few of us will serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 or run for governor, at some point in our lives we will likely be recognized for something. Often when we win an award or serve on a committee, the most painful thing we have to do is write a biography for ourselves.  It's tough to sum up our histories, articulate our competence and show that we are human in 200 words or less. It's even more difficult to maintain objectivity without being tempted to hyperbolize. We all want to make ourselves look good! 

So what if you are not a professional writer? How can you write the story of your life so that its main character is someone we'd all like to get to know? If you write carefully and thoughtfully, the process can actually be quite painless.

Keep it Simple 

The most effective bios are understated. They rely on simple word choice and shy away from excessive adjectival adornment. A well-crafted bio uses content and personality rather than puffed-up biospeak to make the person in question shine.  (i.e., don’t go mining the thesaurus a la Joey Tribbiani.)

Be Honest 

If you don't have a lot of experience, don't exaggerate or make things up.  You may just be getting started but you've obviously done enough of something to be writing a bio in the first place. Find relevant bits of information and let them shine in their own right.

Consider Your Audience 

No matter where your bio will be published, your audience is made up of people who relate to other people. Focus on the qualities that make you extraordinary rather than the awards  those qualities have helped you claim. Bragging about the trophies on your mantle will not help people relate to you.

Use Your Voice  

Even when you write your own bio, it should be written in third person.  It sounds much better and seems more natural for someone else to brag on you than for you to brag about yourself.  It also helps your reader establish trust in the bio, even if they know you've written it yourself.

Engage an Editor  

No one knows us better than we know ourselves, but we tend to see ourselves differently than a third party observer. Don't leave the fate of your public image to your own keyboard entirely.  Call on a friend who will be honest and objective.

Questions to consider when you write your own bio:

  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been doing what you do?
  • Where did you go to school and what did you study?
  • Where did you grow up and what brought you to the area you are in now?
  • What are you known for or have a knack for?
  • What types of problems are you good at solving?
  • Who have you worked with? What did you do?
  • What excites you? What can't you stop talking about?
  • Where can you be found when you’re not working?
  • What nonprofits do you love? Why do you love them?
  • Have you won any awards, medals, or trophies?
  • How do you want to be remembered?