Today I got a call from a panicky eighth grader wondering if I could help her tackle the dreaded About Me essay she’s been worrying about since the first week of school. The due date is looming.
I felt her pain.
Writing about me is hard, no matter how old you are. But in our digital world, it’s difficult to avoid.
Next to the Home page, the About page is the most viewed page on a website. If someone likes what they see on your Home page, they will want to see who you are. You have seconds to capture their interest and keep them on your site. Your LinkedIn summary needs to distinguish you from the crowd in a search. Your Twitter profile needs to be a clever, pithy 240-character lead magnet encapsulating who you are and what you do. And because all three are part of your branding, they need to work together. Consistently.
That’s a lot of pressure. A lot of unnecessary pressure.
Your about me doesn’t need to be magic, no matter where it’s posted. It needs to be helpful. It doesn’t have to get everybody’s attention. It just has to show those who need your help that you can help.
The best way to tell about you on any platform is to tell your story with your voice in a way that makes your message (how you can help) clear. You don’t have to be a rock star. You just need to connect with people who need your help.
Here’s how to do it:
Use Your Voice
What’s causing paralysis in my eighth-grade friend isn’t her topic, but her perception of her teacher’s expectations for her essay. She likes getting A’s. To get an A she needs to impress her teacher.
She’s worrying so much about what she should say to earn that A, she’s lost her voice. The problem is that her voice is what will earn her that A.
Voice gives strength and character to written communications. It engages people and helps them connect with your content in the same way personality engages them in conversation. Without voice, your bio will sound wooden and distant. When your voice is clear, it will resonate with your reader.
Voice is distinctly human. Yours is you. As a professional, your voice is you in your work-a-day-world. It’s how you interact with your co-workers and clients and what you hear in your head when you’re thinking about your business. It makes you distinct, which is why capturing it allows you to speak through your bio in ways a list of achievements and credentials just can’t do.
Don’t get me wrong, the purpose of a professional bio is to showcase your qualifications and accomplishments. People want to know who you are, how you got there, and what you can do for them. Your story. But they also want to know why they should trust you with their money. Using your voice shows you are authentic and relatable. It establishes a human connection.
When you use your voice, people can hear you as they read.
How to Find Your Voice
Though it’s easy to lose your voice like my student did when she was focusing more on getting an A than on telling her story, capturing your voice is not tricky. You just need to use it. You can do that by writing out your professional bio story as a first-person narrative without any intention of ever publishing it.
It doesn’t have to be neat or correct or winsome. It doesn’t need to be long. It only needs to be you. Fast and messy or slow and methodical. It doesn’t matter. This is practice.
Most likely your professional bio will be written in third, not first person. But if you want a strong bio that reads better than a professional shopping list, spending twenty minutes telling your story in your voice will help you see it differently. Not only will you be able to put together a compelling professional bio, writing it will be easier than you think.
Tell a Story
Bios can be hard to read. That’s because people tend to write bios like lists. Lists read like lists. Bios should read like stories. Stories show
Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. The best bios start with the end (now) and go backward.
Start with who you are and what you do now. Be strong and passionate. If you’re not sure why you’re doing what you’re doing, your story will drag. If you love helping people make money, let them know that. Your motivation has sparked your story. Show that. Stories are about showing. People remember what they see.
Your story doesn’t need to include everything you’ve done. It shouldn’t. But the parts of the story you do use should fit together to show how you got to where you are now.
I know a man whose professional story started when he was four years old and asked for a good shovel for Christmas. He began a gardening business when he was nine. By the time he was 19, he had a full-scale landscaping business with two employees. Today he is 50 and has built that business into a high-end landscaping company with over forty employees.
Most of us don’t have a professional story that spans our entire life, but we have threads that tie the different pieces of our story together. Find those threads. Make sure they are relevant. Then fit the pieces together to show your reader who you are and how you might be able to help them.
Send a Clear Message
A professional bio isn’t about showing off; it’s about showing how your accomplishments equip you to serve your clients well.
A bio is a snapshot of who you are as a professional. Your credentials, achievements, experience and passion have equipped you to do what you do. Yes, people need to relate to you, but they also need to know you can help them. Show them how you can help. That’s your message, and it should resonate in your professional bio.
. . . With Clear Content
Busy people are not going to work hard to understand what you mean. Awkward constructions and ambiguous sentences are painful to read. Even if you have a great story and a poignant voice, if your syntax is sloppy it’s going to be tough to maintain your reader’s attention.
Whether you’re writing a professional bio for your website, a LinkedIn summary, or a profile for Social Media, your bio matters. It’s your online presence, your personal brand, and your opportunity to show people how you’re qualified to help them. Write it so that people want to read it.
My eighth-grade friend ended up writing an About Me essay that should not only earn her the coveted A, but that will make her stand out in a stack of 40 similar essays. She is learning young that a strong voice, simple story, and clear message have a huge impact.
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