Business owners put a lot of time and thought into crafting marketing language for their companies. The ideal company overview is concise, direct, and unforgettable—a tall order, yet essential.
However, what about your personal overview? Have you put time and effort into that? If not, or if you haven’t revisited it in a while, it’s time to sit down, assess your goals and credentials, and put together a sparkling new professional bio.
What is a professional bio?
A professional biography is a brief summary of your professional experience, skills, and accomplishments. It’s typically between one and two paragraphs, but may be shorter (a couple of sentences) or longer depending on the subject’s experience, field, and profession, as well as the bio’s purpose.
If relevant, the bio may also include a statement of professional values, educational history, and personal details such as hobbies or other interests. Think of your professional bio as an introduction to your professional identity, with the content depending on the outlet where it’s published. For example, you might include a short professional bio on your company website or Facebook business page to pitch yourself to prospective clients and demonstrate your expertise in a particular area. If you’re submitting one along with an article about conflict management in the workplace, then you might include information about having a master’s degree in mediation and conflict resolution.
In short, a professional bio establishes your authority in a particular area, demonstrates your qualifications, and highlights your achievements and experience.
Elements of a professional bio
Professional bios typically start with the subject’s name and relevant accomplishments before highlighting their professional background and experience. It concludes with a few personal details. Keep in mind, however, that strong bios customize these elements and chronology based on the subject’s unique professional life, goals, and intended audience.
Here’s an overview of eight elements included in a professional bio, in typical order:1. Name
2. Most relevant professional experience, professional title, or professional objectives
3. Current position, including job description and primary responsibilities, if relevant
4. Professional background, including previous job titles
5. Professional accomplishments, including relevant awards, achievements, or publications
6. Professional skills
7. Educational history, including applicable degrees held
8. Personal details, including hobbies or interests, family life information, and city or state of residence
How to write a professional bio in 5 steps
Actors say the most difficult role to play is yourself—and for many people, the most difficult type of writing is about yourself. Writing your own bio, however, follows a straightforward process. Here’s a breakdown of key steps:
1. Identify your goals
Start by identifying where to publish your bio, who your target audience is, and what your goals are for the piece. This information will help you determine your bio length, point of view, tone, and content.
If you belong to a professional organization that plans to publish member bios on its website, your goal might be to promote your business to an audience of industry peers. In this case, you might select a third-person point of view, adopt a more formal tone, and focus on how your professional experience supports your company’s mission. You might write a first person version to post on your own website and create an even shorter LinkedIn bio and Twitter bio.
2. List key elements
Brainstorm and list pieces of information that might appear in your bio, including professional achievements, awards, relevant skills and experience, previous and/or current employer, current job title, and relevant personal interests. Consult similar bios for inspiration. At this step, the elements don’t have to be set in any particular order. Use the identified target audience and goals to determine what type of information to list.
Revisit your résumé or CV to make sure you haven’t omitted any key achievements or experiences.
3. Draft your bio
You’re now ready to begin writing. Although there is no hard-and-fast rule for content order, professional bio templates typically highlight your current professional activities and any particularly relevant accomplishments in the first sentence, move through background and experience, and conclude with a few personal details. If you’re stuck, use this framework as a guide.
4. Get professional feedback
Some professionals hire freelance writers to review their drafts, or even to create their professional bios from scratch. If you plan to outsource the entire process, you can provide a writer with your résumé, a list of key elements, and any model bios you selected. If you’re seeking feedback on a draft, provide the key elements of a professional bio as well as your draft version.
5. Revise and proofread
If writing your own professional bio, set your draft aside for a half-hour (or overnight). Then give it a fresh read, asking yourself if the story it tells about your accomplishments and experiences aligns with your goals for the bio. If not, adjust relevant details and framing. If so, you’re ready to proofread. You can double-check your work with a digital spelling and grammar checking tool, read your bio aloud to yourself or a colleague to check for clarity and comprehension, or ask a friend or team member to review your work.
Professional bio vs. résumé: What’s the difference?
A professional bio includes many of the same elements as a résumé, but the two are dissimilar in formatting and style. A résumé is typically much longer (a page or longer), broken into sections, and offers a detailed summary of your full professional career and experiences, with bulleted points. By contrast, your professional bio gives a snapshot of key elements, written in a narrative, storytelling style.
Professional bio examples
Professional bios vary in length, tone, and point of view (such as the use of first- or third-person pronouns). Your personal LinkedIn summary, for example, might include a two-sentence first-person bio that highlights your personal brand, provides an overview of your professional skills, and includes a few words about your personal interests. Meanwhile, your business website bio might use third-person and focus on your professional brand and relevant achievements.
First-person bios begin with the pronoun “I,” and frequently include “my.” These bios tend to feel less formal (for instance, using shorter sentences, emphasizing personal goals and missions, and using more conversational language, such as contractions) than third-person bios. Typically, these bios are published on platforms that represent your personal voice, such as your personal website or social media page.
Here’s a hypothetical example:
I am an entrepreneur, disability-rights advocate, and CEO of Adaptive x Athletics, an athletic apparel and equipment retailer dedicated to helping all individuals with disabilities build community and increase fitness through participation in recreational sports. I serve on the board of the Meadowlark State Community Athletics Foundation and as a volunteer for the Adaptive Sport Research Institute. My background includes more than a decade practicing rehabilitative therapy at Topeka State Hospital, as well as five years as a private practitioner. I am a licensed physical therapist and hold a master’s in business administration from the University of Kansas. I live in Topeka with my husband, our two daughters, and our cat, Sniffles.
Third-person bios typically begin with the subject’s name, and thereafter use the third-person pronouns “they,” “she,” or “he.” Third-person bios are more common in formal contexts and on publication channels that don’t represent the subject’s voice, such as in a conference program or on a company website. This type of bio typically places a greater focus on experience and education and may use more complex sentence structure.
Here’s a hypothetical example:
Ana Pavic is a two-time Olympic-medal-winning athlete, an entrepreneur, and the author of the memoir Mind Games: Lessons from an Elite Table Tennis Competitor, which chronicles her experience battling depression while competing on the international table tennis circuit. Her subscription newsletter, ToolBox, provides weekly meditation exercises and performance tips for top athletes, executives, and performing artists on how to cope with intense pressure. Competitive Psychology has called her contributions to the field of performance psychology “groundbreaking,” and “vital,” and she was the 2011 recipient of the National Athletes’ Foundation for Mental Health Award for her work raising public awareness and reducing stigma around mental illness. She lives in Albuquerque, NM, with her partner of 15 years and their four pygmy goats.
4 best practices for professional bios
The professional bio is a relatively prescriptive form, but that doesn’t mean it should feel generic. These best practices can help you create an engaging bio that’s uniquely you:
1. Show, don’t tell
This classic piece of creative writing advice emphasizes concrete description and supporting evidence, and applies to professional bios, too. For example, instead of “Ali is an expert in social media marketing strategy,” you might show how Ali’s skills have helped companies achieve tangible results by describing: “In her time at Jackalope Albatross, Ali helped the company attract over 200,000 new Instagram followers and increase revenue from social channels by 75%.”
2. Create multiple versions
Because tone and content vary based on target audiences and outlets, create multiple bio versions that can easily be tweaked for use in various contexts. For example, you might have an informal first-person version aimed at potential clients that highlights your personal goals, interests, and professional mission to encourage your audiences to feel a human connection with your brand, build trust, and ground your company objectives in your personal motivations. You might then create a more formal third-person bio aimed at potential investors that emphasizes your professional experience and educational background to establish credibility.
3. Tell a story
Random facts aren’t memorable—but stories are. Strong professional bios strategically curate and deploy information relevant to a specific goal or theme to create a sense of movement, purpose, and progress. In other words, tell a story.
If your goal is to land a job, you might tell the story of gaining and honing your skills to become the accomplished professional you are today. If your goal is to demonstrate your authority on a certain subject, you might tell the story of building experience, testing your knowledge, and achieving recognition for your work.
4. Consider your call to action
Professional bios typically don’t have a traditional call to action, but considering what action you’d like a reader to take can help you create a bio that supports your goals. For example, if you’d like a reader to visit your online store, mention your store’s name and what the reader can find there. If you’re seeking speaking engagements, include enough detail that a reader would be able to track you down and contact you, such as organizational memberships or city of residence.
In some cases, you might also include your email address or a link to your online store. This strategy is most common in first-person bios published in less formal outlets, such as on a personal social media page.
How to write a professional bio FAQ
What should you write in a professional bio?
Most professional bios include the following pieces of information:
- Current position
- Professional background
- Professional accomplishments
- Professional skills
- Educational history
Should I write a formal or informal professional bio?
Many people create both formal and informal professional bios for use in different settings.
How long should a professional bio be?
Most professional bios are between one to two paragraphs long, but can be longer depending on the platform or outlet and how you want readers to react or respond.