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Get Noticed

The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King

Why writing a compelling personal bio is crucial to your career, and tips on how to craft one.


If you’re a designer, entrepreneur, or creative – you probably haven’t been asked for your resume in a long time. Instead, people Google you – and quickly assess your talents based on your website, portfolio, and social media profiles. Do they resonate with what you’re sharing? Do they identify with your story? Are you even giving them a story to wrap their head around?
Gone are the days of “Just the facts, M’am.” Instead we’re all trying to suss each other out in the relationship economy. Do I share something in common with you? How do we relate to each other? Are you relevant to my work?That’s why the resume is on the out, and the bio is on the rise. People work with people they can relate to and identify with. Trust comes from personal disclosure. And that kind of sharing is hard to convey in a resume. Your bio needs to tell the bigger story. Especially, when you’re in business for yourself, or in the business of relationships. It’s your bio that’s read first.

To help you with this, your bio should address the following 5 questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here (i.e. know what I know)?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

Your bio is the lynchpin for expanding your thought leadership and recognition, especially online. It frames the conversation and sets the tone. It’s your job to reveal a bit about yourself and how you see the world. Do this well, and people will eagerly want to engage with you further.

Here’s the challenge: who taught you how to write your bio?

Admittedly, most of us never got a lesson in this essential task. You’re not alone. Even the most skilled communicators get tongue-tied and twisted when trying to represent themselves in writing. We fear the two extremes: obnoxious self-importance or boring earnestness. It gets further complicated when you’re in the midst of a career or business reinvention. You have to reconcile the different twists and turns of your past into a coherent professional storyline.

The personal branding industry has only muddied the waters. It’s easy to feel turned off by the heavy-handed acts of self-promotion that the various gurus out there say you’re supposed to do. We’ve been told to carefully construct a persona that will differentiate and trademark our skills into a unique value proposition. That’s mostly a bunch of buzzword bingo bullshit.

Instead, share more of what you really care about. And then write your bio in service to your reader, not just ego validation. Imagine that: A compelling reason to tell your story beyond bragging to the world that you’re “kind of a big deal.” Embrace the holy-grail of storytelling: tell a story that people can identify with as their own – and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them on anything disappears.

With all this in mind, here’s a few key pointers for reinventing your bio as a story:

1. Share a Point of View.

You’re a creative. Having something to say is the ultimate proof. What’s missing from the larger conversation? Speak to that. Don’t be afraid to tell the bigger story. We want to know how you see the world. Show us that you have a unique perspective or fresh vantage point on the things that matter most.

2. Create a Backstory.

Explain the origin for how you came to see the world in this way. Maybe it was something that happened to you as a kid or early in your career.  Consider your superhero origins. How did you come into these powers? What set you off on this quest or journey? What’s the riddle or mystery you are still trying to solve? When you tell the story of who you were meant to be, it becomes an undeniable story.  Natural authority is speaking from the place of what you know and have lived.

3. Incorporate External Validators.

Think frugally here. To paraphrase the artist De La Vega, we spend too much time trying to convince others, instead of believing in ourselves. Nonetheless, if you’re doing something new, different, or innovative – you have to anchor it into the familiar. Help people see that your novel ideas are connected to things they recognize and trust. That might be your notable clients, press, publications, or things you’ve created. Just enough to show people your story is for real.

4. Invite people into a relationship.

Now that you’ve established you’ve got something to share, remind people you’re not so different from them. Vulnerability is the new black. Share some guilty pleasures. Describe what you like to geek out on. Reveal a couple things you obsess about as hobbies or interests. This will make you more approachable and relatable. You’re human, too. Help people find the invisible lines of connection.

To revamp your bio, start with these simple storytelling principles and questions above. In the process, you’ll discover a greater potential to shift how you see yourself and how the world sees you. Your story sets the boundaries for everything else that follows.

If you’re having trouble being heard, recognized, or understood, it’s probably an issue related to your story and identity. The good news? It’s never to late to reinvent your story.

What’s Your Take?

Have you updated your bio recently? What do you struggle with?

Comments (270)
  • chrismorrisseo

     I find that the best way to both tell a story and gain an extra bit of credibility while you’re doing it is to buy your personal name as a domain name (if you can) and then you have full control over how the story is told and the navigation required to guide your prospective readers through it as well. There are an infinite number of techniques at your disposal this way.

  • Kyle Chicoine

    I would agree with Christopher on having your name as your domain name creates a direct channel to your bio and story. Well put!

  • Jeff Hendrickson

    Thank you!  I’ve been trying to make my resume’s read more like this for a few years now.  With the growing acceptance of story in a lot of corners of business, this is great and timely info.  I will put this to immediate use in all my marketing and on all my sites.

    Thanks again,
    Jeff

  • sergiunaslau

     why do you imply that as a designer, entrepreneur, I would do business only online? the resume is not dead, just not relevant in an ONLINE search, that’s it! as you argue your idea, you are promoting self limitations.
    “the resume is dead, the bio is king” really? there’s this thing called originality, you should try it.

  • Guest

    Well, a cover letter can also serve the same purpose as the bio does online. Not irrelevant as you’re trying to prove. 

    Also, do you carry a folder around with copies of your resume in it, or do you carry a card with a link to your website on it? Most likely the latter, and the latter is where the bio lives. 

  • Corey Myers

    employer: So can I see your resume?
    applicant: I don’t need one.  I have a facebook page go check it out!
    employer: Uh..

  • Michael Margolis

    Hey Sergi – We can debate the resume vs bio thing. The real story is of course sharing your bigger story and letting your talents shine bright regardless of the format. Most creatives I know who are in business for themselves no longer keep a resume. And if they do it hasn’t been updated in years. Resumes are more reflective of an employer/employee relationship or a freelancer who’s yet to define an expert premium for their work. A resume is more likely to commodify you whereas a bio when written effectively allows you to tell the bigger story. Of course, you can tell a story through your resume too. Hopefully the action tips shared in the article prove helpful either way.

  • Michael Margolis

    Great tip Christopher. Securing your personal domain name is always a smart thing to do. An alternative free and easy option is setting up an about.me page that serves as the hub for your bio, headshot, and links to social media breadcrumbs.

  • Michael Margolis

    Glad to hear Jeff. We all have a bigger story to tell. Siked to see yours shine.

  • Michael Margolis

    You’re totally right about business cards, and how those link back to an about page or linkedin profile. The irrelevance of a resume are for those that are outside the employer/applicant process. If you’re on the expert/thought-leader/author/speaker track, your bio is what people ask for and expect to read.

  • adriarichards

     I like this post Staci shared because my about page on my blog reflects most of the advice.  I wanted to connect, to reach people and most importantly, share why I was passionate about what I do http://butyoureagirl.com/about

    If someone visits my About page, they stay on the site five times longer than a visitor who just reads a blog post.  They are also more likely to contact me.

  • Marissastory

    I’ve written resumes part time for about five years now and also get some opportunities to craft bios. This definitely was a useful piece for me. I also do something where I kind of morph the two together and it has been quite popular.

  • torbenbernhard

     Thanks, Michael, for this excellent post. I have become increasingly convinced throughout the past few years that one of the most powerful ways to stand out in the constant stream of information is to know your story and know how to tell it well. There are many tools that help us better tell our stories and a bio continues to become one of the most instrumental in my toolkit. I still use a resume in some professional settings, but more and more, my bio has become the door at the entrance of my online presence. Your tips will surely be helpful in crafting a door that best represents the character inside. 

  • 1-Page Job

    Great piece, couldn’t agree more. A good tool to check out is http://www.1-page.com not only does it help
    you write (and turns it into a deliverable PDF) a job proposal, but
    it also takes you through all the necessary research you need to gather to show
    numerically and specifically how hiring you will be the solution to their
    problem. 

    Job Proposal’s are on the rise, and this company is already a
    worldwide leader in One-Page Proposals (Co-founded by international best
    selling author Patrick Riley, who wrote The One-Page Proposal published by
    Harper Collins) His sequel for job-seekers (The Resume is Dead, The One-Page Job Proposal) is FREE on the site and the online
    app takes you through creating one. 

  • Michael Margolis

    Nice Marissa. I’m sure readers would love to hear about some ways you bring more story to the resume!

  • Michael Margolis

    Thanks Torben. The bio is definitely the path to financial freedom, thought leadership, and creativity. Most places where you still need a resume, you’re likely entering into a commodified relationship – you as disposable human capital. Whereas if you are hired off your bio, it’s more likely to be an equitable relationship with greater compensation. I know this is a huge generalization…although this is what I’m encouraging a debate around…

  • nancee_art

    I think #4 is key…aim to charm your audience with your quirkiness. 

  • Stacy Boyd

     Very interesting tips. Can you provide some examples of bios you think hit these marks? 

  • Limor Shiponi

    Although ‘dead’ and ‘king’ are a little extreme for me, I agree that a resume without it’s owner knowing his/her story can be a problem in getting to people and jobs. I think it is also a matter of age and experience. To tell you the truth, at my age I don’t send out my resume any more. It’s too long and it is far from communicating my story which I find way more important.

  • Jacob

     No offense, but this sounds like something people with crappy resume’s would do to hide their bad experience.

  • Kent @ HR Uncovered

    This is not evidence that the resume is dead, it is a description of a modern day resume.  In fact, I would argue that a well written resume is more effective than a bio because it does not require the reader to actually *read*.  When done right, the resume provides nice little sound bytes that create curiosity gaps and make the reader want to learn more.

    I have put the correlating section of a resume next to the points the article says an effective bio touches on.

    * Who am I?  (Branding Statement)
    * How can I help you?  (Branding Statement / Quantifiable Achievements)
    * How did I get here (i.e. know what I know)? (Professional Experience / Education / Technical Skills)
    * Why can you trust me? (Quantifiable Achievements)

    As you can see, these are all key elements of a highly effective resume.

  • Sun Tzu

    This is excellent stuff, I no longer use the ‘old’ resume format and probably never will again as I was made redundant, but have started my own business. 

  • Michael Margolis

    That’s funny Jacob! I guess you’re right. People can use storytelling to both hide and reveal the truth. At the end of the day, your career hinges not just on how you tell the story, but whether people believe, resonate, and trust in that story.

  • Michael Margolis

    Hey Limor, thanks for chiming in here. Please forgive the hyperbole of ‘dead’ and ‘king’, as its meant to stir a debate. How are the rules of the game changing for how we represent ourselves in the career context. Love your point about people who’s age/experience means the resume is 5 pages long. Definitely another reason why the bio matters – and how one goes about editing one’s career path into coherence and relevance for whatever the next chapter is ahead.

  • Michael Margolis

    Glad you like that one…strange attractor factor always wins. Except when it doesn’t 😉

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