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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)
  • Mauricio Sierra

    This is so true! today in age is all about personal branding and how we make our work relevant to others.
    Im happy to read this and enforce my thoughts.
    hope it works for all readers.

    Social networking came to stay and it is important to get an education on it. 

    Me, Im learning every day.

    cheers

  • Steven

    I think this article is so true. In fact, the whole professiona/job-seeking/resume thing has changed. It is now about the tightness of your presentation. It’s as if you must promote yourself as if you hired a PR person to do it for you. I agree with the words Leeanncrumble shared, “I’m learning every day.”

  • Steven

    Sorry Leeanncrumble, I meant Mauricio. There again, “I’m learning everyday.”

  • Drewmc

    I won’t be throwing out my resume just yet.  but I definitely agree that the bio is a necessity in branding ourselves.  It’s more personable and interesting than just paper with text describing yourself.  In the creative field, it’s really the work itself that describes you anyway.

  • Michael Margolis

    Thanks for chiming in Robert. If you’re engaged in employee-employer dynamic, this article is not so much for you. If you’re trying to play your own game, and building thought leadership for your ideas – your bio is the container for your personal story and perceived worth/value.

  • Michael Margolis

    You’re welcome John! Good luck as you step into your next.

  • Michael Margolis

    right on. curious, what’s the #1 most popular area on your website?

  • Christopher Porter

    What specifically? What would be a better recommendation? I am just curious. Are you saying a resume is the best tool? And if so, is that true across the board? I agree this article certainly does not apply to every position in every field, but I felt there were many good points I could learn from.  

    If you care to write a blog post of your own, with your opinions, I would love to read it. 

  • Michael Margolis

    Hey Natasha. Please forgive the dramatic title. It’s meant to grab attention, and stir a little healthy debate, as it apparently has. Ultimately, we all have a bigger story to tell, including you. Grateful that you take away the invitation to share more of yourself.

  • Michael Margolis

    Hi Ian, thanks for adding your two cents. I glanced at the history of your comments on this site, and it seems you’re a bit disaffected with just about everything you read here. Curious, to hear what gives you energy and passion?

  • Michael Margolis

    Hi Sabrina – absolutely, for many in the workforce a resume still is relevant. The point not to be lost is that your perceived worth, value, and compensation is directly linked to your personal story.

  • Michael Margolis

    right on

  • Michael Margolis

    Right on Rice. Just remember that as a storyteller, we are forever at the mercy of our audience. So while you’re bio is about YOU, it’s really about helping your audience see themselves in your own story.

  • Michael Margolis

    Josh, thanks for your adding your experience and keen perspective here. I agree that its all about getting real and showing up – whether that’s in person or online.

  • Michael Margolis

    Kyle, thanks for adding your perspective here. This article is not written for someone who is interacting with a hiring manager like yourself and seeking an employee/freelance position. It’s instead for a creative who is self-employed and who’s perceived worth, value, and compensation is directly linked to their personal story.

  • Michael Margolis

    Hi Drew – thanks for adding to the discussion thread. Telling the story about who you are…that’s really the message here as you point out.

  • Michael Margolis

    Hi Steve – I sympathize with your experience as a freelancer. Unfortunately, being a freelancer or an employee means you’re often treated like a commoditized thing, versus being an expert with a unique skill, POV, and thought leadership. Social media allows any of us to become a recognized authority, by consistently telling our bigger story.

  • Tyson

    There’s a lot of discussion about how this is relevant to some but not others, particularly if your the hirer, then who could be bothered reading your life’s essay? It’s get to the work, if you like it, meet up. 

    Which is where this bio becomes really important. Being able to answer these questions effectively and with an in-depth Yoda-like insight, will give you the edge, when your in the interview. You wont hand it to them on paper, but you’ll be ready to answer these questions about your self to build a personality around brand YOU.Fact 1: if your work is good, you’ll get an interview.Fact 2: if you got an interview, you’re being sussed out there to see if you’re the type of person they want to work with. Therefore, having something like your bio, neatly organised in your head, ready with funny anecdotes about yourself to blurt out and most importantly, making you seem capable and confident, means win or lose in an interview. In my opinion anyway.Great article, I think every designer and employer could learn a great deal from posing these questions to ourselves every once in a while. I know I have.

  • Ivonesio Ramos

    In the year 2000 gave a radical shift in how work and live henceforth in this work. I spent a condition of the worker / employee to the independent artist. I started using a short summary (see be.net), now or as soon as I can turn him into a brief biography! I’ll try the tips, I look good!Nos ano 2000 dei uma virada radical em como trabalharia dali em diante e viver deste trabalho. Passei de uma condição trabalhador/empregado para a de artista plástico autônomo. Passei a utilizar um curto resumo (vide be.net), que agora, ou tão logo possa vou transforma-lo em uma breve biografia! Vou experimentar as dicas, que me parecem boas! 

  • jess

    thank you, really great advice

  • jess

    how long should your bio be ideally though? I dont think anyone is going to be interested enough straight of the bat to read more than 500 words about you…. Maybe im being cynical ?

  • Michell Lott

    Oh MY, this is one of the best texts I’ve read in the last weeks. So inspiring!

  • alitoptop

    nicely written 🙂

  • Ed Troxell

    Great post! I use a digital resume to show off all my creative work, in addition to my website (http://www.makemediahappen.com) of course.

  • Leanne

    Bands, musicians and artists have been doing this for years and years.  Everyone needs to be creative now!

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