Your professional biography is a vital part of your personal presentation. After all, it may well be the first thing that a potential customer, colleague or employer reads about you, so it’s worth taking time to get it right. With the proliferation of social channels, there is the added adventure of describing yourself in a limited number of words.
Less is more
The FT’s Lucy Kellaway offers advice for crafting your Twitter biography and it struck a chord with us. The unique challenges of writing enough to attract followers in 160 characters have certainly thrown up some exotic artefacts. Avoiding short (non)sentences that usually look laboured is the first recommendation we favour. Pointing out that you are someone’s mother, sister, father, brother or similar only detracts from more relevant highlights. Most people are, and the world does not need to know that you love your family.
And your hobbies? Here is a rule with hobbies that we can all relate to: best not to go there at all. A list of them will invariably look like trying too hard, and one or two raise the spectacle of limited interests. Another ‘deadly sin’ of Twitter biographies is trying to be amusing. If you include a joke, it really has to be funny, and most of them are not, especially when judged in the cold light of day.
Finally, whether you’re tweeting as an individual, or on behalf of a company, it’s really not worth saying anything about whether your views are your own. First, it’s already been done, many times. And second, it probably won’t have any effect in court anyway. The crucial issue is to set out who you are, and why you’re tweeting. If you’re a marketer for a large company, say so. If you have a book to sell, be upfront. Simplicity is best, and people value honesty.
Mind your language
Simplicity and authenticity are almost certainly the key for LinkedIn profile biographies too. Let’s consider this: how do you describe yourself when you meet people? Probably not as ‘A focused digital media evangelist passionate about content’. Then don’t do it online either. While you do want to present yourself well, there is a fine line to draw between sounding lofty and being understood. If in doubt, focus on what you’ve done and achieved, and be as specific as possible. Achievements speak louder than words, after all.
At the same time, you want to make sure that you will be found if someone is searching for the ideal candidate for your dream job! So consider what phrases they might be searching for, and then incorporate them. Your biography needs to be both people- and search engine-friendly, which means a bit of juggling.
If you want to be taken seriously, don’t include anything that might be considered ‘quirky’ or ‘fun’. We are in an increasingly global market with a broadening spectrum of diversity. Fun in one culture or setting could be misunderstood or even offensive in another. Bear in mind that your social media profile is your way of presenting your personal brand, and you don’t want to put anyone off. A profile that states that you never work at weekends because you regard that as ‘family time’ is not going to emphasise your levels of commitment to getting the job done. Likewise, there is rarely the need to include every last student job. The key is to think about what is really relevant to the image that you are trying to convey.
Beware of the links between professional and personal life on social media. An unprofessional social networking account could undo all the good you have done through your beautifully-presented LinkedIn biography and Twitter presence. So
For thought leaders in particular, future customers and employers are likely to be very interested in the way you market your own image. It is, after all, a good test of your ideas and messaging skills.