A colleague of mine flinched in horror recently when a conference MC introduced him to the audience as having 10 years’ experience in IT and being happily married to Tanya. He flinched because he has over three decades of experience in data management; and his second wife, Heidi, was sitting in the audience! Upon investigation, my mortified (and by now couch-sleeping) friend learned that the MC had found the info on a “LinkedIn profile or some website or something.”
Your professional profile should be
your business development fingerprint.
Do yourself a favour. Read the website bio of someone, with similar experience, at your competitor. Does their profile describe you as well? By the same token, would your own profile succeed in describing your rival just as accurately?
When everyone looks exactly the same, you become indistinguishable. You might be the perfect person on paper to do the job, but are you the sort your clients can talk to and problem-solve with? Surely who you are as a person is as important to landing work or a client as your hard-earned credentials?
Have you got that one friend who turns every conversation into a lecture? You ask a simple question, but you get a Masters thesis? That’s the Guru. The people who invented the term “thought leadership” helped spawn a species of business experts who believe in “thought-leadership’ing” everywhere! Even in their personal profiles. Your bio should add dimension and personality to your credentials, explaining why and how you reached your level of expertise, without being ‘preachy’ or ‘sales pitchy.’
Many people are able to successfully add a bit of wit in their bios. One lawyer I know declares that, among other cools feats of profession, he is a “co-founder of 4 kids.” That simple phrase always draws a smile from the reader. Unfortunately, some Jokers don’t know where to stop. They turn their profile into an issue of the Khuluma Magazine. Humour can work against you if not used carefully and sparingly. If you write something that you think is witty or funny, avoid possibly offending your reader by getting a colleague to read it first.
Watch out! Here comes a heavy quote and a litter of flying pigs! Cliché’d bios are packed with plenty of inspirational verses and quirky buzzwords. There’s nothing wrong with including a quote by a famous person in your bio – but only if it serves to describe you and your work ethic. And even then, be sure to research the person you are quoting to avoid any possible controversy. Also, make sure they actually said whatever you are quoting. Avoid business buzzwords and buzz phrases, and corny platitudes like, “always believe in yourself and never give up.”
The 3rd Person
Many websites and CV documents will narrate your story in the third person as an accepted method. But writing in the third person for your social media profile (LinkedIn etc.) is definitely not cool. When you’ve written your long-form profile, remember to convert it for other uses. Shorten it for LinkedIn and other similar platforms. And have a separate version ready that you can send to event organisers, so they don’t have to ‘research’ the wrong info. Also, remember to adapt the different profile versions for your target audiences.
If you’re a young professional or entrepreneur, still building your career and portfolio, be really careful not to pad your bio with extra words or accolades that aren’t yours, or that are an exaggeration of things you’ve done in an attempt to boost your status. The people reading your bio can usually tell thats what’s happening, and it diminishes all of the wonderful things you have done. If you haven’t got much work experience, then talk about your experience of work. Describe a project you were fortunate enough to work on, and how it impacted your view of your profession.