You think it’s going to be easy to write about yourself, right? It’s not like you’ve got to do any research or check your facts, it’s just stuff you already know about the person you know best.
So why is it that when you start typing, your mind goes blank and all you can come up with is a bullet-point list of skills, accomplishments, and past occupations?
And how can you turn that into an interesting and engaging summary that gives a good reflection of your strengths and abilities?
Or maybe you’ve tried to make it personal and conversational but you’ve blabbed on for paragraphs about things that no one really cares about.
The key here is to keep it short and sweet without cutting out the important bits that capture the essence of who you are and what your drives are.
Some people hire a professional for this but that can be a huge mistake.
The first thing you have to do is get started. Write as much as you can about your history, decisions, lessons learned, accomplishments, goals, quirks, and future direction.
This is the part that no one can do as well as you can. Get it all down on paper (or computer) and then you can start editing.
Think of it like you’re a sculptor, creating an impressive statue of yourself. Your unedited work is a clunky piece of stone that needs to be carved and sculpted into a worthy advertisement of you and your achievements.
Although writing your “about me” is a lot easier and less time-consuming than sculpting a marble statue, you still need to understand how to avoid making mistakes that create cracks, superficial imperfections, or major structural damage to your piece.
Here’s a list of the 10 mistakes you’re making when writing about yourself and examples of how you can avoid them.
You’re Forgetting Who Your Audience Is
When you communicate verbally, you change your language and tone to suit your audience. You wouldn’t speak to the receptionist at a hotel, in the same way, using the same kinds of words that you might use to speak to a child, for example.
There’s so many ways that we adapt our spoken communication to suit the person we’re speaking to and it should be no different when you’re writing. You want your words to be relevant and make sense to the audience.
Ask yourself: “who will be reading this?”, “why don’t these people know who I am?” and “what should they know about me?”
You’re “Bragging” Too Much
Of course, you want to share your accolades and achievements. How else will you show that you’re the right person for the job or the person that’s going to ‘deliver the goods’?
The problem is, that you can easily come across as self-righteous and arrogant if you describe yourself in the wrong way. Avoid phrases like “I have excellent leadership skills” or “I was the highest performing in the office”.
You can deliver the same message more modestly by using a genuine peer review. For example: “Her colleagues frequently describe her as…’ or ‘Jen’s refined leadership skills bring consistent success to team activities’.
This is a polite way of letting people know you’re “the bomb”, without writing it in fluorescent lights.
You’re Assuming That People Already Know What You Know
When you assume that other people know the things you know about your interests, hobbies, or work, you’re likely to use jargon or terminology that they’re not familiar with.
This alienates people and you want to be careful not to do this in your writing. You’ll get more interaction and response from your writing if it’s clear and easy to understand.
Always give simple translations for words or abbreviations that aren’t commonly used language. For example “Mary became a specialist in programming Behind The Ear (BTE) devices, which means that she fits the type of hearing aid that sits outside the conch of the ear.”
You’ve Got Your Format All Wrong
Are you writing your “about me” like a storybook with a “Once upon a time”… the plot thickens and then it’s all tied up with a nice neat little ending? If you are then you’re doing it all wrong.
You don’t want it to read like a story but you do want to follow a clear format. Here are some examples of how to group and create order out of your information:
Start with a brief introduction of yourself and your reason for writing. Then you can write a few paragraphs on each area that you want to talk about. This groups together relevant information in a way that’s easy to read.
Start each paragraph more generally and end with a specific piece of information. This helps your reader build an expectation that you can then meet by explaining why you included that information.
It’s Too Formal And Boring
Most of us have been conditioned from our school years to write in a totally different way to how we’d speak in daily life.
As soon as we put pen to paper, or fingers on the keys, we become a 19th Century nobleman whose ultra-formal writing makes a package of Saltines seem hydrating!
Yes, you do want to come across as professional and capable of writing competently but it’s also important that you get your real personality across.
Avoid anything too casual like emojis or exclamation marks but you can have opinions, goals, quirks, and your own personal way in which you use your language.
Your tone should be similar to how you’d speak to a respected elder or your boss at work. Try something like, “Outside of work, Shane has cultivated his passion for growing butterflies; over the past 10 years he has won more ‘quality’ cups than the colors you can count on their wings.”
You’re Being Too Vague
Using vague, unspecific action words makes your writing generic and bland. So many people don’t make the effort to think outside of the box to make their “about me” section stand out.
Regurgitating the same old cliches like “team-orientated self-starter, whose attention to detail is matched only by their ability to follow instructions” makes the reader fall asleep.
Or even worse, they’ll skim through to the end so they can go “next!” and be done with you as soon as possible.
Make your sentences come to life with the words you choose between the facts and dates.
Try – “Jared has delighted his supervisors and colleagues with his ability to nimbly guide and maneuver his retail team through each new product launch. His ability to communicate fluently with each staff member is representative of his overall leadership style in that he customizes his approach depending on each desired outcome.”
You’re Telling, Not Showing
You know the old adage, “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? Well, you don’t want your “about me” to be too long so why not paint a picture to get more of the valuable information across?
Just like movie posters include positive reviews, research papers cite their claims and sources, and restaurants proudly display a Michelin star. You can “paint pictures” by adding in facts and statistics to portray more of the facts about you.
This allows the reader to use their imagination to create the rest of the story with only a small snippet of information.
So if you’ve had an impact on your office’s spending efficiency, show it with a quick fact or statistic.
Or change something like this: “As receptionist, Cheryl planned many successful office parties” into “Outside of her secretarial and reception duties, Cheryl was responsible for a noticeable boost in office morale due to her fastidious planning of the quarterly ‘themed’ office parties”.
These short but effective additions can stir emotions in the reader. By showing what you mean instead of just saying it, you give subtle credibility. It’s like saying “don’t take my word for it” about your own claims.
You’re Saving The Best For Last
Regardless of the length of your bio, you’ve got to state your purpose. Explain why the reader should read to the end.
Whether it’s a cover letter or a LinkedIn profile, start with some form of “thesis” statement about yourself and your purpose for writing. If you leave this bit out, you could lose the reader’s interest or confuse them.
This type of sentence can include your job title, where you are based, a personality trait, a major passion of yours, your main career or personal goal, or what you are looking for from the reader.
For example: “Sam is a disciplined thinker whose sharp eye keeps projects rolling seamlessly. He holds the position of Executive Assistant to the president of Fortune 499, in which he finds countless scenarios for his skill set to be put to the test, and is essential for success.”
Or, “Miguel is a writer who is known for his vividly written travel novels. His most recent publication received the Nobel Peace Prize and was a New York Times Bestseller for 20 weeks.”
You’re Writing In First Person
Most people already know to use third-person language when writing about themselves. For example, “Xavier is a multi-award-winning fortune teller”, as opposed to “I was voted the best fortune teller in the state”
One of the main reasons for this guideline is to make these things sound as unbiased as possible. If you’re already using third-person language then that’s great but be careful that you don’t sound like you’re hiding behind the third person, compensating for your lack of something.
Keep it factual and purposeful.
If you have trouble finding the balance, write out a draft in the first person with all the brags and personally relevant details you can think of. Then go back through and change every “I” to “he” or “she”, and find a way to make your personal opinions sound like facts.
You’re Listing What You Do, Not Describing Who You Are
You’re more than the sum of your parts. Unfortunately, the modern concept of a resume or CV teaches us just the opposite.
In our professional lives, we’re appraised, bought, leveraged, traded, and written off – sometimes only based on some bullet points, titles, numbers, and requirements.
But your individuality and personal skills are the underlying reason for any of those bullet points. Use your writing to show that you’re a three-dimensional person with heart and human drive.
Think of words, facts, and details that make you who you are.
Don’t label yourself as a “Regional Sales Manager” who’s looking to become a “Regional Sales Director” because that limits you.
It may be tempting to identify with the milestones in your professional life, like what school you graduated from or your daily job functions but you should instead take any opportunity to color in or outside of the lines. Describe yourself as a person, not a job spec.
As a simple exercise, combine three different types of personal details in one sentence to show yourself how multifaceted you actually are.
For example, “Jay is a Junior Sales Associate whose strengths lie in obtaining appointments and closing deals, in fact, he is known among his peers as ‘The Sniper’ for his attention to facts and ruthless follow-up techniques.”
The End Result
If you use the techniques in this blog to avoid making the 10 most common mistakes when writing about yourself, you should be left with an interesting and engaging “about me” that paints you in a great light. Without sounding overly boastful or boring and dull.
And if you want to brush up on your conversation skills and make sure you’re prepared for the face-to-face communication that naturally results from a great bio, click here to read Making Conversations Count – Exactly How To Be Strategically Curious For Better Conversations.