Dear Shannon

Dear Shannon: How can I make my bio social-media friendly?

Just as each social media service has its own role in job searches, each has its own biography requirements.

If you have a question for Shannon, send it to [email protected].

Dear Shannon,

I'm an account manager at a leading corporate responsibility consultancy in the U.K. I've been in the job for four years and love it, but since the New Year I'm itching for a change. There is no room for growth so I'm working on my CV and personal branding tools to get me noticed in the sustainability jobs market. The thing I'm having most trouble with is my biography. I've drafted something quite formal but I'm not sure how to make it work on LinkedIn, where people are often that bit more casual. Can you help?

Ava, London

Dear Ava,

Writing a great biography is a challenge for most job seekers, but you'll need to overcome it if you want to make an impression in the sustainability jobs market. Why? Because your personal storytelling matters. We are in an age of information overload, so if you can make it easy for a potential employer to see how great you are by nailing your personal narrative in 2000 or fewer characters, you're sure to see the hits on your profile.

Biographies are also crucial tools when it comes to making a career change. Hawking a CV around your network can look a bit like “desperately seeking employment” which, like in dating, can be a turn off. A bio on the other hand says “I am a professional with credibility and a lot to offer, so let’s talk.” Which I'm sure you'll agree is a far stronger position from which to fish for new roles.

In today's column, I'm going to show you how to turn a suited-and-booted professional full bio and into something smart-casual that's just right for LinkedIn.

The four bios every job seeker needs

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need one biography, you need four: a 140-character micro bio for Twitter, a short bio to work as the four-line profile in your CV , a full bio that's over 2000 characters and written in the third person, and a LinkedIn bio that's 2000 characters or less and written in the first person.

Each of these is simply a narrative version of the information you would include in your CV, albeit sliced, chiselled and buffed to fit into different formats. You are not rewriting four bios, you are cut and pasting from each to keep your personal branding consistent.

But first, what should your full bio be like? Well, it should be more formal than your other bios. Aim for about a half a page in length in Microsoft Word with an 11pt font and remember to write in the third person (for example, 'Ava is' rather than 'I am').

Start with your name and insert a small professional photo in the top left corner, then get down to business. State what you do and get your key accomplishments in there early to hook the reader. Include only impressive and relevant information such as your current job, professional experience, publications, presentations, professional memberships, awards, honors, certifications and education. Include a brief final comment about where you live or your favorite activities, but no more than that.

You want to tell it like a story though, an impressive journey that you have been navigating through as your career to date. For example you might say “Ava chose a career in social responsibility after seeing the poverty on the streets of Mumbai as a teenager…”

Make it LinkedIn-friendly

Your LinkedIn bio uses all the same ingredients as your full bio above, but it adds in a little sprinkle of personality too. It should be written in the first person in a conversational, friendly-but-business tone in 2000 characters—no more, and certainly no less! I prefer to read each sentence as a separate paragraph, forcing you to keep things quite punchy and avoid the long paragraphs that turn off a social media reader.

Once you've got the bones of it together, arrange your bio into the four key categories outlined below.

Part 1 : The pitch

The first 100 words of your LinkedIn bio are your sales pitch, so use them to set out your story in neat, punchy language that drills down on your unique selling point (USP).  They are your mission, your goal, your passion for doing what you do. Hook the reader here. Think of it as your 30-second elevator pitch.

This first paragraph is crucial in getting a recruiter's attention so make sure the key information is upfront and un-missable. Many people are too shy to set out their career expectations somewhere as public as LinkedIn, but stating what you're looking for from your next job—in terms of dream role, dream company or both—can be a smart move that makes you look dynamic, ambitious and strategic.

Part 2 : Your specialties

The second part of your LinkedIn bio is your list of specialities. This part is all about optimizing your profile for search using relevant keywords, so think of it as an advertisement to all of your potential employers to tell them how much they need you.

Your specialities should be a list of at least 10 terms that cover all of your industries, skills, interests, past, current and potential job titles, etc. Make sure you include synonyms (i.e. ‘sustainability’, and ‘corporate social responsibility’, and ‘‘corporate responsibility’) to improve your likelihood of popping up in search recruiters' search results.

Part 3: Your achievements

The achievement section is my favorite part of a job seeker's profile or CV because it's the place where you let your track record do the talking. I'm constantly telling clients not to be shy about their achievements but many don’t know how to wow the reader up front., Why did are you proud of that accomplishment? If you don't tell the world how amazing you are, who else will? Using my formula for writing compelling accomplishment statements will help you do this in a way that's backed up with facts.

Part 4: You're unique

Unlike your full bio, LinkedIn welcomes personal flavor and fun! The final part of your profile is the place to mention your qualifications, volunteer leadership, interests and activities. Take the opportunity to inject a little 'you' into your profile—but do it in a strategic way by keeping in mind the kind of keywords recruiters might be searching for, while making the reader smile. It's good to end on a happy note and humor always makes us remember you!

Good luck turning your bio into something special for social media, and let me know if it helps you land your dream job. If you think your career could benefit from a personal critique of your LinkedIn profile, get in touch with me for some bespoke advice and support.

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