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So a little over a year ago, I shared a post about six ways to write a better 200-word or less bio about yourself which was inspired after I got through several rounds of interviewing at a company I was so sure I wanted to work at. The post got really good responses from viewers via Tumblr here – 70 shy of 15,000 notes currently (you all are making me feel like a thousand bucks…I’m going to explode by dancing) and I thought an update was definitely necessary, you know a tweak here and there.

The application process for the company required me to write a 200-word or less bio: “Choose three words that best describe you. Explain your choices in 200 words or less.” 

Writing about yourself can be an arduous task. Difficult. Tricky, even. How can we make it easier and more fun, rather than treat it as a bore and chore?

More than ever, I think it’s easy when you initially think about it but then maybe you’re like what, stuck? How do I tell my whole story in 200 words? Or ahhhh 200 words about myself?! When I was given that task, I thought “oh, that’s simple, 200 words, no big deal, they want to see past my resume and see what kind of person I am”, but then I realized it was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. I kept thinking what if I write something that does not accurately depict the essence of me? Three words. How do I write about myself so I don’t sound like a personal ad- overly confident to the fact that I’m boasting, but also make sure I am not too modest and do not come off as not interested, or downplay my worth and capability?

At the time, I felt afraid to begin writing (as I do now with this new blog about me page and the current blank LinkedIn summary–they shall be up soon though!). How do I begin? Why was I so stressed over writing about something or rather, someone I should know about the most?

What do you do? You start. Reflect on your strengths and brainstorm words that represented you and draw from experiences for each word. In hindsight, the task is great for everything in life. Every experience. I feel like it really lets you reflect upon three key questions:
1. How well do you know yourself?
2. Are you passionate about this opportunity?
3. Are you a good fit for this position?

Here are six ways I think could help you write a better 200-word-or-less bio about yourself or at least give you something to think about:

1. Know yourself and your experiences
It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we surprise ourselves. We may overestimate or underestimate our potential. I think staying humble is great (I’m all for humbleness and humble people), but sometimes I wonder if being humble comes off as being not confident enough.

Story time. Back in my junior year of undergrad college when I was part of the South Campus Organization for Programming Excellence where we were waiting on some students to go on a company tour (which never happened because some people never showed up because it was 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning), the board members and I discussed how to better market/pitch ourselves. I asked the advisers exactly what I mentioned above. How do I paint myself to be confident and humble and not cocky and exaggerated? They promptly threw things at me that made me stand out. “Sylvia, you once came to a meeting and spit out 20 ideas when we told the e-board to come prepared with one or two. We knew we could rely on you.” Naturally, I blushed. I felt good. I felt flattered. Would I have brought that up about myself? Probably not.

So, if you’re uncertain of what words to describe yourself with, try asking your family members, close friends, and people you’ve worked with for some feedback and suggestions. If you hear it a few times, it must be somewhat accurate. We are more than our previous job roles and our responsibilities. What did we do in our internships or jobs that resulted in a great achievement? What did we learn? Really think about your strengths that make you good at what you do and what makes you, you.

Knowing yourself also means knowing what you stand for-your voice. It really helps to be authentic and write the way you speak so when you do meet someone in real life, they can feel like they’ve met you already from reading your bio. I guess at times, I feel the pressure to use more technical terms and fancy jargon, but for what? Don’t we like fast reads? Don’t we like language that is easily interpreted especially when it comes to tips and advice for personal and professional growth? Heck yes. Don’t be someone you are not. Only be unapologetically you. You belong somewhere where that is appreciated.

2. Be a storyteller, not just a seller. Show, do not tell.
An extension of #1. I think in this day and age, being a storyteller is so key to being successful and well-respected. Then again, the term ‘storyteller’ is becoming one of the top  “buzzwords” to avoid, too. I’ll still use it because I mean it. Words mean nothing when action isn’t taken. We all enjoy a good story. How many of us would like to hear “Sylvia graduated from _____ and is currently working at ___ and has a blog. She has worked at ___ and done XYZ.” No no no. Blah blah blah. Too generic, selling and telling. Not enough is being done to showcase how all the above represents me and why people should bother to reach out to me. What makes me special? So what if I graduated from that institution? So what if I work at that organization? What am I doing? What skills am I gaining? What are they gaining from reading my bio?

Just like resumes, we shouldn’t tell people what we did, but we show them. We have to be engaging. Just like college applications, HR personnel are going through a plethora of applications and screening candidates. We have to be interesting. Offer something rewarding.  Something different. Craft your bio to be professional with a personal touch. I always have to stop and ask myself “is my bio something I would sit down and read myself?” 

Share situations that have changed your life or built you to be the character you are today. Explain how you overcame adversities, obstacles, or life challenges. We have all gone through some lumps and bumps along the road, but it’s what we take from it and how we improve thereon that matters. You can mention how it brings you where you are today, what your vision is- your mission, goals, values are and how it aligns within the organization you are looking to be a part of.

3. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes
The hardest part of anything might be starting. Right? Like healthy eating? Exercising regularly? Sticking to a better sleep schedule? All hands up for me in regards to the above three lifestyle goals. This is an important step because it is so easy to just push things off for later. Ten minutes later, 30 minutes later, six hours later…

If you have a tendency to delay or have a hint of perfectionism, you MUST do this. You will never start if you do not push yourself to start quickly. 20-30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to sit down, brainstorm, and write what comes to mind. Make an outline. Anything is better than staring at a blank screen and not wanting to start because you tell yourself you are in the process of thinking of what to write in your head and will write it down on paper or your word document later…which gets pushed until tomorrow and the next (I was guilty, but now I try my best to jot it down somewhere-a notebook, a post-it note, a draft post on my blog, etc). Before this new clean slate of a blog, I had severe writer’s block. I was conversing with a friend about how it had been two weeks since I wanted to write a specific post. He told me that he has it too, and to combat that, he sits down and writes a rough draft, no censorship. Just write whatever comes to mind and then make edits and changes later.

It’s better to write when inspiration comes to mind than to ignore and try again tomorrow. The idea might be gone! Seize the ideas and thoughts ASAP. Write whatever flows, write at night, and wake up in the morning, fresh and edit and proofread. 20-30 minute intervals, just like a power nap. It does wonders!

4. Smile while writing
Honestly just like in real-life interviews and phone interviews, just SMILE. Smile while you write. It makes a difference. It shows a difference. The phone interviewer can hear the difference when you’re smiling and answering- the enthusiasm and interest shows. Why not smile? You’re writing about yourself, and I’m pretty sure you are magnificent in one way or another. We do not give ourselves enough credit sometimes and are our own worst critics. Be your own wingman, best-friend, and support system. Think about all the things you have achieved, big and small. Progress in any amount is still progress! There may be people out there smarter, more intelligent, more creative, taller, richer, prettier or more handsome, but there’s no replica of you. Do not ever compare yourself to any other person (it’s the leading factor of unhappiness, trust me). We’re all at different stages in life. Take things at your own pace. You are you and that’s that. You’re unique, so just smile and show them who you are and what you got!

5. Be passionate
Let’s be real, some people seem more passionate than others. The way their eyes light up when you’re talking about something they are mega interested in or agree with or are obsessed with. Not everyone finds their passions early on in life. Many discover it later in life through experiences and by keeping an open mind and trying out new things. Many people at the age of 27 still don’t know what they want to do. Are you supposed to know at age 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life? You can’t be passionate if you aren’t open to new adventures and opportunities in life. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not one to know how to lie or fake something. When I’m interested, I am interested.

However, there were many times where I was extremely passionate and interested about the positions I applied for but failed to receive an opportunity. For these opportunities, I know it was because I did not come off as being ‘passionate’ enough. Do not be afraid to break out of your shell and voice your opinions and ask questions. Speak your mind when you feel it to be necessary, even if no one in the room agrees or sees it that way. Your voice matters. Use it.

I hesitated and did not speak up enough, not wanting to ramble or say the wrong thing. Why was I so afraid of showing them who I was? Truth is, being passionate means you did your research, you are well prepared and see things as a hobby, not a chore. People want to see that you are attentive, curious, and wanting to learn more. Being passionate about something is when you are ready and willing to speak out about it by the drop of a pin. It’s not a good idea to just get any job. Don’t settle. Get a good job, according to you. Somewhere you feel that challenges and allows you to grow. Some place that you can call home. Being passionate means something that brings meaning to you. What are you passionate about? Making an impact? Helping others? Human rights? Animals? Digital media? Teaching? Learning? Writing? Traveling? Sports?

6. Vary the length of your sentences.
Alternate between short and long sentences. No one really wants to read one long sentence after another long sentence. Alternating between short and long sentences makes it easier and more enticing for the audience. It allows readers to catch a pause and resume and focus. Win-win for all.

Readers, I hope the above helps, even just a little bit. Writing a 200-word bio is not the easiest thing in the world, but it helps to put things in perspective. It helps you think about what you want to achieve and how special you really are.  Always keep confident and keep your words clear and concise. Wishing you all nothing but the best and happy bio writing!

Let me know what some of your tips are! How do you write a bio about yourself?

Stay tuned for more posts,

Sylvia

16 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Trisha! Personally, I think what we need to do is to show who we are, genuinely from all perspectives. Everyone can try their best to only show the best parts, but not everyone can be and sound authentic. And I think that’s most valuable thing, in a world who only tries to show themselves at their best. Someone who is mindful and aware of who they are, what they are capable of, and their boundaries is unstoppable.

  1. When I was in college not too long ago, as I’m a recent graduate, there was this one class called a Capstone. I was an art major so I took the art related class. During this class we covered many things about making it in the world as an artist.

    Towards the middle/end, we had a very similar exercise to write about ourselves within 20-30 minutes. I found that it worked for me because I really wanted to have a proper opportunity to talk about myself without feeling the least bit bad about it because it was an assignment for class. Though it was merely a warm up for another assignment, I found it helpful. 😀

  2. I really like this article! At my school, we have a mentoring program with the older and younger students, and to become a mentor, we had to fill out an application. This very question was on it, and I struggled to answer it! I wish I had seen this article then!

    • Hi Mikaela,

      Thank you so much! When did you have to fill this application out? It’s a loaded question. I hope you got the mentor position 🙂

  3. This is really good advice! I think it actually helps to answer those awful interview questions that make you talk about yourself as well. I had never thought that writing it beforehand helps you to have it ready in your head. Thanks for the confidence boost!

  4. This was pretty insightful! However, I must fix my horrid sentence structure and figure out who the hell I am! Great article, thanks for the read.

  5. I have only written about myself a little bit, but the times I have I remember writing about things that I enjoyed doing. That way my passion would let numerous words on my paper.

  6. these are great writing tips for basically any assignment… im gonna have to try out the smiling trick!

  7. As someone who interviews people I want to know about the persons dreams. That often gives you way more insight as to who they really are.

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