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Writing a Professional Bio

Closeup of a Smith & Corona typewriter keyboard.
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

The American Alliance of Museums offers the following guidance from Natanya Khashan, our Senior Director of Audience Development & Engagement and Joseph O’Neill, our Content Manager and Editor II.

Whether you’re starting a job search, authoring an article, presenting at a conference, or just updating your website or LinkedIn, you need a professional bio—a succinct statement that conveys who you are, what you do, and where your passions lie. But anyone who’s tried to write such a statement knows it can be harder than it looks. This tipsheet offers a step-by-step process for writing a bio that will stand out and get your strengths across.

1. Start with the basics.

Get the simple things out of the way first:

  • Your name
  • Your current position
  • The organization you work for

Whether and how you need to include this information in your bio will depend on where it appears. For instance, if the bio is for your organization’s website, you do not need to specify the name of the organization. Or if your name and title will appear in a header above your bio, such as we do on AAM’s staff page, you do not need to repeat them in the text. However, if you’re writing a bio for LinkedIn, for example, you would include this information as the first sentence.

2. Explain your role.

While you may think your title is self-explanatory, it most likely includes jargon and terminology that will not be familiar to every reader—whether they currently work in the field or not! For example, imagine you’re applying to a job at a museum that just hired an HR manager from outside the field, who’s still learning to interpret the different roles and responsibilities involved in museum jobs. To avoid any confusion, it’s best practice to assume the reader will need some further explanation. Try writing out:

  • What does your title mean in layman’s terms? Be concise—how would you describe your job in 1-2 sentences? (Run-on sentences don’t count!)
  • What career milestones are you most proud of (in your current role or previous roles)? Consider awards, certificates, projects you’re particularly proud of, or metrics you’ve accomplished. Include 2-3 of these in your bio.

3. Share your background.

Once you’ve described your current role, you can share what got you there, so readers understand the overall arc of your career and how you’ve grown over time. This can include:

  • Your educational background
  • Your past positions
  • Any previous accomplishments you’re particularly proud of

4. Add a little more about yourself.

While a professional bio is primarily for describing your work life, including a few personal details can help readers get to know you a little better. Use this section to provide a little window into who you are, but not a full traipse around your house. Consider including:

  • Why do you do what you do—what about the museum field keeps you motivated to do the work you do each day?
  • What are one or two values you hold—how do these values show up in your work? (Need help thinking about different types of values? Browse this helpful values list from Brené Brown.)
  • A personal highlight, such as a hobby you have, where you live (and what humans, animals, or plant babies you might live with), or a point about your lived experience. But just pick one—leave room for people to get to know you outside of your bio as well.

5. Edit and format your bio.

After you’ve finished writing out each of these sections, you’ll want to go over the result to make sure it’s coherent and concise. Follow these tips for putting on the finishing touches:

  • Tailor your formatting to the venue your bio will appear in:
    • For an organization, follow any guidelines the organization provides. If it does not provide any, we recommend using third person and limiting the length to roughly 70-120 words.
    • For personal platforms like LinkedIn, personal websites, and other social media accounts, we recommend using first person and limiting the length to roughly 120-250 words.
  • Scan for jargon and buzzwords that may be unfamiliar to readers. If you find any, replace them with more accessible alternatives.
  • Ask yourself if the words feel authentic and honest to who you are—if something feels stilted, try saying it the way you would to a friend.
  • Don’t overthink it—your first thought about what to include is likely your best thought, so just focus on the small changes needed to convey that thought clearly.
  • Do spellcheck and copyedit—it’s easier than you think to make small errors and typos in your first draft.
  • Add a link to connect with you on AAM’s Museum Junction!

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