How to Write a Professional Bio as a College Student.
A well-written bio is a great tool to have in your professional toolkit. Whether for a job application, networking event, or as an introduction for future employers, your bio is a great way to share who you are and highlight your accomplishments. It can also be a great addition to your LinkedIn profile’s “Summary” section.
Depending on your year in college, your biography will vary in length and topics. For example, a senior may have more work or internship experience to write about than a first-year student, and can describe his/her job roles, skills, and professional interests. On the other hand, first-year students could focus their bio on their background, educational goals, and hobbies. In both cases, your bio should craft an engaging narrative that emphasizes your interests and personality.
Bios are written in the third person and are typically one or two paragraphs, depending on your level of experience. Your bio should start with your name and a quick sentence that describes your basic background. This can include your college, year in school, academic focus, and professional interest. Your bio should be brief, concise, and clear.
Establish a Background Story
Highlighting your background will give the reader an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your personal narrative, which may not be evident on your resume. Also, consider including recent events, such as studying abroad or volunteering. Find a couple of moments in your life that have impacted your identity or interests, and briefly, mention them. This will personalize your bio and help you stand out from your peers.
Explain Your Interests
Next, you will want to elaborate on your interests. For students with a significant amount of professional experience, this will focus more on career goals. If you don’t feel you have enough job experience to write about or are not sure about your professional goals, describe your academic or extracurricular interests. Feel free to add any hobbies that highlight your uniqueness, such as painting, running marathons, or cooking. Remember, your personal biography is an area to describe your personality that is not as easily communicated on your resume.
Emphasize How You Can Add Value
Lastly, you want to end on a high note by emphasizing how you can add value. Depending on where you use this bio, this sentence or two can refer to adding value to a company, team, or event. Highlight your unique talents and skills that would interest your audience. Rather than explicitly stating, “I can add value by…,” share this message subtly. You want your reader to understand that you are a well-rounded individual and professional who can contribute significant knowledge and experience.
There is no order to include all of this information. Play with the format and see what works best for your narrative. Although it can be difficult to summarize your life in one paragraph, this is a useful tool for crafting a positive image of yourself for potential professional networks. Below are two examples:
Example 1 (for first-years and sophomores):
Alison Johnson is finishing her first year at DePaul University where she is interested in business. Although she has yet to declare a major, she’s considering finance or marketing. After watching her parents run a restaurant for years, she knew at a very young age that she also wanted to go into business. In high school, Alison waited tables at the family restaurant during the summer and was fascinated by the many working parts it takes to operate a successful business. From this experience, she learned the value of hard work, efficiency, and communication. In the future, she hopes to continue her parents’ legacy and run her own five-star restaurant in downtown Chicago. Alison spends her spare time singing in her church choir and cooking for friends and family.
Example 2 (for juniors and seniors):
Jared Smith is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America. His interest in international development began during the fall semester of 2012 when he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru. He learned about the inequalities affecting indigenous communities, experienced the Peruvian culture, and became proficient in Spanish. Inspired by this international experience, Jared interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America. Jared aspires to pursue a career in international development and write policy for a government agency. When he is not busy reading about current affairs in Latin America, he enjoys playing intramural basketball and training for the Chicago marathon.
The 30-60 Second Conversation that Could Change Your Life.
What is one of the most important things you can do at an interview, networking event, or whenever you want to make a positive impression? Your elevator pitch!
The appropriately named “elevator pitch” is a brief and captivating speech that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to his or her floor. This concise and compelling introduction tells people who you are, what you do, and your plans for the future. As acclaimed author Daniel H. Pink shares, think of an elevator pitch as “an intriguing invitation to have a conversation.”
Next time you find yourself sharing a hallway with a professor you’ve been dying to speak with or attending an event for internship opportunities, use your elevator pitch to introduce yourself. This 30-60 second conversation could help you land your dream internship or job!
How do you craft a persuasive and memorable elevator pitch? Grab a pen and paper and start by answering the following questions:
Step One: Who are you?
Start with the basics—share your name. Make sure to say your name clearly and confidently. If you are poised and relaxed when giving your elevator pitch, your listener will be eager to hear what you have to say.
Step Two: What do you do?
This can be tricky—you want to give your listener a clear idea of what you do without sharing too much information. Most people will not remember that you wrote a paper entitled, “Obstructing Institutional Change: Why Ideology Sabotages Financial Progression,” or that you minored in obscure Russian poetry after 1860.
Typically, if people don’t understand or can’t easily remember what you are talking about, you won’t leave a strong impression. To keep things simple, write down what you do, and then ask yourself how you would explain what you do to a total stranger, or even better, a 5th grader. Also, remove any jargon or clichés for extra clarity.
Example: Instead of, “I am majoring in biology,” you could say, “I am a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pursuing my degree in biology. I hope to secure a job where I can complete research, specifically in genetics.”
Step Three: What have you done?
Do you have experiences, achievements, or awards that are related to what you study or what you want to do? For example, are you so interested in becoming a healthcare provider that you volunteered at your local hospital over the summer to gain the first-hand experience? Or maybe you study Chinese history, so you traveled in China for some first-hand research. Try to share an experience or accomplishment that will engage your listeners and help them remember you.
Step Four: What do you want to do?
This is your chance to tell your listener what you want to do in the future—your goals and aspirations. Remember that your elevator pitch is about sharing with people what you want to do, not about asking (or begging) for a job. If the listener is genuinely impressed by you, they may encourage you to apply to a job, or introduce you to someone who may be looking for a candidate with your qualifications. Don’t make them feel uncomfortable by asking for one.
Step Five: Who is your audience?
You wouldn’t apply for an internship or job without first learning about the opportunity, right? The same rule applies to elevator pitches. Before you dive into your elevator pitch, ask your listener a few questions. This will help you determine how to target your pitch.
For example, if you are searching for an internship in the field of psychology, and you find out you are speaking to an expert in the psychology field, you might adjust your pitch to say that you specifically investigate how stress influences sleep cycles (instead of only saying you major in psychology). Having more information about your listener can help you tailor your pitch to make it more relevant and interesting to them.
Now it’s Your Turn
Time to put it all together! Like your resume, you should use strong and powerful words. After you write out your elevator pitch, read your pitch out loud and time it. Make sure you can say it in 30-60 seconds. Also, try to spark your listener’s interest by being enthusiastic and personable when you deliver your pitch. Finally, practice your pitch to roommates, friends or even your barista because practice makes perfect!
If you need help, try this elevator pitch template. Then start practicing!
I study/am a_____________________________________________.
What you do/major in/study
I have experience in_________________________________________________________.
How have you applied your passion in a real world setting? What’s something interesting that you have done in the past?
I’m interested in /in the future I want to__________________________________________.
What do you want to do in the future? What are you passionate about? How does this relate to what your listener does?
Here is an example:
Hi, my name is Olivia Jones. I’m currently majoring in business with a minor in art history at Northwestern University. I’ve gained experience in business by volunteering with the student credit union for the last year and a half. Last summer, I completed an internship with The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and I’m hoping to find an internship in finance this summer in the Boston-area. I have always had an interest in art and I’m also finding that I have a knack for business. In the future, I’m hoping to combine these two different disciplines and find a career that includes both.
Keep practicing your elevator pitch! A polished pitch will come in handy this May at the Pullman Scholar symposium when you will have the opportunity to network with Pullman Scholar Alumni! We want you to knock their socks off!
Want to learn even more about elevator pitches? Read these articles:
Forbes: How to Create an Elevator Speech
The Daily Muse: How to Tell People What you Do—and Be Remembered
Fast Company: Careers: Personal Branding Bores
You can also explore YouTube for elevator pitch examples.