A professional biography is an asset to help you stand out, and it may even help you land a job or internship. Develop your biography as early in your college career as possible, and then refine it as you pinpoint your goals. Whether the biography is optional or is a mandatory assignment for a class, it’s vital to create a concise, succinct self-portrait that will catch the attention of your intended readers. This is achieved with a combination of good writing and facts about your academic and professional background.
Grammar and Mechanics in a Biography
Good grammar demonstrates your professionalism and your attention to detail. A professional biography is written in the third person. Chris Grant from the University of Rochester recommends you start the first sentence with your full name, and subsequently refer to yourself by last name. Avoid redundancy: Start every other sentence or two with a personal pronoun (“he” or “she”). Vary sentence lengths to create a biography that is both easy to read and interesting. There is usually no word limit to a professional biography, but say as much as you can in one paragraph. The exception is a long biography, which is about one page, according to Grant. Longer biographies may be assigned in class, or required for scholarships. Yale Law school recommends two paragraphs for its student bios to accommodate an abundance of information.
Balance Academic and Work Experience
An academic biography primarily focuses on your credentials as a college student, including notable research papers, grades and related extracurricular activities. You can include these elements in a professional biography, but you should also discuss current and past jobs, internships and volunteer work. As with a resume, write down the most recent experience and then include past work. For example, start by writing something like: “John Smith is a student at XYZ University majoring in journalism, where he edits the student newspaper.” Then list other academic and work experience. Longer bios, such as those recommended by Yale Law School, often start in the reverse order.
Incorporate Relevant Personal Facts
Personal information can make a professional biography more engaging, so long as the facts are relevant to your audience and not too personal. You might mention places you’ve traveled or favorite books, but don't discuss significant others or family members. If you can’t think of anything relevant to a position you’re applying for, describe a few hobbies to make the biography more personable. For example: “When he isn’t busy editing the student paper or studying, Smith enjoys baseball and kayaking.” Add any personal information at the very end of your professional biography.
How to Handle Lack of Experience
Not all students have resumes full of experience. This is especially true for freshmen or students undecided about their majors. Start by stating which school you attend, and discuss one of your most recent assignments. For example: “John Smith is a student at XYZ University, where he recently completed a research paper on the effects of social media on interpersonal communication.” Then discuss any courses or clubs you have joined to highlight the fact that you’re an ambitious student with leadership skills.
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