Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King

If you’re a designer, entrepreneur, or creative – you probably haven’t been asked for your resume in a long time. Instead, people Google you – and quickly assess your talents based on your website, portfolio, and social media profiles. Do they resonate with what you’re sharing? Do they identify with your story? Are you even giving them a story to wrap their head around?
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one are the days of “Just the facts, M’am.” Instead we’re all trying to suss each other out in the relationship economy. Do I share something in common with you? How do we relate to each other? Are you relevant to my work?That’s why the resume is on the out, and the bio is on the rise. People work with people they can relate to and identify with. Trust comes from personal disclosure. And that kind of sharing is hard to convey in a resume. Your bio needs to tell the bigger story. Especially, when you’re in business for yourself, or in the business of relationships. It’s your bio that’s read first.

To help you with this, your bio should address the following 5 questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here (i.e. know what I know)?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

Your bio is the lynchpin for expanding your thought leadership and recognition, especially online. It frames the conversation and sets the tone. It’s your job to reveal a bit about yourself and how you see the world. Do this well, and people will eagerly want to engage with you further.

Here’s the challenge: who taught you how to write your bio?

Admittedly, most of us never got a lesson in this essential task. You’re not alone. Even the most skilled communicators get tongue-tied and twisted when trying to represent themselves in writing. We fear the two extremes: obnoxious self-importance or boring earnestness. It gets further complicated when you’re in the midst of a career or business reinvention. You have to reconcile the different twists and turns of your past into a coherent professional storyline.

The personal branding industry has only muddied the waters. It’s easy to feel turned off by the heavy-handed acts of self-promotion that the various gurus out there say you’re supposed to do. We’ve been told to carefully construct a persona that will differentiate and trademark our skills into a unique value proposition. That’s mostly a bunch of buzzword bingo bullshit.

Instead, share more of what you really care about. And then write your bio in service to your reader, not just ego validation. Imagine that: A compelling reason to tell your story beyond bragging to the world that you’re “kind of a big deal.” Embrace the holy-grail of storytelling: tell a story that people can identify with as their own – and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them on anything disappears.

With all this in mind, here’s a few key pointers for reinventing your bio as a story:

1. Share a Point of View.

You’re a creative. Having something to say is the ultimate proof. What’s missing from the larger conversation? Speak to that. Don’t be afraid to tell the bigger story. We want to know how you see the world. Show us that you have a unique perspective or fresh vantage point on the things that matter most.

2. Create a Backstory.

Explain the origin for how you came to see the world in this way. Maybe it was something that happened to you as a kid or early in your career.  Consider your superhero origins. How did you come into these powers? What set you off on this quest or journey? What’s the riddle or mystery you are still trying to solve? When you tell the story of who you were meant to be, it becomes an undeniable story.  Natural authority is speaking from the place of what you know and have lived.

3. Incorporate External Validators.

Think frugally here. To paraphrase the artist De La Vega, we spend too much time trying to convince others, instead of believing in ourselves. Nonetheless, if you’re doing something new, different, or innovative – you have to anchor it into the familiar. Help people see that your novel ideas are connected to things they recognize and trust. That might be your notable clients, press, publications, or things you’ve created. Just enough to show people your story is for real.

4. Invite people into a relationship.

Now that you’ve established you’ve got something to share, remind people you’re not so different from them. Vulnerability is the new black. Share some guilty pleasures. Describe what you like to geek out on. Reveal a couple things you obsess about as hobbies or interests. This will make you more approachable and relatable. You’re human, too. Help people find the invisible lines of connection.

To revamp your bio, start with these simple storytelling principles and questions above. In the process, you’ll discover a greater potential to shift how you see yourself and how the world sees you. Your story sets the boundaries for everything else that follows.

If you’re having trouble being heard, recognized, or understood, it’s probably an issue related to your story and identity. The good news? It’s never to late to reinvent your story.

What’s Your Take?

Have you updated your bio recently? What do you struggle with?

Michael Margolis

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Michael Margolis is the Dean of Story University and host of the Reinvention Summit. Visit the The New About Me, where you can download a 7-step formula to reinventing your bio as a story.
load comments (267)
  • Christopher Battles

    Thank you for this excellent article. I see having a bio as important after reading this. I am also thinking now about the bio for my Twitter account and even what is attached to Disquis and Livefyre commenting system.

    K, bye

  • resumestoyou.info

    Here is a good example of video curation at work.How to tell your story online without sounding like a douche?

  • Unique Value Proposition

    Amazing info really
    appreciate you sharing

  • stephen hammett

    From reviewing a résumé to conducting professional reference interviews,
    we are often drawn to the past and what we can learn from it. We ignore resumes anyway. Instead we type the person’s name into the magical Google machine, and we browse.

  • Lameen

    I wrote something called “if I had a CV” along similar lines but people seem scared to hire me, but that’s good because if you can’t understand me, then I don’t want to work for you.

  • rn resume sample

    I am totally agreed with this post. Resume gives an impact about individual who is looking for a job. Its glad to read the various people opinion about bio and resume…

  • Dana Leavy-Detrick

    I wouldn’t argue that the resume is dead – depending on the job, creative or not, sometimes your first line of defense is still HR, and fact remains that they’re looking for, well, facts. Keywords. Key information. But I absolutely agree that it’s about using this medium or any other and telling your story – and the 5 questions above are exactly what you should be addressing. They want to know – “How is hiring you going to help us achieve our goals”, and “Why you over the next guy/gal?” Good article.

  • Deepak

    The following is how I had responded to a friend who sent me the link to your blog, and I am appending it (in a slightly altered form for the context) here for a wider conversation (I must state my comment was situated within Canada – a social geography that’s self-professedly multicultural and thus must squarely face the issues with a greater responsibility).

    “As for the interesting blog
    piece, I cannot agree more, being an anthropologist, and I am not
    surprised Margolis comes from that background too, with more embodied
    forms of representations, self or otherwise; we call them ethnography, and
    have actually made stories out of silences and stutters. But I must ask
    is it (i.e., the “bio”) adequate to the challenge here, which is that of information
    overload, and I for one don’t fault the hiring staff for not picking
    suitable candidates, which they do (it’s another matter, I believe, that
    for every 200 applicants there are 5 or 6 more or less equally
    competent people out there, and then the ones that are eventually chosen
    only find themselves doing a mere 30%, or less, they say, of the
    challenging pieces they were screened against; the rest of the job
    requiring only run of the mill skills even the 200th applicant could
    manage) but I do wonder if they have the capacity, and
    I do not say this as an arrogant gesture of condescension but quite
    simply for all kinds of their limitations in bringing a discerning eye
    to bear on the shortlisting process, so when they are faced with this
    very critical question of reliability, having to make a responsible
    judgment, my hunch is they usually rely on the time-trusted trick of
    looking for similarity – in terms of prior experience, designation and
    so on, and, more importantly, familiarity, which does scarcely any justice to the newcomers whose experience, skills and training maybe lost on those terms. And this is where I think a
    second element comes into issue – cultural translation (in a broad
    sense), and, thirdly, also a question of vision, a question of politics,
    if you will – in fact, in the absence of the latter two, I think the
    focus on reliability is highly likely to falter on fairness. These are
    absolutely critical to a society that wants to claim a respectable
    status as an inclusive society. And the “bio” does not, cannot respond
    to these questions. It may capture the attention as a new
    flavour, in an already super saturated existing array of attention
    grabbing gimmicks, but then it must stand up to the “facts” a screening
    must subscribe to.”

  • Krisxi Chasanov

    I suppose resume isn’t killed yet either. Personal brand consultants do believe in the power of social media’s Linkedin, but nowadays isn’t the right time yet to conclude that it is indeed, dead.

  • Steve Wilson

    I’d have to disagree with you. I have a cv writing service side business. I have a lot of clients online and things are going great.

  • www.salamunicart.com

    Great Article. I’ve build my entire career based on this principle and haven’t used a resume in over 7 years!

  • CatapultMe

    This thread is so old how did it get reactivated again? And a bio as a resume will not get you past the gatekeepers to land you that coveted interview. Not with ATS now in place in most major companies. If you don’t have the word “Summary” at the top of your resume, it won’t get put through the system and “Bio” is death to your so called resume. You can tell your story during the interview if you get one. Good luck!

  • Jeff Sawyer

    Well written and helpful. I’d hire you! Thanks. http://www.sawyerspeaks.wordpress.com

  • Interlake Life

    I like it. I never really did care for the old resume thing, other than giving a rundown of employment history.

    However, that has posed some issues for me when I was out job hunting (being someone who does a lot of things often simultaneously). It’s hard to keep the message clear.

    I think a portfolio is really the way to go. I don’t think a lack of resume should reflect badly on a person.

  • ehhhhhh

    WHO THE FUCK HAS TIME TO DO ALL THIS

  • Scallyfox

    That one was good:))

  • resume services

    I do agree that Bio is a king but a resume still plays a vital role in your application in order for you to be hired immediately.

  • best-cv-templates.com

    These simple storytelling principles and questions above. In the
    process, you’ll discover a greater potential to shift how you see
    yourself and how the world sees you. Your story sets the boundaries for
    everything else that follows.

  • Why women don’t like nice guys

    Hi,
    look a visit How to tell stories . Reveal a couple things you obsess about as hobbies or interests.

  • http://www.rushmyessay.com/essay/ http://www.rushmyessay.com/ess

    Your thought leadership and recognition, especially online. It frames
    the conversation and sets the tone. It’s your job to reveal a bit about
    yourself and how you see the world. Do this well, and people will
    eagerly want to engage with you further.

  • effortless-attraction

    Hi that’s a good suggestions.I am really worried about How to tell stories in a proper way using common language

  • Mark Guay

    All the internet’s a stage, and each of us plays our part…..just many haven’t yet realized they need to make their characters.

  • ian143

    So then is it necessary to go to school? I am in a dead end 10 yr govt job and I want out. I have always enjoyed graphic design and advertising but never had the opportunity when I was younger to get into school for personal reasons. Now I am ready for a change but do not qualify for student loans to pay for a graphic design degree. A friend who has his own studio in LA suggested I teach myself via YouTube videos on how to learn all the mechanics like Adobe CS and InDesign etc, but my thought and worry is how do I create a portfolio if I have never gone to a school? A bit of a quandary I can’t afford school but I don’t know how to train myself to have a quality portfolio either.

    Now reading that many grads are unemployed I am wondering how does one get into the business even with college?

    • Mark Guay

      Ian. Check out Uncollege, CreativeLive, General Assembly, Skillshare, Coursera, Edx and others like this. These are great tools to help hack your own education and provide knowledge (and save some moolah).

    • tabrez

      Create fictitious briefs for yourself and work off them. Without client limitations you can show any prospective employer how far you can push the boundaries of design without restraint. Good luck!

  • Ella

    I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.

  • lermantef

    nice

  • Syed

    this is a gross generalization. in MEDICINE the CV is totally king. If you submit a Bio, you will not be looked at.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fenizzz Ifigeneia Konstantinidou

      says “designer”

    • Melissa

      A doctor that doesn’t remember or just didn’t pay attention to the very first sentence of the article – “If you’re a designer, entrepreneur, or creative…”
      Scary… I hope you’re not my doctor

  • http://www.thepetedesign.com/ Pete R.

    I haven’t cared about my resume in many years. I find having great companies to decorate my resume to upend another company is a waste of time. What matters for me are work that I can proudly say I did it by myself. That’s all that matter for me, not a fancy resume. :)

  • Mark Guay

    Thanks for input here – much appreciated. So, here’s the thing…What do you do to spice up a resume when asked for one? Hyperlinks, etc? Animoto?

    • Bklyn

      Yes, hyperlinks are fine. Make sure if you’re applying to a company through their job board, the resume is standard (without pictures) so the applicant tracking system can read every word on your resume.

  • rene days

    Perfect for me!!! its like a story of your self, destined for succes

  • http://kipropkiprotich.kbo.co.ke/ Kiprop Kiprotich

    Again make sure your story is plain because CLARITY is also King.

  • Ashley

    How long should your bio be? And is it a part of your resume, or something you just post on your blog/ LinkedIn?

  • alberta d'alessio

    I love it!!! Finally!!!!!!!!!! Can you + Pinterest? thanksssss

  • Deepak

    Bio is always a king therefore we found http://www.biotuft.com

  • RMBA

    Thanks so much. This was to the point.

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