Thanks to social media, when most of hear “biography,” we think of Twitter mini-bios – the kind that contain a bunch of one-word descriptors, punctuated by periods, and are limited to 160 characters. But according to Aliza Licht, author of Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media, we might want to start thinking bigger, especially if we’re not getting job offers.
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Licht tells Business Insider that writing a bio for a project showed her that it can be a useful exercise for anyone – but especially anyone who’s been “consistently getting the door shut on them when they apply to places.”
“The best thing that can happen is you don’t like it,” Licht says. “Because if you don’t like it, you have the power to change it.”
What should your biography look like? While it should be meatier than that glib Twitter biography, it doesn’t need to be thick enough to stop a door or literary enough to make the bestseller list. Licht recommends thinking of your bio as an “aerial view” of your life, including all the pieces you might leave out if you were consciously trying to shape a story. She also recommends writing in the third person, to give yourself perspective and to make the exercise less awkward.
A few other things to consider:
1. No one ever needs to see it.
To really gain insight from your job history and personal past, you need to be honest. The best way to do that is to remind yourself that this for you, not for anyone else. Don’t pull your punches. Honesty will help you be clear about what you’ve accomplished, what you’d do differently, and where you hope to go in the future.
2. Write first, edit later – or never.
While Licht advises you to read your autobiography back to yourself – otherwise, what’s the point of writing it – you don’t need to commit to buffing it up to publication quality.
If you decide that you want a finished product that’s more similar to what you’d find on a bookshelf, go for it … but not until you’re done writing. Start editing before you’re through, and you’ll find yourself buffing out the imperfections that will give you clarity.
3. Make it as long as a piece of string.
How long is your life story? Trick question – it’s not finished yet. You’re hoping for something between the length of a Twitter bio and Remembrance of Things Past. Write, and see what comes out. You might be surprised at how much you have to say.
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