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Writing an exciting personal biography
October 13, 2016

YALI Network member types at a computer.
YALI Network member types at a computer. (State Department)

An attention-grabbing biography is an important resource for any professional. This biography can be used as part of your resume/CV, school or Fellowship applications, on your social media pages, in cover letters, and much more. It can be a key factor in decisions as to whether or not you are accepted for a new position or opportunity. It needs to be polished, thorough, and capture who you are in just a few sentences. Below are our top tips for creating an exciting personal biography.

Top Biography Tips

1. Develop an outline or fill out the YALI Network Biography Questionnaire [PDF 107 kb] to get started. Then, remember you don’t have to use every idea—pare down your content to the best of the best. Use the Biography Questionnaire as a resource to build your own personal narrative – it is not a requirement for any applications or the YALI Network.

2. Keep it short—aim for one paragraph. Readers will spend a minute at most on your biography so make sure you only include the most important and relevant information.

3. Use the third person, which is more professional than first person. Third person would be “John moved to Nigeria when he was 12” Instead of “I moved to Nigeria when I was 12.”

4. When describing your accomplishments, don’t write a long list. Select one or two that you are most proud of and provide specifics.

a. Can be improved: Sam volunteers at his local school, has two advanced degrees, speaks three languages, and is passionate about music education.

b. Good: Sam created a choir program for underprivileged girls. He asked the telecom company where he worked in advertising if they would be interested in mentoring the girls. By the end of the first year, more than 20 girls had received not only a music education, but also gained new computer and other professional skills.

5. Avoid careless mistakes—take your time and don’t wait until the last minute to write your bio. If you get stuck, step away to clear your mind. Make sure you edit the bio multiple times and ask someone you trust to edit it as well.

6. Talk about your specific, achievable goals. Stating that you plan to become a tech entrepreneur is vague; instead, discuss a specific goal, like starting a company that develops digital learning tools and programs for schools.

7. Don’t forget the basics. Even though your bio should be short, make sure to include your name, profession, education, years of experience, etc.