So, our company was updating its intranet and wanted all staff members to post brief bios.
I write for a living…but the idea of writing a bio freaked me out. Capturing in a few words what I have done for a living all these years, without sounding vain or frivolous, was clearly a challenge. Resumes are different – task-oriented and factual, detailed and often exaggerated. The person can almost hide behind their professional achievements or a fancy template. Moreover, you have a few pages to make your point. That’s my resume anyway…I don’t speak for everyone, of course.
Bios, on the other hand, need to bring out the essence of who you are as a person and as a professional. It’s like writing your blog profile, except that you can’t quite mention your OCD or your fear of cats. For a person like me, who’s not done anything that would make anyone raise their brows and say “Really! You did that?”, it’s even harder. No odd job as a poker machine technician or a cigarette tester or a window cleaner for a horny couple or a hairdresser at a correctional facility. Nothing that makes good stories. Nothing that makes even a bad story, for that matter. I remembered all the times when we had to write autobiographies of an ant or a shoe, at school. Autobiography of a technical writer clearly did not make it to the syllabus because it could scar kids for life (with boredom).
But it had to be done. And I managed to scribble this up, consoling myself that no one ever reads anything on the intranet anyway:
After completing her post-graduate degree in English Literature, D started her career in the NGO sector. Writing for the rights of children, she realised how powerful the pen indeed was. She was then offered a job as an Instructional Designer in the e-learning industry, and she took it up mainly out of curiosity to know what those words meant (some of her friends’ guesses were that an Instructional Designer would design charts/aids for teachers who were graphically challenged or would create fancy covers for text books no one wanted to read).
Ever since, she has pursued a career as an instructional designer, technical writer, content developer and report writer (for companies like Oracle, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the TATA group in India). No matter what the sector (finance, L&D, IT etc.) D's focus has been two-fold:
To create quality documentation fit for the target audience
To improve the way an organisation approaches and perceives its documentation tasks/processes
Keen to prove that good documentation ensures good communication, she has often been caught proof-reading bills, junk mails and post-it notes at home, much to her family’s annoyance.
One day, she hopes to have her home-office in a tree house.
What do you think of it?
Must admit that this exercise made me think. Do bios become epitaphs when people die? Are visiting cards made from putting bios in compressors? Could a person make a living out of writing other people’s bios? Is there a Pulitzer equivalent for best-written bios? Was Tolstoy’s bio as long as his War and Peace? If Homer Simpson had a bio, what would it say? Would Joey copy Chandler’s bio and forget to change the name on the header? Things like that, you see. Important things.
If anyone has answers to any of these, let me know. Until then, here’s hoping that your bios have a story to tell.