Is there a part of your life story that you usually don’t share? It might be the basis for a jaw-dropping bio.
If you want to do business in today’s world, you’ll need some form of a bio for your LinkedIn profile, personal or corporate website, artist statement, or even your speaker one-sheet.
Great bios use the power of story and vulnerability to create a shared, meaningful experience with your audience. Telling a story of vulnerability is a powerful way to show people—rather than tell them—the unique value that only you can bring to the table.
Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Being vulnerable does, indeed, allow us to shine our lights, to become beacons for those who would join our tribe. But being vulnerable is scary.
I recently worked with a client who was a renowned music industry executive. I’ve changed his name and other details to protect his privacy.
“Jackson” made buckets of money for himself and his employers and had a network of hundreds of celebrities. My client’s successes were indisputable, almost intimidating, and that was what he was comfortable with. The culture he was a part of, the New York and Los Angeles glitterati, was all about image.
But his beginnings were more humble. He was from a small Texas town. His first job in the record industry was selling urban music. So, here was this white guy from the country trying to sell rap and R&B. But for Jackson, those sales were more than a numbers game. He was entering a whole new world. Curious and genuinely wanting to understand his end customer, he started spending time with the artists and their fans. He earned their respect, learned the market like the back of his hand, outsold everyone in his company, and was president of a major division within a few years.
Jackson was hesitant at first to talk so openly about his roots. But once he understood that being vulnerable would help people truly experience his high level of integrity, work ethic, and down-to-earth nature, he took the plunge. We began his bio like this:
“How does a guy from Harmony, TX (population 1,179) end up as a high-level executive building 8-figure businesses for the world’s most iconic music companies?”
Do you think people wanted to hear the rest? You bet!
Iterations of my own bio include a novel I wrote that secured me an agent, but went unpublished. This “failure” explains that I’m an excellent creative writer (it’s not easy to get a literary agent). Paired with my sales management background and design skills, it makes a strong case for me as a triple-threat branding expert for my entrepreneur and job-seeker clients.
Think of something you don’t usually share publicly, but that says a lot about who you are.
If you can let your guard down and give the gift of that story to your audience, they will know without a doubt how very special you are.
After all that, if you’re still worried about what people will think, remember that not everyone is a member of your tribe. Consider this other quote from Brené Brown:
“Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”
If you’d like to learn how to build a brand that is powerful in its vulnerability, one that propels you towards your personal, professional, and financial dreams, I invite you to get in touch!
Kimberly Robb Baker
I spoke with an IT client today who was worried that, with her broad-based background, she would be perceived as a “Jacquelyn of all trades.”
In almost every job search, or life transition of any kind, the fears start rearing their ugly heads.
As you think about your career, what are you afraid of?
Do you fear you won’t make enough money? That you’ll get hired and be discovered for the “fraud” that you are?
If you have this one thing in place, you’ll probably manage fine in your career whether you read my blog or not.
Without it, you’ll likely feel stuck, even if you osmose the combined career wisdom of me and all of my colleagues.
That thing is a connection to your destiny.
You most certainly have a destiny. Whether or not you know it or are connected to it, it’s there, waiting to facilitate your one-in-seven-billion contribution to spaceship Earth.
Everyone I’ve worked with who’s achieved greatness has always known they would. And when doubt has crept in, they still acted as if their success was pre-ordained.
Last week, I worked with a mogul who started out as an RN. Injured and home on disability, she applied to business jobs just for fun. She was snapped up almost immediately, excelled at the business side of healthcare, and opened up her own shop. Things were tight, though. She was still working as a per-diem nurse to make ends meet. Finances were so bad that she had no gas to drive to a per diem gig she’d gotten. So she went to a department store, smooth-talked them into giving cash back for a belt she’d purchased months earlier, and used that for her gas money.
She had her doubts that night that things were going to work out. But from then on, her business was booming. It was as if she had to demonstrate that she was really serious and would go to any lengths to succeed. She built a second business for a combined revenue of a quarter of a billion dollars and revolutionized what was possible in her industry.
Another client from a Southeast Asian country had a low-level job at a telecom company. But his sights were set much higher. He applied to multinational companies, wanting to fulfill his dream of working globally at an executive level. Well, he got a call from a worldwide consumer goods firm that involved developing “distributor” channels. To this day, he believes this was an accident of the applicant tracking system, because his resume was rife with telecom references to a different kind of “distributor.”
The client is now making in the mid-six figures (in US dollars) as an executive who’s worked in three countries and pioneered green business practices in new industries and markets.
Are you connected with your destiny?
If your arms are figuratively crossed in skepticism, pessimism, or feelings of unworthiness, it’s unlikely that your destiny will be able to get a foot in the door. Here are some ideas of how to get a dialogue (and some physical deliveries) going in the destiny department.
- Experiment: The book E-Squared is a cool, scientific method approach to the law of attraction, written by a former skeptic who creates experiments you can do to see if the Universe really has your back or if it’s all just a bunch of woo-woo hooey. I did the first couple of experiments in this book with amazing results. It kind of petered off for me because I was already at the point of, “Duh! I know this works, and I want to manifest more than a cup of coffee.”
- Give Thanks: Keep a gratitude journal or start a regular practice of listing all of the things you are thankful for. Think about it, why would your destiny show up in a big way if its small tokens of affection go unnoticed?
- Notice: Big changes can be made in life simply by noticing, without judgment. Just be present. This sounds like trite advice, and I admit that it seems to be plastered to every self-help book and yoga studio logo. Though I’d heard it many times, the book Taming Your Gremlin delivered a big “Aha!” for me. Noticing really is enough. You’ll start to see some pretty amazing plans your destiny has for you, and you might even observe that every triumph and failure in your life has set you up to shine in this next, exciting chapter.
As Steve Jobs said in his famous address to Stanford graduates, “You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
If the top third of your resume ever gets ripped off by hurricane winds, a hiring manager should be able to come upon that scrap of paper and decide to call you in for an interview. If the top third of your resume is not that compelling, the whole thing will end up in the recycle bin anyway. People read your entire resume only if they’re already interested after a quick glance, and the “marquee” area at the top is the key to a positive first impression.
The top third of your resume should contain:
- Your name
- Your contact information
- Title or titles you’d like to be considered for
- Your most important contribution to a potential employer
- Proof of prior success
It sounds tough to do all that, I know. But I have a secret…
I write the top of the page last! As you write the body of your resume, keep a notepad or Word file with items you come across or ideas that the muses bring to you around what prospective employers should know about you right away. This could be how your early career as an accountant solidified your meticulous honesty and transparency (especially if you are in an industry like banking or stocks where this is a big plus!). One HR pro I worked with had a unique approach to wellness program because of her master’s degree in dance. If you’ve won awards, worked for big-name companies, attended a prestigious school, etc., these should all be mentioned in this “marquee” space.
Think about the problem that is most likely keeping your hiring manager or board of directors up at night. At the top of the page, demonstrate that you are the answer to that problem. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on your resume. COO: “Is operations bleeding your bottom line?” Brand Manager: “Does your brand strategy consider the consumer’s path to purchase?” Executive Assistant: “Is your office so chaotic that it’s interfering with productivity?”
Oh, and ditch the objective statement. This is not about what you need. It’s about what you bring to the table.
Last Sunday evening, my dad and I were listening to the Almanac Singers, a group Pete Seeger was a part of in the 1940’s. There was a feeling of reverence in the air as we discussed his life and music. I had grown up listening to dad’s old LPs of The Weavers as well as Seeger’s solo albums. When I heard Monday morning that he had died in the night of natural causes at the age of 94, I felt a sweet kind of sadness. It was like finishing an achingly gorgeous novel, wishing there was more, but having been fairly warned by the bookmark as it made its steady march toward the last page.
I dreamed this Saturday night of an ancient graveyard with a huge clock right at the entrance. Yeah, my subconscious mind is pretty direct. The dream was detailed and vivid, leaving me with a strong sense of how transitory life is.
The dew of this dream clung to me throughout Sunday, so that the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death of a drug overdose really struck me.
I first noticed Hoffman in the movie Magnolias. I searched the credits at the end to find the name of the chubby towhead who took my breath away. His body of work, more than 50 films and possibly as many plays, is well detailed elsewhere. With a young family and a business to run, I rarely find time to watch movies. I can’t list all of his work or even claim to have seen most of it. But I can testify that Hoffman was extraordinary enough to consistently pierce my veil of busyness, to get me to sit down for two hours and just be human. I know that when I watch one of his movies I will undergo something that is more experience than entertainment, that I will encounter some new part of myself in his performance.
Unlike the graceful ending to Seeger’s story, the passing of 46-year-old Hoffman was like a needle scratching rudely across a record album, or one of those film noir scenes of ultra-happening speakeasies being raided as the musicians stop playing and harsh lights instantly turn glamour into shame.
I didn’t want to feel this loss, and my defenses jumped right in to distance me from it. I heard them say, “That’s not the world I live in. It’s very sad, but just about as meaningful to me as this big football game everyone’s going on and on about. It’s another news item.”
One thought slipped in under the door, though. It was a tweet from Jim Carrey: “Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.” Carrey’s words kept me just open enough to allow the possibility of exploring what Hoffman’s death meant to me.
Many of my social media friends talked about how senseless it was. One commentator suggested that a brisk walk with a good dog was all the high anyone could need. We have all kinds of opinions about other people’s lives. But neither I nor the dog walker have a right to judge the choices of a man whose only relationship to us was that he gave us a precious gift, that he bared his soul so we could see it.
Haven’t we all been figuratively in that bathroom with the needle in our arm?
When I’m at work on a tough project there can be anything from a stack of used tea bags to a bunch of carrot “bellybuttons” strewn about. In the old days it was more like coffee cups and empty cookie bags. I also become obsessive about choosing the perfect size and color of my fonts and getting just the right degree of shading on my graphics. Food and perfectionism numb me when I’m facing potential failure or (even scarier) greatness.
Brené Brown in the audio version of The Power of Vulnerability confesses that she watched eight hours of Downtown Abby after reading some unflattering online comments about her looks. She then continued the numbing fest by Googling historic references in the series.
At times, we’ve all chosen to postpone the moment when we’ll experience our feelings or step into our full potential. It leaves me crestfallen that Hoffman used such a deadly numbing agent. But let’s not cluck our tongues at his situation as if it’s something that wouldn’t happen to us. I’m lucky I can’t immediately die of a sugar or caffeine overdose, and I’m equally lucky that my self-medication isn’t the topic of nationwide speculation.
What rises to the top here are not the tragic, embarrassing circumstances that ended Hoffman’s life or the other occasions when he sought escape. What comes shining brilliantly forth are the many times he did not run, the countless instances when he was still enough and brave enough to allow his talent to overtake him.
As saintly as Pete Seeger was, I’m sure he numbed himself on occasion. That his self-medication was less lethal and apparently less frequent than Hoffman’s doesn’t change the unifying lesson of both men’s lives. If you’re brave enough to show up fully to your destiny, you will leave a worthy legacy no matter how long you live.
Will you truly show up to work today? Can you be brave enough to breathe into the fear and excitement of being completely present in creating your work? I’m taking that deep, scary breath right along with you.
Thank you Pete and Philip.
There’s something about writing a resume that tends to put people into “official mode,” as if they’re filling out a tax form and there’s only one right way (paved with “self-motivated” and “visionary” cobblestones). If you want a great resume, let go of that idea right now!