I've always been very passionate about writing about business topics, especially leadership. And it's probably because I've been lucky to have had a lot of amazing leaders influence my early career. I've also had some pretty terrible management experiences along the way, too. The good news is, you can take bits and pieces from each experience and tuck it away to inspire some good conversation in future job interviews. Here's a piece in Your Coffee Break about how having an opinion can heavily impact your path to leadership.
Writing a concise bio for a business website may seem like a no brainer. A few paragraphs, hit all the usual points like schools, charity work, career highlights and then, BAM! Bio, check.
The problem with that approach? There’s a high likelihood you’ll churn out super boring bios, fast. When I think of old school bios, I think of a stuffy headshot accompanied by a few paragraphs of text that no one wants to read. But the days of stale bios are over. Believe it or not, people actually want to learn about you and your company, and they’d rather not fall asleep while doing it.
A well-written bio will combine the overall company culture and voice with that of the profiled team member. While website bios are generally concise—anywhere from Twitter-short to a few paragraphs—choosing the particulars to highlight can be tricky. Gathering the right information up front, in a 15-20 minute interview, is key.
Here are my favorite questions to ask when writing a bio. Note: these don’t include the usual slew, like general career experience and education.
1. What’s someone you admire, and why?
2. Tell me three pet peeves.
3. What’s a typical day like for you?
4. Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
5. If you could be anywhere other than here, right this minute, where would you be? (Don’t overthink it!)
6. Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What do you want to be when you grow up?
7. If we went to happy hour, what would you order?
8. Finish this sentence. On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...
9. How do you want people to remember you?
10. What do you think are the best skills that you bring to your job?
11. Name three words that you describe you.
12. How do you think your colleagues would describe you?
13. What do you want to make sure you do before you die?
14. What’s a goal you have for yourself that you want to accomplish in the next year?
15. Name a few of your daily habits (other than a shower and brushing your teeth).
16. What publications do you regularly read?
17. What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
18. What are some causes you care about?
19. What do you do with friends in your spare time?
20. What would be your personal motto?
I would like to take credit for just doing it just because, but I really can’t. At eight months pregnant, not only am I boasting a larger tummy these days, but I also have an impressive spreadsheet of running house projects and things that must be done pre-baby. Nesting, anyone?
So, thanks in part to the little human inside of me and in part because we really should be doing it annually regardless, Husband and I found ourselves on New Year’s Day going through a major paper purge and office re-organization. We traded our original plan of hiking (“Let’s kick off the year doing something healthy!”) for digging through file boxes and giant plastic tubs, these things stuffed with paper trails of our past. We cleared out our respective office corners to combine our two rooms into one, to make room for Baby. We filled up trash bag after trash bag of junk, old toys, forgotten memorabilia. Things collected over the course of many years that—until just a few days ago—we couldn’t part with.
Naively, I had thought going through my file boxes would take a mere few hours. But I found myself on the wood floor in my office, sitting Indian style throughout the afternoon, one hand stuffing things down the buzzing shredder and the other pouring through my paper memories. I found my original offer letter for my job right out of college, the job I never bothered to negotiate—I just took it because I was too happy to just have something to take. I found paystubs nearly 10 years old; several keys leading to who-knows-where, photocopies of pictures of my grandparents in their garden in Omaha; Australian coins from our honeymoon and the paperwork from when I first purchased my car. I found reference letters from early-on mentors that gave me pause and pride; a stack of outdated resumes; magazines bearing writing clips; notecards headlining my maiden name.
Husband, too, took his time. He uncovered letters his mom wrote him when he first went away to college—postcards from abroad and small handwritten notes slathered in beautiful cursive. Elementary school memory books; his own musings from second or third grade where he is fascinated, even then, with technology, aviation and science. He discovered a dusty VCR of the wedding video from his first marriage; a letter his Dad wrote his school; his baby immunization record, yellowed and dry.
And how could we not stop along the way and share our findings with each other? We crawled back and forth to one another’s stock piles of what to keep and what to toss, like two hungry scavengers. When it hit late afternoon I poured him a glass of red and we kept on. And later that evening, when we found a CD from one of his Dad’s old work presentations, we held our breath as he popped the disc in his computer to see if it still held. And when his Dad’s voice gave way to the quiet veil that hung over the room, we listened solemnly as he spoke about HR business solutions. We listened like that’s what we were listening for. “That’s my Dad,” Husband said. “But I can tell, it’s his sick voice. But that’s my Dad.”
And then we hugged for a long time after that—in the room that would soon become our daughter’s first bedroom—ever—not quite knowing what to say. And then we both cried—he because his Dad is gone and me because I never got the chance to meet him.
“We’ve spent all day doing things to get ready and look forward,” he said. “But we’ve spent so much time looking back.”
Whelp. You say it’s not going to happen, but then it does. It creeps up on you, ever so slowly. One week you realize you haven’t made time to do what matters—what used to matter so much—and you brush it off. Eh. Next week. And then you start a new job. You fall in love and get married and spend your nights drinking wine and laughing (yes, that matters, too). You become pregnant and find yourself day dreaming of the little life growing inside you. Weekends get stuffed and squeezed and exhausted with painting walls, dinner parties, trips to Target; cleaning the closet, hanging lights, dealing with the dogs, running here and there. And then you realize.
Time has gone by, as it tends to do. And it’s been three years since you’ve written, just for the sheer pleasure of writing for you.
It was not too long ago that I would work late hours at the office in West LA and come home, bringing more work with me. I’d either make a simple dinner, solo, or grab take out. And hours after my roommate had slipped off to bed, and the apartment building hushed down—fitfully, like a toddler not wanting to go to bed for fear they’ll miss out on the mischievous Los Angeles night—I’d, too, crawled into bed, with my laptop to keep me warm. My beige-colored room and humble apartment would be quiet except for me and the hum of my little computer and my anxious fingers, straining to tap out all that I held all day long in my head and heart; and the occasional comforting creak of neighbors slipping into the bungalows across the way, with stories of their own.
Often, it would reach two or three in the morning before I shut the light.
You say it’s not going to happen, but then it does. When we knew we were bringing our sweet girl into this world, I fantasized about writing while she slept late at night and napped during the day. I pictured her in a swing next to me in our office, contentedly playing and cooing while I did my thing, too. Easy, no?
You say it’s not going to happen, but then it does. Coming home from a day at the office to a kid changes you. You want a peaceful house and sometimes that means doing the dishes and vacuuming at eleven p.m. It means cooking even if you don’t want to because, damn it, you’re going to have a family dinner tonight! It means sometimes saying “I’ll write later.”
You say it’s not going to happen, but then it does.
And so here I am. The baby is sleeping and I am a woman placing a stake into the ground. This is my line in the sand. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a marketer. I’m a friend. I’m a cook. I’m a reader. I’m a wannabe athlete. I’m a networker. I’m a tech dork. I’m a neighbor. And this is the year that I fight and reclaim a part of me that I somehow let fade away. It’s time I dust it off and find out how to write again. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to, and I’m approaching this with equal parts fear and eager anticipation. But here I am.
I’m a writer.