Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

EXECUTIVE and BOARD CANDIDATE BIOS: Executive Presence on Display

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

EXECUTIVE and BOARD CANDIDATE BIOS: Executive Presence on Display

Article excerpt

Good executive bios are hard to find. Bad ones are everywhere. Bios are found on websites, in marketing brochures, in sales presentations, in public profiles, and in promotional press releases - and sometimes are used for job searches. Bios are often requested by professional and philanthropic organizations considering an executive for membership or leadership roles. Given the plethora of personal information easily avail- able to the global community, often in the form of a bio, it is essential that executives attend to managing the presentation and content of this information. For those executives who have shied away from a public presence, it is more important than ever to establish themselves visibly.

For a career to be vibrant and successful, especially in today's Free Agent Nation (Pink, 2002), the executive needs to be easily found and professionally presented. And a bio gives readers their first impression of the executive. As Susan Bixler, a pioneering coach in the field of profes- sional image, points out, although people should be judged by their in- nate worth, it is often a first impression that determines whether someone will stick around long enough to let them reveal it (Bixler, 2001).

For career professionals, wise and competent counsel on the use of professional bios is no longer just a nice to have skill, but rather it is an essential competency for working with executives on an upward career trajectory. Bios are an important tool for enhancing executive visibility in numerous ways. More than ever before, strong positive visibility is a key component of successful lifetime career management.

Characteristics of Effective Bios

Most bios are dull and boring, providing little insight into the person behind the words. Bios often say held this job, did this, held that job, did that, went to school there, grew up somewhere, married the high school sweetheart, and had 1.8 children. Change the names and locations and those bios could be about 80 per cent of executives. While they can be impressive in the display of credentials, essentially a mini-resume, they are not likely to engage the reader with the person. One reason for the overwhelming blandness is that bios are frequently written by third parties who do not necessarily understand the executive's story or the targeted audience. These bios are simply comprised of data that has been dropped into a more or less predetermined format. In addition, many are too long with too much information. With the rise of LinkedIn, even recruiters are now turning there first, and interest in this type of bio for recruiting purposes has radically diminished.

While a mini-resume bio may be useful in certain circumstances, as a professional marketing tool, it is not enough. The best bios tell a story that entices the reader to want to get to know the executive personally and understand his or her unique talents and value. It is the executive's personal press release designed to wow the reader.

Whether using their bios for business purposes, for advancing their visibility through professional or community activities, or for job search, executives these days must reach beyond being a commodity in an overcrowded market of similarly accomplished peers. Executives must visibly position themselves and be recognized as thought leaders in focused areas and truly stand apart from the competition (Armon, 2008). In addition, the concept of personal branding that was taken mainstream by Tom Peters in 1997 (Peters, 1997) has spawned an entire industry. The notion is now so pervasive that it took its place in the Dummies series in 2012 (Chritton, 2012). A well-done executive bio is a key document for articulating an executive's personal brand.

Bios and Executive Presence

The development of a personal branding-focused bio, especially when the executive participates in the development process, often moves it from a marketing communication to a vehicle that helps strengthen "executive presence. …

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