Offering a resume may make your networking partner feel pressured, as if though you’re imposing on them to find you a job. Focus on developing relationships and sharing information; you’re not applying for a job right now. (Read my article, “Networking: Organizations vs. Openings.”)
You can’t target your resume for a job opening that doesn’t yet exist. Providing a bio leaves the door open for you to submit a carefully customized resume later, when something opens up.
Unlike a resume, a bio can appropriately include a photo, which can help your contact remember you.
What’s in a Networking Bio?
There are no hard-and-fast rules about what information to include in a bio. What information about you will help solidify your brand in the minds of the people you meet? What kind of description would encourage them to keep you in mind as a resource?
A bio can be a bit less formal than a resume. For example, you can write it in first person (referring to yourself as “I” rather than by name), or if you write it in third person (“Maria Miller is …”) you can insert quotes from yourself.
Limit your bio to one page or less. Be concise.
You can include much of the same information that’s in your resume, but make sure the bio is engaging and conveys a sense of who you are as a person. Ask yourself questions like the following, and use your answers to focus and enliven the bio.
What is my unique selling proposition or brand? What facts about me give evidence of that?
What’s interesting or impressive about my career path?
What story would illustrate my talents and skills?
What am I passionate about, professionally?
What do I love about my field? about my current employer? about my team?
When to Use a Networking Bio
Not every networking situation is the right time to offer a bio. It might be awkward to offer one at a very informal get-together for coffee, or with someone you know pretty well already. On the other hand, if you’re having a career research conversation or info interview with someone you’ve never met, a bio can help your contact remember you afterwards. You might provide it via email before the meeting or hand it to your contact as you’re leaving.
What about an informational interview with someone who could potentially hire you? In this case, a resume may actually be more appropriate.
Don’t count on the bio or resume to keep you at top of mind with your new contact. It won’t! A crucial part of networking is knowing how to turn info interviews into relationships.
Bio or LinkedIn Connection Request?
“Why provide a bio,” you may wonder, “when the person can just look me up on LinkedIn?” Certainly, a LinkedIn connection request is a good next step after a networking meeting. It’s quite possible, however, that your new contact will simply click “Accept” and move on without looking at your profile. Providing a bio before or during the meeting may get more attention and help them remember your background and interests. At the very least, it’s an additional touchpoint.
A good networking bio reinforces an impression of you as someone who is good to know and keep in touch with. (This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for the 2020s.)