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Interview Yourself to Update Your Professional Bio

It’s difficult to write about yourself. You do what you do best and don’t spend much time analyzing how you do it. But as an expert in your field, you need a current professional bio. You need it for your website about page, LinkedIn profile, media kit or job application, and as an intro for public speaking engagements or workshops.

Review your bio at least once a year to make sure it still captures your current career focus. It should tell a mini-story about how you arrived at this point in your career, how you’ve developed your expertise and what you’re currently doing with it.

If your bio needs a little tweaking or is missing pertinent information, interview yourself to fill in the blanks.

Create Your Interview Questions

Like any good story, your professional bio should have a beginning, middle and end showing how you arrived at where you are today within your career. Identify the areas of your story that are missing. Ask yourself interview-style questions to help fill in your narrative.

Questions to help illustrate the beginning of your career include:

What college or training did you complete to start on your career path?

What foundational work experience did you do in your career?

How did you decide this career path was right for you?

Questions to help illustrate the middle of your career include:

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Do you specialize in a certain area within your career field? Why do you enjoy this specialization?

What sets you apart from others in your field?

Questions to help illustrate your current career include:

What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?

What are some of your current career priorities, and how are you acting on them?

Share recent accolades, testimonials or successes.

How to Interview Yourself

There are a few ways you can interview yourself.

Interview yourself on paper: Write out or type up the answers to your tailored interview questions.

Respond on a voice recorder: Read the interview question aloud and record your answer on a voice recorder or app.

Do a traditional interview: Have someone else ask you the questions. The other person should voice record your spoken answers and also jot down written notes to capture what you say.

Write Your Updated Bio

Once you’ve answered the interview questions, you’ll have a lot of content to work with to either create a new bio or update an older version. Edit down your answers to their essence, keep your answers in story order beginning, middle and end, which should result in a compelling bio that showcases your expertise.

If you need a little more guidance or want someone else to write your bio for you, contact me for assistance. I’d be happy to create a glowing professional bio to present your best self.

#4 Where on the Peninsula Is This?

 

The tide is out, and all sorts of strange marine items are exposed, including a sunken sailboat in the distance, a rusted out barge and a smattering of dock pile stubs. At Bay Beach along the Bay Trail following Beach Park Blvd in Foster City, pieces of an old wooden structure lay on the shell mound beach. Was this from an old dock, or maybe a chunk of the original San Mateo Bridge span? Whatever it is, be careful not to graze against its protruding rusted hardware.

#3 Where on the Peninsula Is This?

Grab a coffee, taste wine or sip some tea at the shops in Pacifica’s Rockaway Beach area. If you need more sustenance, order a crab sandwich at Nick’s or fish and chips from the Moonraker’s lunch truck. After watching the ocean waves roll in, take a walk up the trail behind Nick’s. This photo was taken on the switchbacks that lead up and over the hill and into the San Pedro Valley. On the other side of the hill, you’ll find Pacifica State Beach and the “World’s Most Beautiful” Taco Bell.

5 Tips for Writing and Editing Professional Emails

When I email a new business contact for the first time, I put a lot of care into the email I send. Most likely, the person I’m writing to doesn’t know me very well. We may have met briefly at a networking event or are being referred to each other and never met previously. The first email I send to them is important because it represents me and my business. It will convey if I’m knowledgeable, have something to offer them, and am someone they would want to get to know better and possibly work with. As I craft my virtual “stand-in” emails, I use the following steps to write and edit them.

Type Emails in a Word Processing Program

This step might seem a bit antiquated depending on the type of email server you use, but I highly recommend typing up important emails in a word processing program like Microsoft Word.

The first reason to do this is to ensure you don’t lose the text of your email. From past experience, I am afraid of the email compose window closing, freezing, or deleting the email I’ve been laboring over. If rewriting an email would cause you pain, then type it up (and save it) in a Word document first.

Spell Check and Grammarly Help

The second reason I recommend using Word to compose your email is to use spelling and grammar checking features. Word’s spell check lets you know as you type if you’ve spelled something wrong. I also suggest trying out the free version of Grammarly (www.grammarly.com). For me, Grammarly is like having a writing partner looking over your shoulder to point out where phrases could be tightened and where a comma is definitely needed.

Give Yourself Time to Respond

Sometimes when you receive an email, either from the new contact you’ve reached out to or someone you are already working with, it may feel emotionally charged. Maybe the email contains feedback, criticism, or it’s asking you to do something. It’s ok to let an email sit unanswered for a few hours.

Give yourself time to respond so you can gain perspective. Ask yourself what are the important parts of this email that need a response? If you detect a negative tone, try to make your response measured and thoughtful. By giving yourself the time to figure out how you will incorporate feedback or how you will find time to do the new task, your anxiety level should go down, allowing you to respond professionally.

Ensure a Professional Look

Limit the use of exclamation points and smiley faces in your professional emails. Ok, I am guilty of using a few too many exclamation points and at least one smiley face per email. But in that very first email to a new contact, I edit back my enthusiasm!

Email Subject Line

I know it’s hard to figure out what to say in the email subject line, especially for an important email. “Hi” or “Hey There” is fine between longtime friends, but you’ll want to include a little more detail for a professional email. Remind the person how you met, like “Great Meeting You at City Networking Meeting” or simply what the topic of your email is “Business Opportunity with XXX.”

Happy Emailing 🙂

An Easy Way to Look and Feel Better On Zoom

I started taking a late-night comedy writing class in September. That means I’m learning how to write monologue jokes based on real news headlines à la Stephen Colbert or Conan. How about this one,

Microsoft pulled its underwater data center out of the Scottish sea, which means the Loch Ness Monster has lost its favorite chew toy.

This class is offered through The Second City, where many of today’s comedy greats have honed their craft. Normally, I would have had to be in Hollywood to take the class, but under the current circumstances, I’ve been able to Zoom to class and have classmates from across the U.S. and even one in Canada. Connecting through Zoom is a great thing, but I started to feel self-conscious about letting all these talented people look directly into the inner workings of my apartment living room.

Before
After

They could see overstuffed bookshelves and my husband walking around behind me as he unwinds after his workday. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom meetings, and I did realize people could see all the stuff behind me. I think I was holding out hope that this video meeting thing was going to be short term. I thought to myself, We should be at a local restaurant right now having a lunch meeting–not connecting over a computer screen.

I was resentful of having to change how I do things, so I did little to figure out a new arrangement, and as a result, people could see all the stuff behind me. It took experiencing a little embarrassment to get me motivated. After the first comedy writing class session, where things out of my control happened behind me, I decided to do something about how I presented myself.

I bought a woven rattan room divider off Wayfair. I had it set up behind my chair at the next class session. The teacher called me out on it saying, “I remember seeing a room behind you and someone walking around. That panel is so smart!” Other than me being slightly allergic to the rattan, which smells like a cornfield, the panel works. I do feel better knowing that whatever’s going on behind me is blocked from myself–which helps with my concentration during video calls—and the people I’m on the call with don’t have to choose where to put their attention when I’m speaking.

So my message is if you’ve been waiting to make a change or investment in your business that could help you professionally consider going ahead with that change—as long as it makes sense to you, of course. It could be a small change that makes you feel more comfortable, and that will be enough to make a noticeable difference in your life.

#2 Where on the Peninsula is This?

Make your guess before reading on!

Tucked away behind the Electronic Arts, aka EA office building in Redwood Shores is this labyrinth. Meant to help office workers destress during their breaks, the gravel path weaves in, out and around itself. If you make it to the middle before its time to go back to work, you are rewarded with a snail statue greeting right in the center of it all. This green space between office buildings is a great place to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and the labyrinth is a fun way to coax you into exercise.

 

#1 Where on the Peninsula is This?

Guess where this photo was taken before reading further. Ready to find out if you are right? Read on!

Several years ago, before I knew the Peninsula very well, I had a temp job in Redwood Shores that I drove to from the East Bay. While I manned the front desk of a web photo product company, I wondered where the trails along the shoreline went. I remember a few employees biked the trails to and from work or took a jog during their lunch break. Now that I’ve been living on this side of the Peninsula for so many years, I decided a few weeks ago to relocate the shore access and try the trail myself.

We took Marine Parkway and a left onto Bridge Parkway to follow the Belmont Slough and picked up a section of the Bay Trail to explore. Marsh grasses, salt ponds with shorebirds, crunchy gravel paths, and bay water lapping against muddy embankments reinvigorate visitors seeking to connect with nature.

Finding My Tribe: Tips for Collaborating On Your Business Journey

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash 

It can feel lonely when I think about ways to market my writing and editing services. In the beginning, I sent out “cold emails” (emailing businesses I’ve never met) to introduce myself. A few people answered back but didn’t need my help at the time. Cold emailing, like any marketing method, is a numbers game, but it left me feeling chilly. It took me forever to figure out who to contact at each business and personalize my emails so they’d be taken seriously. It felt like I was wasting too much time sending emails into a cyberspace black hole.

So, I began in-person networking. It’s been a great way to get to know local business people, and they have helped me grow my business by employing me to do some work for them or referring me to businesses they know.

I’ve always been envious of the “power partner” relationships that grow out of networking. For example, a realtor, mortgage broker and estate attorney will team up and endlessly refer clients to each other. These professionals are on the same wavelength. They know each other’s skills, abilities and specialties and can send the right potential clients to each other.

I wanted that level of collaboration for myself. While my business was humming along the end of last year, I reached out to a graphic designer friend who was interested in creating a power partner group with me. When the pandemic disrupted how business was conducted and reshaped the needs of many, I decided it was time to get serious and form a specialized creative services team.

I want to share a few reasons why you should consider establishing your own power partner team.

Support Group

The businesses represented in your power partner team should be related to what you do. In my case, a graphic designer knows quality writing is a key factor for a website. Since we are familiar with the expertise that goes into creative projects and what it’s like to obtain new clients, we have an understanding of how to support each other.

Specialized Networking Group

When I’m working on a client project, it often includes a design, web or video component. Being in constant contact with my power partners who are specialized in those areas makes it super easy for me to refer work to them. I’m confident that they will do a great job for my contacts.

Automatic Team

There’s a high probability that I will have the opportunity to work on client projects with my power partners. Since our skills are often needed in tandem, it only makes sense that we offer our combined services to businesses making the process of finding creative experts easy.

Create a power partner team in your field. You’ll be there for each other on your shared journeys and never feel alone again.

Mail A Little Love & Cheer

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence.

Growing up, I loved getting mail. I still do – as long as it’s not a bill! I was a prolific pen pal with writing contacts in other states and even other countries. Sometimes it was difficult to come up with something to say in my letters to someone who hardly knew me. It was good training for becoming a professional writer because I had to fill the page with something. I’d pick out a slice of my life that was amusing in some way, get it down on cotton candy-colored Lisa Frank stationary, seal the envelope with a few stickers and clip the letter to the mailbox. I can’t say for sure that my pen pals cared about what I shared, but they wrote back. The drive behind all this effort was getting a letter in return.


The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience.

Eva Barrows

Receiving mail is magical. Think about what has to happen for that letter, card, or postcard to get into your hands. The paper, the pens, the stickers (yes, must have stickers), choice of stamp, to include glitter or a recent photo? When the letter is out of the sender’s hands, it goes through the postal service, onto a truck, an airplane, it gets sorted and brought around to the recipient’s mailbox.

Then you wait.

Wait for a response.

And one day, when you’ve started to think about other things, a pink envelope peeks out from the day’s stack of ads and bills.

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence. Sometimes the design of a card is so special, or the message inside so touching, I find myself holding onto it for years. If simply sending a card, note or letter in the mail could be this cherished by the receiver, why aren’t we sending more cards?

Over the years, I’ve collected a variety of blank cards for their designs. I have quite a few with chickens on them! Because I love to receive mail so much, I realize others must take a similar delight in it, so I am diving into my collection to send out cheer to my friends and family. I think this is a good time to disseminate my stash and spread the joy of receiving mail.

I encourage you to send good wishes to your loved ones through the mail and put a smile on their face!

Wrapped in Holiday Magic at Filoli Mansion Woodside, CA

This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.

Filoli has been a daytime getaway for me over the past decade. I was delighted when I discovered that the 1917 home and garden was open to the public and just a ten-minute jaunt away in Woodside, CA. I’ve visited the wooded country estate with family, friends and even stopped by on my own to sit in the sunny garden. I’ve watched the afternoon ocean fog cascade over the coastal mountain tops and have enjoyed a refreshing walk in the garden in the crisp early morning.

This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.

Inside, each room has its own holiday theme, décor and historical stories of the people who lived and worked in the home. Docents gather up visitors in different areas of the house, like the main stairway to talk about changing trends in holiday decorations over the years, and in the kitchen where staff prepared holiday delicacies.

After touring the home, we made our way outside to the patio where oversized golden ball ornaments dangled from tree branches. Conversation fireplaces offered warmth for visitors to get cozy and chat over a hot beverage. Recharged, we walked the English Renaissance gardens transformed by holiday cheer.

Hedges, topiaries, and lawn ornaments are all aglow in red, blue, green and gold lights. Holiday music followed us as we walked around the sunken garden, swimming pool, and out to the rose and herb gardens. It felt intense to walk between the bright rows of golden hedges decorated in lights from the ground to head height. Once clear of the hedges, the holiday lights danced around our feet covering low lying plants.

On our way out, we stopped at the Clock Tower Shop where estate made gifts like hard apple-pear cider, teas and spices can be purchased. Historical and Filoli inspired items are for sale, and other unique items. Plant lovers coming to enjoy the garden can take a new plant friend home with them!

Holidays at Filoli is not just lights and decorations but also special events like evenings with Santa and chocolate decadence nights with See’s Candies wine and chocolate pairings. Visit www.filoli.org/events/holidays for event information and to buy tickets.

Holidays at Filoli is on now through December 30th.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plus Thursday – Sundays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.