What’s your kryptonite?

Mine is writing my bio…

Do you ever find it challenging to describe how you came to be where you are at this moment in your career and what you do now concisely and clearly? (I wonder if my years as a consultant and desire to learn and apply my learning work against me.) Of course, every time I write a brief biography, I tailor it to the audience, so the iterations are legion. (Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole.)

At this moment 

I’ve just completed a chapter about my choice as a chaplain to create hand-drawn illustrations to enrich my work in a hospital setting. The visuals developed were used in several ways— to support patients’ understanding of their medical options and for my own processing of and learning from my daily experiences. This almost 2,800-word piece will be part of a book on Graphic Medicine, which is about healthcare professionals and professionals using comics in their work. As you can imagine, I must write a bio of 100 words. I find myself stymied.

As I review my bios from the past few years—created for conference proposals, websites, presentations, and applications— I appreciate their specificity and feel they are insufficient in this instance. I want people to understand the fullness of who I am, and while labels or titles help, they don’t always seem to create a coherent picture because of my range of work.  Either I feel I am only revealing a slice of myself (which might be most appropriate for the task) or believe that I’m offering a cornucopia that might just cause confusion.

Which challenges do you face in writing a brief biography for various projects, work, and opportunities? What advice do you have to offer?

The half-dozen bios at my fingertips don’t quite fit the bill! Honestly, all I want to do is draw a picture of myself surrounded by titles and descriptions of aspects of my work. Or maybe share one of my visual bios that includes my education, varied work history, and ongoing professional development. And yet, that was not what was asked of me. And while I need to draw an avatar, it doesn’t feel multifaceted enough. 

Generally, I follow this plan: These are my titles/positions, here’s my foundation/academic background, this is what I’ve done with it/my experience, and this is the impact of my work. 

Here are two of the four I have drafted for this particular situation based on research into author bios… the first of which is too long yet tells more about me.

DRAFT 1

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She companions people as they creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care.

Jill helped open a domestic violence shelter, directed two anti-sexual violence programs, volunteered on a medical service trip in the Himalayas, and recently designed a trauma-informed program for teaching artists. She’s a lifelong New Yorker, world traveler, and artist. 

She holds a doctoral degree in education and was a teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City. Her consultancy work focuses on training design and development, graphic facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and visual thinking skills. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center. (124 words)

DRAFT 2

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She helps people creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care. Her approach centers on nurturing people’s inner strengths, resilience, and ability to become the artists of their own lives. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center.

She holds a doctoral degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her consultancy work focuses on graphic facilitation, training design and development, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and teaching visual thinking skills. She is a lifelong New Yorker and world traveler. (100 words)

I need to send off my bio by Thursday not only to meet a deadline but also to stop “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”/tinkering at the edges of it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about them (even if you write to me after tomorrow). And if you have suggestions (especially around clarity and conciseness), I’m all ears. I am happy to return the favor should you want an extra pair of eyes on your bio. Thank you!

2 replies
  1. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing!
    You are right – this stuff is not easy, especially when it’s about yourself.

    Not sure if I’ve missed the date, but here is my go at it:

    Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying, helping people creatively explore mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for end-of-life care. Her approach centers on nurturing and cultivating inner strengths, resilience, and ability for others to be the artists of their own lives.

    Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center and holds a doctoral degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her consultancy work includes graphic facilitation, training design and development, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and teaching visual thinking skills.

    She is a lifelong New Yorker, world traveler, learner and lover of people.
    (101 words)

    I added that last phrase as an overarching description of all that you have done and continue to do personally and professionally. You have seen some of the most challenging aspects of the human experience, and you’ve been able to celebrate some of the most amazing ones as well. You do this from your whole self, and your heart is at the forefront of it all.

    Reply
    • Jill Greenbaum
      Jill Greenbaum says:

      Thank you Kelly! I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Happily, I will be able to re-visit my first draft—no worries about the timeframe. I also have two articles coming out in the AI Practitioner (Appreciative Inquiry) in November and will need to rework my 100 word bio for those articles.

      Reply

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