Most people wait until they’re hired to order business cards.
But as you’ve probably figured out already, doing what MOST people do is NOT the way to get hired. (Especially if your strengths are in less measurable or verifiable areas such as persistence or interpersonal skills.) Yes, there are procedures and applications and rules of protocol, but don’t kid yourself.
Whether your degree is in Home Economics or Mechanical Engineering, as long as you’re looking for a job, you’re in Marketing. Your product? Yourself. You want prospective employers (or prospective customers, if you’re planning to begin as an entrepreneur) to see you as someone with that something “extra”.
Why not market yourself with personalized business cards?
Business cards are affordable, portable, versatile, and accepted everywhere. For less than $150, you can have your name, address and photo in front of 2,000 likely employers. Here are some tips to get you started (and they’re just as applicable AFTER you land your dream job, and need to order new cards.)
Designing your card:
1. Keep it simple, yet classy.
Use a legible font and keep it large enough to read by the bifocal crowd nothing smaller than 10 points, if possible. Tailor the color scheme and graphics to your preferred industry (you wouldn’t expect a future attorney to have rainbows on his or her card.) Most cards are still (unfortunately) printed in black ink on white stock, so using color is a simple way to make your card noticeable but still professional.
2. Keep the card uncluttered.
The most essential information on a typical business card is your name, your company, and your primary phone number. Recent grads should substitute their degree (e.g. MBA, Harvard University) for the company name. If you do include other numbers (such as fax, pager, or cell phone numbers), put your primary number in bold text. It’s most visible if it’s located at the lower right-hand corner of the card.
3. Put a photo of yourself on the card? Maybe.
Business cards with photographs are less likely to be thrown away, and more likely to be placed on top of any pile of cards. If you have a unisex first name such as “Pat” or “Chris”, an unusual name, or if you’re trying to enter a “relationship” field such as real estate or counseling, this could be important. However, the downside of photos is that they can “date” you, and play into people’s subconscious prejudices. You might be better off by polishing up your networking and interview skills, so that interviewer is unlikely to forget you anyway.
4. Economize by creating personal networking cards.
If you want to avoid the possibility of having 957 special “job hunting” cards to throw away after you’re hired, create a personal networking card. This is a card that contains only your basic contact information. To personalize it for your job search, print your degrees, experience, et cetera on self-adhesive address labels (the 1” by 2 5/8” size works well). Stick those labels on the back of a small group of cards and print more labels as needed. You’ll still be able to use the cards after you get a job, because the basic information will still be relevant.
Networking with your business card:
1. Carry your business card with you everywhere.
Think of it as a substitute résumé. You never know when you’re going to meet someone who knows of a possible position. A simple way to add enormous psychological impact when handing out your card is to present it with both hands, as if it were priceless.
2. Mind your manners.
Don’t pass out cards during a meal, or corner someone to “talk business” at a purely social function. (Ask for permission to send a card and a résumé to their place of work.) If you meet someone you’d like to give your card to, ask for two or three of theirs. Explain that you want a couple of extra cards so you can refer others to them. They’ll likely ask for your card in return.
3. Stay organized.
Develop a system for storing cards at events, such as putting YOUR cards in your left pocket and cards you receive from OTHERS in your right. Jot notes on the back of cards you receive to remind yourself of information they requested, what common interests you discovered, what qualities they’re looking for, or simply what they looked like. (Excuse yourself to somewhere private – a break area or even a restroom – if you want to write notes discreetly.)
4. Treat cards with respect.
Keep your own cards clean and crisp by using a cardholder. When you receive a card, take a moment to look at it, and then store it carefully in an attractive holder, also.
Your consistent use of a well-designed business card will show other business people that you’re both professional and serious about your career. Get in the habit of using them as an excellent promotional tool.