Should you have business cards? (Hint: yes)

A reader wrote to me earlier in the week asking about business cards. She said,

I was curious if you’d ever written or researched anything about student business cards? UCS encourages them, but I’ve read mixed reviews online. What’s the communication field’s opinion of them? Have you used them in your own internship/job search? Are they really worth spending the money for?

The kind of cards she’s talking about are networking cards.

I have one, and they’re valuable for a few reasons, not the least of which being the confidence boost you get from having something to hand out. I speak from experience: I’ve been in a networking situation without a business card, and it is HIGHLY awkward when everyone else is exchanging and you’re not.

Other reasons are purely practical. It’s an easy way to exchange information with someone. You can also jot down notes on business cards about the person, which makes thank you notes and future networking endeavors go more smoothly.

What about content — what should you include on the card? They usually don’t list a title, but they do include:

  • Cell phone and e-mail. Denote cell phone with (c) or c., and please don’t write out “e-mail” — people are savvy enough now to know an e-mail address when they see one.
  • Web presence. Web site, LinkedIn, and Twitter and blogs (if you have them). Do consider your industry when including Twitter, though. Communications firms might be more open and even expect a Twitter listing, whereas more conservative industries (e.g. law, investment banking) might find it odd. And it goes without saying that your blog and/or Web site content should be professional if you’re going to include a link.
  • Your major and GPA. Tthe general rule is to include only 3.0 or better.
  • Your skills and your goals. These are best incorporated in a positioning statement.
  • What about your address? Irene Koehler at Almost Savvy says she doesn’t put her address on cards because so much work is done remotely now. For college students, it’s probably a waste of space because it’s likely your address will change (at least once) soon after graduation.

As far design goes, if you’ve used certain colors on your resume, use the same ones on the card for effective personal branding.

giles_BCYou can either design your own card (I did mine using Adobe InDesign) and upload it to be printed, or you can use a printing site that has design templates. Sites like VistaPrint and 123Print, with design and print capabilities, tend to be very affordable — like 250 cards for under $10 plus shipping. It pays to Google business cards and see who’s offering specials.

If you like the customized idea but are uncomfortable designing your own, you can try Moo cards, where you can upload  your own photos on the back of cards. Moo cards also come in a few sizes (the most popular is the MiniCard), which can help you stand out.

Although I think business cards will always be around (for confidence and personal branding), people are increasingly sending information digitally. Contxts has a system to do just that. I haven’t used it, but it lets you text your information to someone else and receive theirs. The info is automatically stored in a database. Pretty neat, and maybe a good addition to a business card (depending how tech-savvy the rest of the room is).

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