Why You Need A Business Card In A Job Hunt

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One of the first things you lose when you lose a job is the relevancy of your business card, especially if you were lucky enough to have one. If you're tempted to hand out an old business card and write your new contact info on the back, stop. Ordering business cards is one of the least expensive investments you can make in yourself to present a professional demeanor when interviewing or networking. It provides an easy way for follow-up contact, and can provide a way to position yourself to prospective hiring managers.

Today, business cards are so easy to order with a fast turn-around time that there's no reason you shouldn't have one for your next interview or networking event. In fact, getting your own "personal" business card is one of the first things you should do the day after a layoff. In preparing for the new job hunt, you can easily arm yourself with a stack of calling cards for your very first outings at networking events. Here are four easy steps for ordering your new cards, and ideas for what to put on them.
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Step 1: Get the cards
Every day there seem to be more and more choices for business card vendors. VistaPrint is one of the key innovators in the digital ordering space and is still one of the primary providers. Recently, they were offering 500 cards for $9.99, discounted from their rack rate of $20. But there are many new players in the field, from Moo.com, which offers different card shapes at a pricier $14.99 (per set of 50), to Gotprint.com.

If you're uncomfortable with digital ordering, march down to your local office supply store. If you need cards tomorrow, you may have to resort to printed cards off your computer, but only do this as a very last resort. Instead, try heading over to the printing center available at most Staples and Office Depot stores, and work with their printing manager. You'll find they can produce professional cards, sometimes in the same day, and usually no longer than 24 hours--frequently at rates that are competitive with the online vendors.

Step 2: Define your positioning
Don't skimp on your business cards. They are cheap enough in their basic pricing that it may be worthwhile to spend the extra few dollars for color, two-sided printing, or even for multiple sets. Business cards are part of making first and lasting impressions, so be sure that your card provides the right one.

Do invest in several sets, especially if you think you need different titles for different types of job interviews. Alternatively, give yourself a longer title that works across several different types of job searches.

In my case, I went with a two-line title on my card, which wasn't really a title at all, but rather a description of who I am in the business world. The top lines of my personal card appear as follows:
Rhona Bronson
Marketing Communications Executive
Digital Media Strategist

I made sure to include several key words in my job description, which reads a bit like a job title but also provides some information about how I view myself.

Step 3: Edit yourself
I do not recommend putting your home address on a card. It can serve to prejudice hiring managers who feel you live too far to commute, and provide personal information not needed to foster a business relationship.

Similarly, if you have a land line, don't put it on the card. Put your cell phone number on the card, and designate it as such by writing "cell" before the number. You never want prospective employers talking to your kids or spouse on a home line--and, if at all possible, you don't want to date yourself with a land line number. Additionally, using a cell phone allows you to easily check the incoming number before deciding to answer.

>>Related Article: Why Not To Pick Up The Phone When Unemployed

Finally, don't put cutesy graphics or religious symbols on your card. The card is about serious business-- helping people stay in touch. It may okay be to place a pithy motivational quote on the back as a conversation starter, but it is not the place for kitty pictures, smiling suns, or symbols of various affiliations.

Step 4: Use your cards liberally
Years ago, you saw "calling cards" used in old British movies when gentlemen and ladies came to call.
According to AmericanStationery.com, "Calling or visiting cards ... served a number of social purposes, such as a means of introduction, to further acquaintanceship, to express congratulations or condolences and to provide notices of arrival or departure."

Today, the term "calling card" has been usurped by the telephone industry to refer to paid phone plan cards. But the concept of the calling card is as relevant as ever, as people seek ways to maintain their connections and form new ones. Here are some modern ways to use a personal calling/business card while job-seeking:

  • Create an easy introduction. When you first meet someone at a networking event or any meeting, make it easier for them to remember your first name by giving them your card.
  • Provide positioning. With a given title under your name, you can quickly position yourself as a digital whiz, systems analyst, or any other descriptor you want associated with your talents.
  • Show relevancy. Today, a business card can provide your email, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile URL, and other modern digital connections in addition to a standard phone number.
  • Create conversations. If you are willing to spring for a two-sided card, it can list projects you've handled as immediate examples of your work. Or if you have access to graphic services, it can provide pictures of projects that can also be conversation starters.
  • Show personality. If you're a graphics person, the card can show a design flair either through use of graphics, font design, or a unique size. My card was fairly plain, with blue lettering for my name (which matched my resume). Again, make sure that the graphics are professional and not "cute."
  • Add business panache. I attached my business card to requested samples of my work and to follow-up thank-you letters. It helped show that I knew how to make presentations both for myself and potentially on behalf of the future employer. It also potentially got me into managers' contact lists, rather than simply filed into a resume folder.
Long before you write your first resume, cover letter, or thank-you note, draft what you'll put on your personal business card. It can help you stay motivated, feel more professional, and put you in a better frame of mind for presenting yourself at networking events and parties--if not job interviews. And after you've perfected your resume, if your first business card doesn't match your desired profile, discard it. For just $9.99 to $25, you can have a whole new set printed up with a quick click of your mouse.
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