BiblioPile Press: When your career matters.

Business Card Basics(reprinted from Seattle Times 3/25/11)
By Terry Pile

Whether Marilyn Richards is going to church, the dry cleaners or a business meeting, she always has a few business cards tucked into her pockets. As a business coach she knows, "Business is everywhere and the business card is a powerful way to communicate." Marilyn has three different cards, each with a strong visual image.  Although the audience determines which card she hands out, she says when people see her cards, they often ask for all three.

Business cards date as far back as the 15th century and were used to announce a social visit.  They were referred to as visiting or calling cards.  Before newspapers, they evolved into "trade cards" which merchants used to promote their businesses often including a map and directions.  Although the calling card has vanished, business cards have become one of the most popular advertising tools for personal and professional use.

Whether you are looking for a job or new business, what you present on your business card is critical.  Andrea Sames, a former job seeker and marketing specialist paid careful attention to her "brand" while she was in the job market.  "Your business card, resume and cover letter should have the same look and feel.  The card should match the position you are seeking. For example,  don't use flowers on your card unless you are looking for a job as a florist."

Eye 2 Eye Graphics Creative Director, Nancy Owyang, offers this advice. "Create something that stands out.  Perhaps its an unusual shape, color or a teaser for which people will remember you." Nancy's own business card  is standard size when folded in half.  On the inside she state five reasons, both serious and humorous, why you should use her services including "if your logo and web site were designed by the neighbor's 16 year old nephew."

Career Consultant Tom Washington coaches his clients on using business cards as a job search tool.  He finds that many people who are unemployed have not only lost a job but also their identity. They don't know what kind of information to communicate on a business card.  Washington suggests, "The business card that has the greatest impact contains information about experience and strengths.  As you hand it to someone, state a key attribute you want to be remembered by. Even if you don't have a specific employer or job title, you still have a career.  If you've been a project manager and intend to stay in that field, print Project Manager for your job title."

Washington also  advises job seekers to take advantage of the space available.  A personal slogan or branding statement fits nicely on the back of a card. Some very effective cards fold in half with a condense resume printed on the inside.

Following proper business card etiquette also makes a good impression.  If you have gone to the effort to create a memorable card, keep it in a card holder to avoid bent corners.  If your information has changed, print a new card immediately.  Crossed out phone numbers or email addresses don't impress. Likewise, when you are handed a business card, treat it with respect; don't immediately tuck it away.  Take a few moments to glance at it and comment. Put a few notes on the back to jog your memory  about the card's owner should you want to follow-up. 

The business card is your most cost-effective form of self-promotion.  To be a successful networkers, you don't want to leave home without it.