In the business world, you’re not a “bona fide” player unless you have a card. It’s especially important if you’re unemployed and actively going to networking events, job fairs, and interviews. Handing out your resume can be awkward at networking events. Your business card is your calling card. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone at a professional event and you have nothing to hand back but a ripped-up piece of paper or your old company card with your new contact information penciled in. Not exactly a great first impression.
Even if you are employed and just “looking” (let’s face it; if you’re smart, you’re always looking), most company-issued business cards fall short of your needs. That’s because so many job titles are hard to decipher outside of the corporate culture. Or maybe your job title is confusing for the career direction that you want to take now.
That’s why as a personal brander, you need to take charge and craft your own business card. In fact, it’s imperative that you do if you want to be a successful careerist.
Your business card is one of the first impressions you make with a potential employer or new business contact. In fact, I think everyone should have a personal business card. Why? With your own card, you can define yourself and not limit yourself to the company line. You can also have your personal email and mobile phone number on your own card.
In talking to over 150 millennial job seekers for my new book, Graduate to a Great Career, I saw a lot of business cards or lack thereof, and I learned a lot about what makes a good personal business card and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
Here are six mistakes to avoid in crafting your business card:
Don’t junk it up: Go for a clean, quality design. Choose a simple, uncluttered message and layout. Don’t try to fit your resume on the card. Simplicity does it: your name, a positioning line, and your contact information. If you have an MBA, PhD, or CPA, put that on your card, too.
Don’t make them guess: Communicate your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Make it easy for new people to remember you by providing a tagline with your job focus and unique selling proposition.
Here are a few examples:
Digital marketing analyst with a cutting-edge grasp of big data analytics
Marketing assistant focused on the consumer mind-set and new trends
Assistant Art Director: Integrated media campaigns for cutting-edge brands
Don’t use free cards. Some online printing companies offer free business cards. But there’s a catch: “Free business cards from X!” will appear on the back of your card. Since the cost of cards is so low online, don’t brand yourself as a cheapskate and flub your chance at a great first impression.
Don’t use thin paper or glossy stock. Like many people, I always make notes right on the business cards I receive so I’ll remember them in the future. With high-gloss cards, people won’t be able to write comments on the card. Thin paper cards come across as cheap. Better to use a heavier weight paper and save money by using two colors or black and white rather than four colors.
Don’t be hard to reach: Have a call to action. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile with a custom URL (LinkedIn.com/in/YourName) to engage people so they can learn more about you. Or include a QR code so that people can scan it and immediately read your profile.
Avoid digital business cards for now. There are also digital business cards you can “hand out” using your mobile phone. One job seeker tried to exchange his mobile business card with me. But it took too many steps to make the handoff easy. I’m sure paper cards will eventually be replaced by digital, but for now nothing has replaced the ease of handing someone a physical card.
Catherine Kaputa is a personal brand strategist, speaker and author. She is the author of the best-selling You Are a Brand. Her new book is Graduate to a Great Career: How Smart Students, New Graduates and Young Professionals Can Brand Themselves for Success out in April 2016. She is the founder of SelfBrand.