Business cards: the most important networking tool

At Albany SQL Saturday this year, I will be doing a lightning talk about what may very well be the most important item you could have for networking. This article outlines what I intend to discuss.

Why do I consider business cards — such innocuous little items — to be the most important item for networking? Let me lay out this scenario.

Let’s say you’re attending an event like, say, SQL Saturday. You manage to strike up a conversation with this person you happen to meet there. (S)he tells you that (s)he is a high-level executive for a company that hires people with the skill sets that you have. You tell him/her about yourself and what you do. (S)he becomes very intrigued. (S)he tells you, “let me get your name, number, and email, and we’ll talk!” You eagerly look for a pen and a piece of paper to write down your contact information, but you can’t find any readily available. (S)he says, “don’t worry about it. Track me down later when you have a chance to write it down.” Only that opportunity never happens. (S)he gets a call and needs to leave the conference before you have a chance to give him/her your contact info. A few days later, both you and (s)he have already forgotten each other’s names.

Opportunity knocked, but you didn’t answer the door. That could’ve been the job opportunity that kicked off your career — and you just let it slip through your fingers. If only you had a way to quickly and easily share your contact information — something that you can exchange instantly. Well, there is.

Business cards are small, simple, easy to carry, and easy to distribute. They’re much easier to carry than, say, copies of your resume. People don’t need to remember your name, email, or phone number. They also save the time of having to find a pen and paper or pulling out your smartphone and texting someone your contact info. Additionally, you cut out the extra step of having someone look up your contact info. The less you have to make someone work, the better.

Open up my business card, and you’ll see a little mini-resume!

Years ago, I decided to get creative with my business cards. One day, I came up with the idea of “baseball cards… business cards” and put the two concepts together. I had an old souvenir photo of myself in a baseball uniform that I used for the card photo. Flip the card over, and you’ll see my contact info (including my ‘blog, LinkedIn, email, and snail-mail addresses and phone numbers). Open it up (it’s a folded business card), and you’ll see my “career major league batting stats” — in actuality, a little mini-resume!

When I first designed and created these cards, I designed them in a MS Word template and printed them out onto business card stock. These days, I implement my design in a VistaPrint account and let them take care of the printing and card stock. I’ve found VistaPrint to be much more convenient than having to buy card stock and producing them myself.

To this day, I continually get rave reviews about my business cards, and I love the reactions I get when I pass them out. One recruiter told me that they have my card tacked on their “good ideas” bulletin board. A friend who was a (now-retired) career counselor asked me for a card so that he could show people, “if you’re looking for a job, this is the kind of thing you have to do.” Another person whom I met at a job fair told me, upon seeing my card: “I’m not in a position to hire, but if I was, I would hire you right now just because of this card!” Even Matt Cushing brings up my card whenever he does his networking presentation! My card is designed to do more than just provide my contact information — it shows off my creativity, that I can think out of the box, and it makes a good conversation piece. It makes me memorable, and ensures that I’ll be remembered in a good way!*

(*Well, unless you’re a Red Sox or Mets fan!)

Granted, you don’t have to create a baseball-business card (hey, my idea, darn it!), but don’t be afraid to get creative with your card design. You’ll more likely to be remembered. If you don’t feel like being creative with your cards, at the very least, have a basic card with your name and contact info on it that you can pass along.

A big part of networking is ensuring you can continue (or establish) a conversation at some point. Having business cards to distribute can ensure that the conversation — and possibly your big break — happens.

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