Today I approved the final design for my A Branded You business cards. I love the design and can’t wait to get them. All this talk about them got me thinking about the role of business cards in personal branding. If you are in the midst of a job search, personal business cards are an essential tool you need to be utilizing. When at job fairs, networking events, and meetings, it isn’t always appropriate to pull out your resume. A card is a great alternative to getting your information into someone’s hands in a non-threatening way.
Like it or not, business cards are the way we communicate who we are and what we do. They are the quickest and easiest way to get your name (spelled correctly) and contact information (all verified) into the hands of someone you just met. They eliminate the hassle and confusion of scrawling your name and phone number on a scrap of paper that can easily be lost or the frustration of spelling your name over and over again while someone attempts to enter it into their phone.
Many are under the common misconception that business cards are just for those who are already working. Everyone who is interviewing or networking should have cards. Even if you are working and have business cards from your employer, it is a good idea to get a second set printed with your personal contact information. Personal business cards are a great way to distinguish yourself as a professional in an industry with a unique skill set rather than as an employee of XYZ Company. Sites such as Vistaprint offer inexpensive cards that are easy to customize online and you will receive them in the mail within a few weeks.
So what information should be on the card? It definitely should include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. If you have a website that is pertinent to the job you are looking for or your field, include that as well. If you have a Twitter account that you use for communicating interesting links related to your area of interest, go ahead and put that on there as well. Just be careful not to include any websites or accounts that contain communication where you are being too personal or casual. If you are in school or a recent graduate, putting your major and school on the card is likely a good idea as well. If you are a professional, include your field and specialty.
So what about a fancy design or picture? I typically recommend erring on the side of being too conservative with your card design. A basic card is going to convey your information in a professional manner without assaulting the recipient’s senses. I’m not a big fan of the colorful templates and graphics offered by many of the printing companies. In my opinion, the designs look cheap and generic. For personal cards, I much prefer basic black text on a white card and maybe a simple logo (if appropriate). I think I am influenced by the business card scene in American Psycho more than I realized. I have an incredibly basic card that I am currently using that includes the information about my MBA. Because it is so restrained in a world where everything is full color and glossy, I actually get many comments about how people like its simplicity.
Obviously, a simple card is not going to be for everyone. If you are an aspiring graphic designer, by all means, play around with colors, fonts, and even the size of the card itself. If you are a photographer, it might make sense to include some of your photography. But, please, if you do decide to play with the design, make sure it is uniquely yours and matches the brand you are trying to convey.