There was a time not too long ago when business cards were widely considered invaluable, and this was the established consensus amongst industry professionals. Networking events and trade conferences wouldn’t be remotely as successful without business cards. Of course, that was well before social media’s stratospheric rise (Twitter, LinkedIn, Angel, etc.), and nowadays many people openly debate whether or not the business card is dead.
Some industry professionals have more prescriptive advice to convey to readers. Felicia Tsung at Entrepreneur openly declares business cards are relevant, and fails to see how digital technologies rendered traditional business cards totally obsolete. Instead, the web simply transformed how we use them. Rather than facilitating future correspondence, business cards now reinforce positive first impressions and brand differentiation. So three pro tips before you make business cards is to know your audience, ensure brand consistency, and avoid over-embellishment. Readers should find those suggestions relatively straightforward.
The Balance also did everyone a favor when they published the seven rules of an effective business card. They focus on pragmatic fundamentals such as including only the most important information and ensuring maximum legibility, and they emphasize how important it is to design business cards with a specific audience in mind. Other key takeaways include professionally printing your business cards, using special finishing options, and adding a call to action.
While that all sounds well and good, there could be some readers out there under the false impression that business cards are reserved for those who already have secured jobs. That’s certainly not the case. There’s also a strong argument for making business cards for job searching. Why? Similar to how business cards reinforce company branding, individual business cards can reinforce personal branding. Remember that your objective as a job seeker is to make a lasting favorable impression on potential employers. That’s a lot easier to accomplish when interactions can be grounded in something physical.
Barry Saltzman at Fast Company stressed the centrality of personal branding to career success only a few years ago. According to him, “the mutual relationship between career success and personal branding is a truly unique dynamic that, when understood, has the potential to launch a person to new heights.” Effective personal branding can help establish you as a thought leader and, more importantly, differentiate you from competitors. It shouldn’t take a genius to recognize how valuable that is.
Let’s say, for instance, you live in Houston, Texas, which is widely recognized as a center for trade conferences and other professional events. Anyone planning to attend events like those should have business cards handy. That doesn’t mean you have to design and print them yourself, though. It’s entirely possible to use a reliable third party local to the city (simply Google search “business cards Houston”). What matters is not showing up empty handed or exclusively with copies of your resume, which might be too cumbersome or inconvenient for others to reasonably keep.
Suffice it to say that the jury is still out when it comes to the business card debate. There are clearly proponents and skeptics on both sides of the aisle. Professionals have to consider the pros and cons for themselves before committing, but one thing is for certain: business cards aren’t limited to those with jobs. They can be equally valuable to those of you hoping to network into a new career.