Business cards—those small pieces of professionally printed card stock that people carry around and exchange. Or at least we used to. Back in the Victorian era, business cards were the only way to reliably obtain contact information. But with today’s social distancing and easy online searching, should business cards go the way of the corset?
Some people have been campaigning to get rid of business cards for a long time. They feel that they are outdated, inconvenient, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly. Business cards require time to design, print, and update. And if colleagues are just going to type the information into their computer, why not send it to them electronically in the first place?
Why would anyone ever want a physical card? Having one ready to give out does show you are prepared, and it allows you to share not only your preferred contact information but also some of your personality and style in the design of the card itself. Seeing the physical card in a desk drawer from time to time can remind someone of you and be a prompt to contact you.
Part of the benefit of designing a business card is that you have to think about how you want people to contact you. At a minimum, you need to include your name, title, organization, phone number, and email address. You may also want to include a website or social media contact information. Depending on your business, you might include a street address or just a city and state. Do you want to remain perfectly professional or include a little humor or whimsy?
With the need for social distancing, how can you get the advantages of a business card without giving people physical cards? You could share this information in a signature that is automatically included in every email and in your profile information on your social media platforms. You will want to think about what information is appropriate to share on each platform (probably not pictures of your pets on LinkedIn, and not technical business information on Facebook, for example).
In addition to making sure the information is there for people who look for it, you want to make sure to encourage people to connect with you. Share information electronically with people when you “meet” them by connecting online, following each other, or whatever method works for you. And make sure you seek out and save their information as well and track it in a place where you will have access to it later. Think about tracking not only their name and number but other things you learn in the course of your conversations—do they have a particular hobby, pet, or interest that you can note?
While the format may change, the function of being able to connect with other people will always be required. By making it easy for others to find and contact you, and taking care to connect with and learn about others, you will greatly enhance your professional network.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).