A reader recently asked me for advice on creating a business card as a student. Still in College and finishing up a degree, but ready to start the ever present process of networking she wanted tips and ideas for creating business cards and identity as a student that will be taken seriously in the workforce.
A specific question that came up was whether or not to use the University provided service of business cards with the University branding. While there may be some pros for the students, there are also some serious cons to this approach. First of all, it doesn't brand you as an individual, but rather as an extension of your University. Without knowing how your University may be perceived to your potential employer or networker this may be a negative thing.
Let's suppose for a moment that this employer recently had an employee that graduated from the same University and they were fired for poor job performance. Waltzing in as an extension of that same University can possibly backfire on you. On the upside, if a recent employee from that University was a star, it could help. However, by creating your OWN brand you eliminate this risk. So, let's discuss. If you're a student, chances are you haven't established a brand. So then what? How can you create a business card that will promote YOU and not some fictitious business or alter ego. What if you've not really "done" anything yet so to speak? No problem. Keep in mind that the primary use of a business card is to CONTACT you. So all you HAVE to include is valid contact information. Let's look at some ideas of things you CAN include on that card to give you credibility.
1. Your name. This may seem obvious, but as a student, with no "business" to be prevalent on a business card, Your NAME is the most important asset you have. Display your name predominantly on the business card to take the place of a business name.
2. Your field of expertise. Again, as a student you may not feel that you have yet established "expertise". But what did you study for? If you are a PR/Ad major then that's your field. If you're a Journalism major then obviously you write. Determine what your niche is and claim it on your cards. If you're still trying to find your exact niche, keep it broad. For instance, you might use "Communications" or "Marketing" as generic terms to avoid pinning yourself down too tightly.
3. Basic contact information. Be sure to include your city/state on the card as well as a current phone number. A word about phone numbers. Keep in mind that now that you are entering the employment pool you may need to change some of your previous habits. For instance, be very careful about your voicemail greeting on your phone. Screaming/singing into your voicemail message may have been cool in college, but once a potential employer tries to call you, it is an immediate turn off. Be sure to re-record your voicemail message to something more professional. "Hello, you have reached So-N-So, I'm not available at the moment, but please leave your name and number and a brief message and I'll return your call as soon as possible".
4. Email Address. Again, in lieu of something that used to get you by and have personal meaning such as "[email protected]" trade in your address for a new professional one. I strongly suggest Gmail accounts for a professional email address. Try to get something specific and relevant to you. Avoid numbers and make it as easy to remember as possible. When possible, use your name: "[email protected]" or "[email protected]". Creating a separate professional account will also help you to separate your professional contacts from your personal buddies.
5. Social Media contact information. Chances are a potential employer is going to look you up online. By including your social profile information on your business card, you show them that you have no skeletons in your closet and are beating them to the punch. Include your Twitter name and direct links to your LinkedIn or Facebook accounts. However, be sure that your content is employer friendly. Never use a social media outlet to bad mouth a previous boss or coworker. Keep your accounts clean and wholesome, understanding that you WILL be judged by what you allow to associate with your name on the web.
6. Blogs or Websites. Did you create a blog or Web site as part of a class assignment? If you did, and it's good, and you update it frequently, then feel free to add that to your card. However, if you don't feel that it's a good representation of your best work, or if you never update the blog, then you are better to leave it off. In order for it to be effective it must be current. Printing and Distribution. So now you have your information and a basic idea of your card.
The next step is getting them printed. My personal favorite for printing great, professional quality business card at a low price is OvernightPrints.com. Overnight includes a web based card designer, so if you'r NOT a designer, or don't have the software, you can use their Web site to still create a top quality card. And their quantities and prices are small and very reasonable. Staring at just 25 cards for $2.98 plus shipping.
Another option is Vista Print. A word of warning however, Vista Print's cards are "free" with the exception of shipping fees, but the backside of the card is Vista Print's logo and contact information. And the card quality is much cheaper and does not include a UV gloss finish, like Overnight does. So now that you have your card printed and designed, who do you give them too?
In short: Everybody! 90% of business success is networking. Never despise even the smallest connections that you might make. Stay especially alert at conferences, seminars and learning environments. All in all, put your best foot forward and establish your own professional reputation and you'll go far!