Using Business Cards to Market
Yourself While Job-Hunting

Copyright 1999, Diana Ratliff

Are you using your business cards while you look for a job?

No, that's not a silly question. I realize that most people wait until they FIND a job before getting new business cards. They wait until they have a company and a position and an official title et cetera et cetera before shelling out the money to get their own card, the official symbol of business legitimacy.

Well, if you haven't figured it out already, doing what MOST people do is NOT the way to get hired. Yes, there are procedures and applications and rules of protocol, but don't kid yourself. Whether your experience is in Home Economics or Mechanical Engineering, as long as you're looking for a job, you're in Marketing. And your product is yourself. You want prospective employers (or prospective customers, if you're planning to begin as an entrepreneur) to see you as someone with that something "extra."

Why not market yourself with personalized business cards?

Business cards are affordable, portable, versatile, and accepted everywhere. For less than $100, you can have your name, address and photo in front of 1,000 likely employers. Here are some tips to get you started (and, by the way, they're just as applicable AFTER you get hired, and need to order a new batch!)

Designing your card:

1. Keep it simple, yet classy. Use a legible font and keep it large enough for the bi-focal crowd to read (nothing smaller than 10 points). Save the odd color schemes or clever graphics for another time (unless you're a graphic designer, of course!) Any experienced printer should be able to help you with card stock, color, fonts, et cetera, so don't be afraid to ask for their suggestions. A simple way to make your card noticeable but still professional is to use colored ink on colored card stock, such as maroon ink on ivory or gray or brown ink on beige.

2. Leave the card uncluttered. The most essential information on a typical business card is your name, your company, and your primary phone number. Recent grads should substitute their degree (e.g. M.B.A., Harvard University) for the company name. If you do include other numbers (such as fax, pager, or cell phone numbers), put your primary number in bold text. It's most visible if it's located at the lower right-hand corner of the card.

3. Put a photo of yourself on the card. Did you know that business cards with photographs are less likely to be thrown away, and more likely to be placed on top of any pile of cards? This is especially important if you have a unisex first name (such as "Pat" or "Chris") or if you're trying to enter a "relationship" field such as real estate or counseling.

4. If you're feeling particularly inventive, design your card to look like a miniature resume, with your name and contact info across the top. Use bullets to briefly list your career or educational highlights. (It's a LOT easier to carry around a business card than it is a full-fledged résumé!)

Networking with your business card:

1. Carry your card with you everywhere. You can't always have a résumé with you, but you can certainly carry a business card. You never know when you're going to meet someone with knowledge of a possible position. A simple way to add enormous psychological impact to your card is handing it to someone with both hands.

2. Mind your manners. Don't pass out cards during a meal, or corner someone to "talk business" at a purely social function. (Ask for permission to send a card and a résumé to their place of work.) If you meet someone you'd like to give your card to, ask for two or three of theirs (explain that you want to be able to refer others to them.) They'll likely ask for your card in return.

3. Stay organized. Develop a system for storing cards at events, such as putting your cards in your left pocket and cards you receive in your right. Jot notes on the back of cards you receive to remind yourself of information they requested, what common interests you discovered, what qualities they're looking for, et cetera. (Excuse yourself to somewhere private - a break area, or even a restroom!- if you want to write notes discreetly.)

4. Treat cards with respect. Keep your own cards clean and crisp by using a cardholder. When you receive a card, take a moment to look at it, then store it carefully in an attractive holder, also.

Your consistent use of a well-designed business card will show other business people that you're both professional and serious about your career. Get in the habit of using this excellent promotional tool.

Diana Ratliff is an expert in business card use and design, and has authored an inexpensive booklet with more than 140 tips on business card design, content, etiquette, organizing, and usage. Great training aid or promotional item, now available in electronic booklet format as well for INSTANT viewing! For details, visit her website at

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