Using Networking Cards to Give Your Contacts a Tangible Way to Remember You
Savvy job seekers know that networking is the most effective way to find a new job, and the brightest among them have a secret weapon to make them memorable – a networking card.
Business cards, of course, have long been the stock-in-trade for networkers, but the newer concept of the networking card enables the job seeker to more precisely highlight top selling points and target specific types of jobs and employers. Networking cards, of course, are not tied to a particular position in a particular organization but rather focus on the individual and what he or she can bring to a new employer.
In addition to distributing cards at networking and social events, as well as meetings with contacts, job seekers can use the card as a mini script when talking with contacts (since it highlights selling points). In situations in which handing out a resume would be a smart move, job seekers can use their networking cards to substitute for the resume.
But how can you pack all that resume information onto a card that measures 3.5 x 2 inches? You must judiciously choose the information that does the best job of selling you.
Let’s look at content options for networking-card inclusion:
- Contact information (which is not optional): Your name, phone number and email address. Just as job seekers are increasingly omitting mailing addresses from resumes, they are also often leaving them off networking cards.
- Social media outposts: Include shortened URLs only for social media venues where you project a professional presence and employers can find relevant information about your successes.
- Your personal Web presence: Include a shortened URL for your own professional Web site, online portfolio, or blog.
- An indication of what you want to do and what you’re good at: Concisely convey a few top strengths and results and list them under an umbrella title, which may be aspirational. For example, under the title Pharmaceutical Sales Rep, you might list science and technical knowledge, building rapport, negotiation and closing the sale. What are you known for? Include that on your card.
- Education highlights: Include education only to the extent that it distinguishes you. A concise way to portray education is to add your degree designation to your name, as in Mary Jones, MS, or Michael Smith, PhD.
Consider these embellishments if space allows:
- A tagline or branding statement.
- Photo: Opinions are mixed on including a photo. Obviously, you will be better remembered if the card’s recipient can put a face to the name. But photos also open candidates up to discrimination and employers to accusations of the same.
- Your own logo: Again, opinions are mixed on logos, but if you can design an attractive one, your card may be even more memorable. The graphic design platform Canva is good for self-designed logos. If graphic design is your profession, a logo you’ve designed is a selling point.
A few years ago, placing QR codes on cards was a popular practice; the codes would direct recipients to the cardholder’s Web presence. But experts now say few people bother to use the QR codes, and the practice has died out.
With space at a premium, the idea of a 2-sided card packed with information is tempting. Career guru Bob McIntosh recommends leaving the card’s back side open, so the recipient can write notes. A reasonable compromise might be filling up half of the second side with information, thus still leaving some space for note.
Obtaining cards is fast, cheap and easy these days, from large producers such as Vistaprint and Moo, retailers like Office Depot, or your own printer. Microsoft Word offers templates for cards, and you can find templates online as well. Companies like Avery produce sheets of 10 cards, perforated to pull apart after printing.
Keep card design as simple, balanced and uncluttered as possible, and allow some white space. Proofread scrupulously and ask a friend to do so, as all. McIntosh tells a tale of ordering his first set of business cards, but discovering upon opening the box that he had misspelled his role as “worksop facilitator.”
When should you present your card? Michael Bayroff suggests that “the ideal time to present your networking card is when it can be used to support and enhance an on-going conversation.” That’s where the idea of a mini script comes in. If you have a topical opportunity to discuss the information on your card, you can use the card itself to guide your presentation of qualifications.
Beyond the relationship-building possibilities of a networking card, this small piece of card stock can instill you with confidence. That’s the assertion of Kit Warchol, who says, “they also make your professional life feel real, even if you're currently faking it until you make it.”