Business Cards – Grad Edition

If you are in graduate school, you need business cards. Nowadays, recruiters from large companies can no longer accept resumes at career fairs because acceptance of a resume could convey a tacit job offer.

Business cards provide tidy a solution to this problem – you leave the recruiter with your name, contact information and — if you are savvy — half a dozen key resume points on the back of your card. The recruiter did not break HR rules and you made a professional impression. And this means you are in business.

Recommended Business Card Details

  1. School name and logo – school logos are typically trademarked so you may need to get permission or use a print shop which has the official logo; it also saves you the consternation of developing your own logo;
  2. Your name in a slightly larger font;
  3. Title (Master’s Candidate, Ph.D. Candidate, etc.);
  4. Department – and I use the department address, not my personal address;
  5. Your
    1. Cell phone number
    2. Email address
    3. LinkedIn address
    4. Website if you have one
  6. Use the back of the card


When, Where, How and How Many

When – as soon as you pass your exams and move from student to candidate, print your cards. I had mine designed and ready to print so that the day I passed my exams I called the print shop and placed the order. If you are a candidate, then employers and recruiters know you are not just treading water. They know you are serious about your academic and professional ambitions.

Where – hand your cards out at every conference, include one in every thank you card, and give one to every speaker who is even remotely related to your work. Use your cards for notes if you have to, but get your cards (and your name and contact information) out! At a recent conference, I wrote “thank you for translating!” at the top and handed it the woman who interceded for me in Russian. She returned her business card with a note at the top and we have kept in touch since.

–> Hand your cards out everywhere and include in professional correspondence.

How – when handing off your card make a verbal note about one of the details, whether it is commenting on your cell number, school email or the spelling of your name. Flip the card over and highlight one of the points on the back. Get the receiver of your card to stop for a moment and look at your card while you are introducing yourself and/or your idea. This will feel awkward at first. Do not shortchange yourself, though. Studies show conclusively that when someone both sees and hears about an idea (or person or product) that idea stays with them for much longer and much more fully than either hearing or seeing alone.

–> Look the person in the eye, smile, shake their hand, hand them your card while pointing some detail out on the card.

How Many – print a minimum of 500 cards. Any fewer than that and you will be stingy when handing them out. The point of marketing yourself is not to be discrete, reserved, timid, or parsimonious. If you have an abundance of cards you will not hoard them. It only takes one card to get you the connection you need to get one job offer. The problem is, you do not know which card will garner you the job offer(s). So hand them all out. For the price of 500 business cards, two competing job offers are beyond compare.

–> You do not know which card is going to get you the first job offer (or research grant connection), so hand your cards out liberally.

Always Be Selling.

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