Business cards and job seekers

businesscard2-250px.jpgI attended a career fair this week where I rubbed shoulders with hundreds of recruiters and job seekers. (Okay, it was more like hundreds of job seekers and a handful of recruiters). I arrived with a stack of my own business cards, expecting to hand a few to interested recruiters, and drop a few more into various fishbowls for the free prizes.

During the event, I noticed that several job seekers were passing out their business cards almost indiscriminately. Several people approached me, told me their 15-second pitch, and offered me a business card. While I appreciate their assertiveness and diligence, I’m not sure their approach is the most effective.

When I got home, I had collected a much larger stack of business cards than I anticipated, and had the task of deciding what to do with all those cards. Do I add them to my Outlook contact list? Should I invite them to join my LinkedIn network? Do I file the cards in a plastic business card file and put them in a binder? Do I keep some and toss the others? How do I decide which ones to keep?

Edith Yeung offers some ideas in her recent article, “12 Reasons Why People Want to Keep Your Business Card.” Her list seems to focus on the attributes of the card itself: is it colorful, unique, multi-purpose, etc.? These seems to emphasize the marketing aspects of business cards.

However, I find that I don’t make decisions based on the attributes of the card. I’m more likely to keep a card based on my interaction with the person. Did we connect on a personal level? Is there way that I can help that person professionally? Would this person be a valuable addition to my network? Chances are, I’ve made that determination long before the other person places a card in my hand. The business card, therefore, is less of a marketing tool, and more of a correspondence tool.

Which brings up some interesting questions. Is it best to pass out as many cards as you can (shotgun approach), or wait until someone asks for your card? Is it best to spend the extra money for special cuts, graphics, paper and color; or will a simple, inexpensive card (assuming it is still professional) suffice?

I suspect that most business cards end up meeting the fate described by Michael at Execupundit, but I would love you hear your thoughts:

  • How do you use business cards?
  • How important are design elements?
  • What do you do with business cards you receive?

Prior comments can haunt you

Developing an online presence is an effective way to establish your professional brand, expand your network, and create opportunities. In fact, many writers now consider an online presence to be an essential – not optional — component of a candidate’s portfolio.

One of the questions that often comes up is about “youthful indiscretions.” What about those posts, comments, and photos that may have been posted years ago?

I came across this article in the Washington Post recently about a newly minted lawyer named Kiwi Camera. And not just any lawyer — a magna cum laude Harvard graduate. He cannot land a job as a law school professor because, at age 16, he wrote racist remarks in a summary of a Supreme Court decision that was subsequently posted to the Web. Despite his otherwise stellar resume, his racist comments are now part of his online profile.

Lest you think this is an unfair indictment for a youthful indiscretion, consider one student’s perspective:

“We shouldn’t have to be put in a position where we have to defend [racist comments] by our professor.”

Given the choice bewteen two equally qualified candidates, why would a potential employer risk the potential embarrassment and liability of hiring such a candidate?

They wouldn’t.

So that raises the next question: Why would a student or job seeker sabotage his or her online profile by posting objectionable material on a blog, a personal web site, or a social networking site like LinkedIn, Facebook, or MySpace?

They shouldn’t.

This reminds of a story about an old man teaching a boy about the impact of his words. He told the boy to pluck the feathers from a chicken and spread them along a path. When the boy finished and returned, the old man told him to now g and retrieve every feather and put them back in the chicken. The boy complained, saying that many of the feathers had blown away or been picked up and could never be retrieved. And even if he could, it would be impossible to put them back on the chicken.

So it is with our words — once departed, they can never be retrieved or taken back.

A sociable introvert

At a seminar I was attending recently, we were asked to divide ourselves into groups of self-described extroverts and introverts. Several people were surprised when I joined the introverts group. They pointed out that throughout the seminar, they had observed me

  • approaching strangers to introduce myself,
  • initiating conversations,
  • asking questions during the session, and
  • volunteering to speak before the group.

Surely, then, I must be an extrovert.

But not so fast… What they don’t know about me is that after the seminar I need to have some “alone” time to recharge. Whether it is reading, writing, taking a walk, or some similar activity, I need some time alone to reflect on and process the stimuli I’ve just received.

  • Extroverts draw energy from external stimuli (e.g. people and things).
  • Introverts draw energy from internal stimuli (e.g. ideas and concepts).

People sometimes equate introversion with shyness or social awkwardness, but introverts do not necessarily lack social skills. While shyness may be a factor for some, the dysfunction of many introverts in social settings has less to do with shyness than it does with energy. In other words, the introvert may become so content entertaining his internal stimuli that he doesn’t perceive a need to expend energy on external stimuli. My son has a t-shirt that summarizes this introvert mindset. It says:

“I’m in my own little world. But that’s okay… they know me here.”

For many introverts, therefore, the challenge of social situations is not to overcome shyness. The challenge is to recognize and appreciate the value of the external stimuli. After all, the external stimuli are a cornucopia of the things we introverts really love:

more stuff to think about.

First things first… and last

Your audience is most likely to remember what you say first, and what you say last.

Learning how to communicate effectively is essential for your career growth. What good are your ideas if you can’t communicate them? Whether it’s your presentation to the to the executive board, your two-minute elevator pitch, or an interview.

In her research on short-term memory, Elizableth Hilton observed

“A person has a tendency to remember the first and last few items being presented because the brain will start to rehearse the information that was presented first and last, and have an inclination to forget the middle items.”

Don’t bury your ideas in the middle of a your presentation. If you want people to remember them, state your ideas clearly at the beginning, and repeat them at the end.

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