Contact Cards, Networking, & the Holidays

The Army Navy Game, alumni football games and the winter holidays are upon us. Many job seekers are traveling home to visit classmates, family, and friends over the next few months. If you are job hunting, these people are a source of referrals for job leads. You will want to have a contact card ready to share. This is not the time to write your information down on a scrap of paper or grocery receipt and hope the recipient saves it. Also, do you really want your information given to a hiring manager or your future employer on a grocery receipt?

A contact card is very similar to a business card. It demonstrates you display a high degree of professionalism and are serious about presenting yourself in a favorable manner. Listed below are the key elements you will want to be sure are on your card and some things to keep in mind when designing your contact card.

Key Elements of Your Contact Card

 Name – Use your full name to include your middle initial or the name you use on LinkedIn. Hiring managers will search online for you by name. Ensure you are consistent with how you use your name online and keep it professional. Research has shown when you use a middle initial you are seen in a more positive competent manner and ultimately receive a higher salary.

Degree(s) conferred – Right after your name list your degrees conferred, such as MD, JD, Ph.D., BS, AA etc. You only list the highest degree conferred. The exception to this rule is if the job you are seeking uses a lower level degree that is a different discipline than the higher degree. If you do not have your degree but have an anticipated graduation date – put Anticipated Graduation Date followed by month and year on the line beneath your name.

LinkedIn URL – This will let people know they can find out more about you and your skills online. Place your LinkedIn URL on the line below your name. LinkedIn is no longer an option. It is a key tool for job hunting. Make sure you have customized your LinkedIn URL.

Phone Number – Do not use a work phone number. You want your card to be relevant after you leave the military or your present place of employment. I recommend you use your cell phone and not a home phone number. Your cell phone is always with you. Do NOT forget to put your area code on your contact card.

Physical Address – Placing your physical address is optional. If you are willing to relocate I do not recommend using a physical address.

Email Address & Email Service Provider– You MUST have a professional email address. Do not use a work email or a school email. You want an address that you will have access to when you are no longer employed or attending college. Keep your email address sounding professional and don’t use addresses like “hotchickatyahoo.com” or “wildman226@gmail.com.  If you are a Veteran due not use your military occupational specialty in your address. Also, do not use the year you were born in your email address. You do not want to have someone discriminate against you based on what you did in the military or age. Use a grown-up email provider. Do not use Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL. Upgrade your email to Gmail or use a personalized email that you can get when you purchase a domain name for a website or blog.

Things to Consider

Back of the Card – Leave the back of your contact card blank – Do not list your job title or your skills. You do not want to limit your marketability by having a limited list of skills or job titles. There is not room to list everything or every version of what you can do for an employer. Also, when you leave the back blank the recipient can use it to jot themselves a note or reminder about you.

Military Affiliation – Military affiliation is an optional item. I recommend having one card that shows you are a Veteran and another that does not. If you are networking with military-friendly companies, then you would use the card that shows your military affiliation. Do NOT put your rank on your business card. This can cause someone to stereotype or discriminate against you based on rank and not look at your current education or skill sets.

Card Stock – Ensure your contact card is made from a quality card stock. Do not attempt to print them off on your home computer. I always recommend upgrading to a premium card stock. It will be heavier weight than a budget card. Rounded corners will also make your card stand out.

Font – Use a font that is professional and large enough to be read. Now is not the time to be cute or overly creative. A contact card is not that big. When you proof your card online you may be able to read the font. But, when you get it in your hand you may not. As I have gotten older reading cards has gotten harder.

Color – I recommend a simple yet timeless, elegant and classy white card with black lettering. However, know your industry. If you choose to go with a colored card and colored font make sure it is readable. Again, I have cards on my desk where I cannot read the font due to the color.

Picture – I do not recommend putting a picture on your card. Again, you do not want to be discriminated against because you are not the ideal weight, or have a hair color, hair style, body art etc. that does not resonate with the hiring manager.

When you are attending alumni football homecomings, holiday parties, and work functions don’t force your card upon anyone. It is polite to ask for their card. Typically, when you ask if they have a card they will, in turn, ask for your card. Then when the person asks if you have a card, you will be ready. Also, when people ask what you are up to you can say you are job hunting and ask them to let anyone they know that may be hiring that you are looking. After you leave the event you can follow up with that person by sending a hand-written note and include one or two contact cards.

Holidays are a great time to send cards in the mail. Yes, people still enjoy receiving a card in the mail. You have Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years Day to name just a few of the observed holidays. Send quality holiday cards to your Aunts, Uncles, cousins, previous co-workers, and high school friends. If you belong to industry specific organizations and an alumni organization I recommend sending cards to those you know too. Don’t forget your mail carrier and other service providers you interact with on a daily or periodic basis. Include two contact cards in your holiday greeting card. One card for the recipient to keep and one for the recipient to share.

Your contact card is just one tool you should have in your job-hunting toolbox. It only takes a person a few seconds to see you and your contact card and form an opinion of you. Ensure your contact card represents you in a positive manner.