Sunday, August 21, 2011

Job Seekers: Do You Have All of the Right Tools?

Today’s job market is very competitive. As a job seeker, you must play your “A” game and do everything you can to stand out, in a good way, as a valuable candidate for the jobs you seek.

When I speak at various associations and job networking events, I am still surprised and saddened, however, to see that not all job seekers have all of the right tools.

Take a Tip from the World of Marketing

The job you are seeking may not be in sales but, as a job seeker, sales and market is your current job. You must be able to market and sell your skills and experience. The tools you need are even referred to as marketing materials. Today your marketing materials include more than just a resume.

Picture this: a salesman, Fred, has an appointment to sell a $10,000 laptop. Yes, I said $10,000. Where most laptops cost between $600 and $5,000, this computer is amazing, loaded with all of the leading edge features. Fred stands before the customer and extols the virtues of this amazing laptop. The customer hangs onto every word and her eyes get bigger as she is convinced of the value of this laptop. She is sold; she just needs to figure out where in the budget she has the money to purchase it. She asks Fred for his contact information so she can call him when she has the money ready. Fred rips a piece of paper off his notepad, scribbles his name, phone number, and e-mail address onto the torn paper and hands it to her.

Now, you know a professional salesperson would never tear a piece of paper and scribble his name on it to give to a serious customer. But every day I meet job seekers who are selling a product that costs more than $10,000 and do just that.

The most successful way to find a job today is through networking. Through networking you have the opportunity to learn about the majority of available jobs that are not listed online, known as the hidden job market. Every in-person encounter is an opportunity to network and the most acceptable way to exchange contact information is through the exchange of business cards.

Therefore, regardless of the job you are pursuing, you should never step outside your front door without a sufficient supply of business or networking cards containing, at a minimum, your contact information.

Where to Get Cards

Whether you call them business cards, contact cards, or networking cards, you need to have them. There are two approaches to obtaining cards: buying finished cards or purchasing the business card stock and creating your own.

Printing Your Own Cards

At most office supply stores and online you can purchase business card stock. There are two types of paper, one that has the cards pre-perforated and the other that is referred to as clean edge. The problem with the pre-perforated type is that when the cards are separated, a jagged edge still exists along the edge of the card. This type looks less professional so I highly recommend the clean edge stock.

Here are a few other tips about printing your own cards:

• Do not consider buying large paper stock and cutting your own card stock. I have never seen this successfully implemented.

• Be sure to check out the weight of the card stock. Some cards I have received are very flimsy and feel cheap. You do not want your name to be associated with poor quality.

• If you decide to print your own cards, be sure the paper feeds through the printer so the text is not printed at an angle and so the ink does not smear. You do not want to give the impression you are sloppy.

Buying Finished Cards

Office supply and other stores offer printing services and can print cards for you. There are online companies that offer similar services.

While in a job transition, most job seekers are watching their money. There are professional, affordable options available; one such service is They offer a selection of designs for “free” other than the price of shipping.

I am a fan of but have to say that I am personally disappointed with their latest selection of “free” designs; very few of them are acceptable for job networking (see Card Designs section below). Consider purchasing one of their “premium” cards and understand that you will usually receive offers from in the future to receive premium cards for “free” or consider checking out one of their competitor’s selections.

Card Designs

Although many of us like animals and I too love flowers, these patterns are not the best for professional networking cards unless that is relevant to your career. If you are in a creative field, your card should reflect your creativity. If you are in a more conservative field, a more conservative pattern or graphic is best. When picking a design, consider the impression you are leaving with your audience.

When laying out your card, do not use all of the white space (unprinted areas) on the front; it will make the card too hard to read. Also do not use the entire back of the card for text. Some printing services offer preprinted options for the back of the card such as a calendar; pass on these options. You can use the back for additional information about your value but leave space for other people to make notes.
Here are some other thoughts on card design:

• Try to select designs that not everyone else is using.

• People may want to write on your card so avoid the glossy finish that makes it hard to write on them.

• Do not pick dark backgrounds; they are usually hard to read. Stay away from using dark font on a dark background and light font on a light background.

• Be judicious with the use of bold font style; it can make your card harder to read.

• Leverage color in the design and / or in the font to make the card more interesting but do not overdo the use of colors or the card will become busy.

• With you can use the designated fields for data other than their original intended purpose (e.g. you can use the address field for your phone number). Better yet, there is an advanced editing option that allows you to layout the fields exactly where you want them and modify the font style, type, size and color.

The Information the Card Should Contain

The basic information that every card should contain are as follows:
• Name
• The title of the job you are seeking
• Phone number
• E-mail address
• LinkedIn profile URL

Additional information that can be added include 2-3 core competencies, professional credentials and recent graduates can list their degree. The networking card is not a miniature resume so keep the other information concise and brief.

There is some debate about the merits of including a professional headshot. Headshots are not used on resumes anymore except where the profession requires them (a TV anchor or a model for instance). If you decide to add a professional headshot, for consistency use the same one you have on your LinkedIn profile.

Use the same name on your card that you have on your resume and your LinkedIn profile. For example, if you used your middle initial or nickname on those, use your middle initial or nickname on your card.

The card should also communicate the value you bring and the position you are seeking. (See my three-part article about Personal Branding at: If you have a tag line, your card is the perfect place to use it. You can also add other key points that distinguish your uniqueness.

Use a professional e-mail address that includes your name.

Be sure the font is legible. It should be a large enough font to read without a magnifying glass. Also, in selecting a font type (ex. Arial) make note of any information that contains numbers and letters that can be mistaken for one another. In some fonts the number one (1), the lower case letter L (l), and the upper case letter I (I) are hard to differentiate. Select a font type where the letters and numbers are distinct.

Just like on the resume, you should not list multiple phone numbers. Most, if not all of us have answering systems for times we cannot be reached. The caller can leave a message and you can call them back when you are available. Use the one number where you want to be reached.

Do not preface the phone number with “cell:” or “phone” or the e-mail address with “e-mail”; the formats will indicate what information is listed.

There is an urban legend that if you put your home address on your business card, you could be stalked. The truth is that there is so much information about you on the Internet that people can usually find your address regardless of what is on your business card. Do not exclude your address from your card for that reason.

There may be reasons, though, to leave your home address off the card. If you live in an area that may be too far from the business to be considered an acceptable commute for most people, then leave your home address off the card so you are not excluded from consideration.

Other Tips Regarding Cards

• Do NOT use a business card from your former company. It is unprofessional to scratch out the old information and write in your current information. If you are currently employed, secure your own contact cards if you are looking for a job. You should not be looking for a job on your employer’s time so do not give out the company e-mail and phone number for your job search.

• Make sure you maintain a supply of cards on hand so you don’t run out of them before an important event.

• Every day make sure you have an ample supply of cards on you.

• Before entering a networking meeting, take your cards out of the case and put them in your right hand pocket. Place an ink pen in your left hand pocket for when you want to make notes.

• As you receive business cards from other people, jot on their card what you need to contact them about.

• Keep their card in your hand as long as you are speaking with them. One advantage of keeping their card in your hand is that you can reference it if you forget their name.

• Put their cards in your left hand pocket. You do not want to mix up your cards with other people’s cards.

• At the event, when you have a moment and are no longer actively networking, sit and write the name and date of the event on the back of every card you received.

• Follow-up immediately on any actions you need to take as a result of the networking event.

• Organize the cards, or the information on them, for easy access. Some people use plastic sleeves specifically made for three-ring notebooks to store cards. Other people key the information into their contact management system whether it is Excel or another software. If you receive a large number of cards, like I do, you can use a tool such as Neat Works which will scan the cards and automatically propagate contact software, which in my case is Outlook.

• It is not a bad sign when you have given out all of your cards and need to reorder more. It is not a measure of job search failure but is instead a measure of networking success. You are developing a network of people who will not only help you in this job transition but in the future as well.

• Keep your cards in a card case where they do not get bent or marked on. There are some very reasonably priced card cases at local office supply centers.

• When designing the card, verify that all of the information is correct. You do not want to pay for 250 cards only to see that you transposed characters in your e-mail address or phone number.

• Have someone else give you feedback on your card design before you order or print them.

There are many more items in a job seeker’s set of marketing materials besides a resume. To stand out from your competition, be sure to leverage them all appropriately including professional looking networking cards.