According to UCLA’s annual survey of inbound freshmen, 88 percent of students go to college to get a better job and 75 percent go to make more money. Students go to college to find employment, so how can you give yourself an advantage? Building your network, including job and internship prospects from day one, will certainly help. One of the most underutilized job hunt tips is getting your own business cards. Business cards are a minor expense, with major advantages.
Business cards are not on your list of essential items for maximizing your college experience? Big mistake. I don’t care if it’s college, high school, vocational school, or technical college. To gain GREAT advantage, you need business cards. Let me explain:
Most students don’t expand their professional network efficiently. They have not yet learned that the size and quality of their network has huge effects on their future career and net worth.
You need to network with people who are going to where you are dreaming of going, or who are already at the role or level you aspire to.
The Give/Get of the Business Card
When you meet professionals who you want to stay in touch with OR that you might want to reach out to in the future, “give” them your business card. Their natural reaction is to offer you theirs in return. Now you have all of their contact information.
What Should Be On the Card?
Keep it simple. I don’t advocate you putting down your major, your college, or your year because you don’t want your information to become inaccurate over time. Simply put your:
- Cell number
- An appropriate email address that consists of your name
What is a Decent Email Address?
You want the recipient to see the email and know it is you. Many email addresses are already taken, so this may be slightly challenging. You can do two things:
- Try your name in several ways.
- First, Middle, Last name
- First and Middle initial than Last name
- First letter of your first name, and then your full last name. Or, vice versa
- Be creative
- Take advantage of the many free carriers.
Use a site that will be around for the rest of your career: Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. There are other great ones and they often bundle in storage and basic apps with these free accounts.
Free email hosting with an enduring provider like:
The Cards Themselves
They are all of $30 for 500. Understated is better than overstated, and you want to use material that you can easily write on (don’t get laminated ones. You can’t write on them and they cost more).
- Work the career fair. Business cards give you advantage
- Meet a guest lecturer
- Meet an alum at a sporting event
- Meet members of the company you are interning with. You will stand out
Networking In General
I cannot overstate the power of a strong personal network. Having a plan and making it a habit will help you out significantly. My general thought about networking is, don’t be like the dog that runs after a big car, catches it, and then doesn’t know what to do with it. Here are some tips to fortify your new-found connections.
The 12 Hour Tie-Down
After you exchange cards, you need to put some notes on the back of their card to remind you later of the points you spoke about, or key take-aways you received from them. Most networkers don’t do this, which means you’ll stand out. Then within 12 hours, while your meeting is fresh in the other person’s head, you tie-down with an email that references what you spoke about.
Before you hit send, set up a LinkedIn invite to them and mention in your tie-down email that you will be sending an Invitation to Connect on LinkedIn:
- Send the email
- Immediately send the invite
This way, they will get both messages back-to-back in their inbox.
Fortify the Future
If you take one more step, it will vastly increase future access to this contact. You copy the email into the notes section of your contact database (I use Outlook, but you can use whatever you want, as long as you can save notes within the contact). Then when you reach out to them in the future, you can reference where you met and the email you sent to them in order to follow-up. This invariably leads to instantly connecting vs. saying, “I met you a few years ago, remember me?”
Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Standout
Do most students have business cards? No. Do most students adopt a process and make it a habit to be better at networking? No. Do most students look for opportunities to connect when their path crosses that of an overachiever? No.
So, be exceptional and give yourself this small, $30 advantage. Good luck.
This post was originally published on learnearnretire.com 17 August 2015 as: Pack Your Business Cards for the Fall Semester. It was modified to become timeless so our partners and we in the future could post without the reference to Fall.
LearnEarnRetire was created by Alan J. McMillan, a former high technology executive with over 30 years of professional experience. While teaching a college seminar about transitioning out of school, he realized most students are not taught how to find a job. He created LearnEarnRetire to educate students about the career search.