In a recent post, I tried to compile some strategies for students to maximize their networking opportunities in the hope of gainful employment. One of the things I advised them to do was to have their own business cards to give to people they meet.
Though it seems like a superficial practice, the act of preparing one’s own business cards can be an important opportunity for reflection and self-realization. They’re not just for other people – they’re also for ourselves.
No, I’m not kidding. Here’s why:
- They have Limited Space: It’s easy to describe oneself if given all the space in the world to do so. Portfolios, resumes, blogs, Facebook profiles – all give us virtually limitless opportunity to cram words and other media together to exhaustively describe ourselves. What is truly a challenge is summing ourselves up in the space of a sentence (or better yet, a job title). Especially today, when we’re all expected to be generalists who can wear virtually any hat, there is value in being able to focus on a singular goal as you’re moving through life.
- They are our Public Self: Like other forms of print communication, they’ve been around for hundreds of years and we’ve developed a cultural attachment to them. They’re part of pop culture. They’re an important part of social ritual. We understand the gravity that they carry – so we labor over them to present the best we have to offer.
- They are Finite: Though they endure longer than, say, a tweet – they do run out eventually. This gives us an opportunity for renewal as we triangulate our identity between the past, the present, and what we aspire to be in the future. I start to get giddy as I run out of business cards because I know I get to do a new run; it’s a new opportunity to be creative and have fun.