Digital Marketing Consultant Dave Delaney writes in the Tennessean that it’s never too early for a college student to start networking. He recommends LinkedIn specifically as a way to connect with professionals in their industries. There are more than 2 million groups in LinkedIn from which a student can choose. Additionally, local face-to-face networking, Meetups and business trade groups are excellent ways to meet potential employers. Having a professional business card is one of the most important tools students should have to help their networking efforts.
Getting a Head Start
By networking early, you’ll create your list of resources that will be valuable as you search for internships and jobs, and as a way to get into the door of a company you have your eye on. Early on, what you have to market is your passion and enthusiasm. Later it will be the skills you acquire with your education. Your early start means you’ll get your name in front of potential employers and contacts before other students.
Create a resume of your work and education, and order business cards. Your business card is the analog version of an Internet browser bookmark. It allows the people you meet to quickly find you. In the business world, everyone expects you to have a business card. You’ll fit right in at networking events as you present your card after talking with a new contact.
Your Student Business Card Design
You’ll want similar information on your card as the ones you receive from the business people you meet. The differences are only to reflect your status as a student.
- Full name, no nicknames or aliases
- The degree you’re working toward
- A professional-sounding email address or a school email address
- Mobile phone with a professional voice-mail message
- Website address (if appropriate) or LinkedIn profile address
Other useful information to include:
- Awards, especially academic and tuition-based awards
- Statuses as head of a club or organization
Reserve lengthy information for your resume. Only put short, meaningful titles on your card. This is to be a reminder of who you are to the recipient, not a biography.
Social Networking Information
Your social networks are an important way for you to stay in touch with people. Be cautious about including your Facebook and Twitter addresses on your business card unless you are maintaining them exclusively for business purposes. It takes very little to tarnish an image. This is where a LinkedIn profile can benefit you. Create one and maintain it for your business and professional networking efforts. Keep it separate from your social networking.
Professional Printing versus DIY
A business card you print yourself will rarely look as professional as one you can print online. With most services, you can upload a design and print a small number of cards for free. From then on, you can easily print more cards from the same service quickly. When you order business cards, don't opt for the free cards that mention the printing company. A clean white side of the card is more professional looking than the “Printed by XYZ Company” on the back.
Business Card Etiquette
In a formal networking event, you may exchange business cards with another person upon meeting them. Otherwise, wait until the end of a conversation to give a person your card. The goal is to make real contacts, not just to collect business cards. Treat your card as a valuable extension of yourself and offer it only to people who show an interest in you.