The most important prop in your job search is one of the most overlooked.
When hundreds — or, in many cases, thousands — of job seekers gather in one place, the pressure to stand out can be overwhelming. You can arm yourself with resumes and samples from your portfolio, but the props you’ll need must be shorter and more direct than anything you would use in a traditional job-searching environment.
To have an impact at a big networking event, you’ll need a catchy business card. But what do you put on it: your LinkedIn address? Your resume in 2-point font? A stripped-down version of your executive summary ?
According to message expert Laura Allen, founder of thepitchgirl.com, when it comes to business cards, less is more and intrigue is everything.
“I would not put an executive summary on it,” she said. “It’s going to be too long.”
Your business card is an essential marketing tool for these kinds of job fairs because the recruiters and hiring managers there will not have the time or energy to sift through huge stacks of resumes. The bigger the conference, the luckier you are if they remember you at all.
“A conference is harder… you have no time. There, you’re rewarded for being brief,” Allen said. “My basic rule of thumb is, ‘clear and concise equals cash; vague and verbose equals trash.’ ”
The best way to make an impact under these tough circumstances, Allen said, is to create a compelling catchphrase for your card, one that will make a potential employer want to know more about you.
“You have to give them a reason to go back to your LinkedIn page,” she said. “If I meet 40 people at a conference, I don’t have time to go back and look at their resumes, but if somebody gives me their business card and the front of it says, ‘closed a $5.5 million deal from a cold call,’ … that’s something worth following through on.”
However, that might not be the best result, if your LinkedIn site isn’t up to snuff.
“If you have a strong LinkedIn page, then I would put it on there,” Allen said. “If you have one connection, then I would leave it off.”
When directing someone from your card, it’s crucial that you send them somewhere that portrays you in a good light. One popular strategy is to create your own Web page, which includes all your resume information, and refer hiring managers there from your business card.
Business Card Pitch
While the ‘$5.5 million’ pitch seems like an extreme example, it’s pulled from reality — Allen at one time used the phrase on her own business card. Not all job seekers will have an accomplishment of that magnitude, but you can still pique the interest of a hiring manager with a simple and compelling message.
“It’s all about filtering down to the most important point,” Allen said. “You take the 15-second pitch — four sentences — and make that even smaller.”
It doesn’t have to cost that much. Some business card manufacturers, such as Vista Print, will make personalized cards very cheaply — especially when you consider that such an investment might lead to your next job.
Allen said a big mistake people tend to make is using older cards and updating the information manually with a pen in an effort to save money.
“It’s tacky,” she said. “People don’t want cocktail napkins.”
In today’s changing marketplace, another issue could be that job seekers are looking into a variety of fields.
When that’s the case, Allen suggests using different messages on different business cards. “Create a pitch for every niche,” she said.
Don’t be afraid to be brazen, she added. An aggressive style, particularly one that’s expressed briefly on your business card, might be the thing that gets you noticed among a convention hall full of eager job seekers.
“Tell a compelling story,” Allen said. “Make a case for yourself.”