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Business Cards

At what point in a scholarly career is it appropriate to make and use business cards?

A few of my fellow students bought themselves official university-approved business cards a year or so ago, and have been happily handing them out at conferences and when sending out papers to colleagues. At their recommendation, and with assurances as to the speed with which the office could print off the cards, I followed their example. Unfortunately, the office was going through a slow period, and by the time the cards were ready, several weeks later, the conferences I was attending during the fall semester were over.

I hadn't thought there being anything wrong with the idea of having business cards until I discussed them with a postdoc student in my department last week. He laughed at the very concept of having business cards before being ensconced in a long-term position of the sort where the employer provides the cards. Such as a faculty position. Graduate degrees are professional degrees, however, and can be quite time consuming. Are law students expected to have business cards? Are business school students?

I'm under the impression that for humanities graduate students, it's not common, but neither is it unheard of. Two students I met through last year's Vagantes conference have business cards, subsidized by their department.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
cliosfolly
Jan. 30th, 2003 07:42 pm (UTC)
At a certain level, business cards are just one way of circumventing the likelihood of mistranscription in giving one's contact information verbally and the time required to wait while one writes or write it down oneself: a tool of efficiency and practicality.

If you're in a position where someone is asking for your contact info, then a business card would be perfectly appropriate. But if you feel that using them seems sort of like jumping the gun professionally, maybe calling them something different--like contact-info cards--might help? Would it make a difference to you to say, "Hold on while I get you one of my business cards" versus "Here, why don't I give you one of my contact-info cards"? If it's an issue of feeling self-conscious about seeming to take one's participation in the profession too seriously too early--or worrying that others might view you as doing so--then calling them something slightly different might provide an alternative and more humble interpretation.

I've seen undergrads with business/contact info cards; and former employer at Cornell, Career Services, had started to get some for the non-professional fulltime staff (ie, the admin employees) who met and circulated markedly amongst folks with whom CCS wanted to maintain/encourage contact. I think that they're starting to be used more generally, rather like old-fashioned calling cards, partly because people have so many different ways folks can contact them--email, cell phone, departmental number, etc.; it seems their practical assistance is becoming more widely valued.
owlfish
Jan. 30th, 2003 08:11 pm (UTC)
Calling cards!
The idea of calling cards appeals to me. In part, it presumes that it's easy to stop 'round and visit friends and acquaintances, even if they aren't home. These days, just stopping in doesn't work as easily unless the people you're dropping in on really are nearby neighbors you'd pass anyways, or live down the corridor in a dorm. Any attempts to go further afield to visit friends would probably meet in bafflement. "What do you mean, you stopped by? You should have called first! We could have arranged something." It's just not the same.

I've been thinking about the phenomenon of being willing to stop by someone's house to see if they're home and visit since my mother sent an email from Italy last week. She'd gone out for coffee or lunch or something with several Italian friends and en route to their next destination, were walking by a mutual friend's house. My mother suggested they ring the bell to drop by for a visit in case anyone was home. The Italians were mildly disturbed by the suggestion - it's not really making a bella figura. What if it was a bad moment for them? As it turns out, the mutual friends were at home, delighted to see the group, and offered them drinks. It turned out well. But in this case, my mother was definitely coming from a culture which was more accepting of the whole concept of just dropping by.

Anyways. Contact info cards is a more sensible and reassuring way for me to think of them. After all, even if being a PhD student is my profession, that doesn't make it a business. Whereas I am someone who has contact details, even if I don't have a business.
cliosfolly
Jan. 30th, 2003 08:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Calling cards!
I also miss the ease of being able to casually drop by a friend's that was part of living in a dorm, and just being part of the undergrad community where seeking out people for social contact is a marked feature of the experience.

This past fall, I bought a book printed in 1854 less for its content than for some physical features which amused and interested me; part of what attracted me to it were some insertes left between the pages by some previous owner. One of the inserts included a calling card, probably from the 19th century, for a Wm. Harrison Vurdy. It's of lovely glossy, satin-feeling paper grayed around the edges like an old daugerrotype--as delightful to feel and hold as it is to contemplate its use.
saffronjan
Jan. 31st, 2003 06:09 am (UTC)
Calling cards
If you're uncomfortable with handing out business cards because they seem fussy or pretentious or what have you, you can also have them designed a little differently than a business card: a different size, perhaps (though business-card size is perfect for tucking into a wallet...), or a different layout. Maybe your card could have a little border or something, to make it look more friendly and contact-card like : )
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