The vast majority – more than 70%, some sources estimate – of job positions are filled by word of mouth or networking. That means no resumes and no classified ads. It means: business cards. Okay, so that was sort of flawed logic, but you still need a business card. The main reason is this: college students like to party. Bars, clubs and parties are great places to meet business partners (and sexual partners), but it’s not exactly the right place to tote a briefcase full of resumes.

It may seem pretentious to have a business card as a student. It may seem even more pretentious to take advice from a film student. But, there’s a right way and a wrong way, and as long as you’re not flipping out business cards like they’re text messages, then you’re okay with us.

 

Putting Away Pretension – The Content

All you have to do is keep it simple with your design and people won’t think you’re a d-bag. Even if you have a “legitimate” start-up or some sort of small freelance business, don’t put it on your business card. The worst thing you could do is make up a company of some sort just for the sake of the business card.

  

Here’s why: if you’re handing out cards, especially if you’re job-searching, you are handing out a piece of you, not some faux-business. You’re marketing yourself, not your current/previous ventures.

Plus, how often do you meet a solid contact and actually talk about your position as CEO of [Your Last Name] Incorporated? If you’re having a genuine conversation, hopefully never. So, why would you put this on the card? It’s not going to connect your face with the card – it’s just going to confuse people.

Personally, my cards just say my name, my URL, my phone number and my email address. That’s it. I might have been able to get away with putting “writer” under my name, but I don’t think I’d get much mileage out of that. Depending on your style, it might be a good idea to put a short “personal statement” or “unique selling proposition” sort of thing on the back or across the bottom (especially if you’re looking for a job). If you’re adding any extraneous information, it better remind the person who YOU are when they look at the card later.

 

The Ellusive Student Phone Number

When you’re in college, the right phone number is the hardest thing to deal with. Here are some of the problems:

  • Networking contacts are a long-term relationship. You need a reliable number that never changes. If you decide to leave your hometown and live in New York or L.A. after college, your number will probably change. Harvey Weinstein probably won’t update his rolodex for you.
  • Giving out your cell phone is for dilettantes. It just doesn’t feel serious. You’ll certainly loose your professional edge if someone calls you at the wrong time; for instance, you’re drunk at a party and your friends are making poop jokes in the background. And you can’t just ignore every questionable call because:
  • When a business executive calls you, your voicemail can’t say “Hey, what’s up homies, it’s your boy Chris, leave one after the beep.” And if it says, “Hello, this is Christopher, please leave a brief message,” then your friends will make fun of you.
  • People love to network, even losers. You can’t be afraid to give out your business card (which has your phone number on it), even if the contact seems creepy. The business card hand-off is only during the first impression, so who knows where this might lead. You don’t have to work with the person, but they might give you a nice little freelance gig, even if they seem like rapists.
  • You have student loans to pay. You are poor. You can’t afford a secretary or an office line.

The solution for all of those problems is a separate phone line that goes right to a voicemail box. My recommendations:

 

GrandCentral

The first method that comes to mind is GrandCentral. GrandCentral gives you one main phone number under which all of your other numbers can reside. When someone calls your GrandCentral number, it forwards to your cell phone or office phone or whatever you have set up.

This is great for college students because of our tendency to travel and be irresponsible. If your dorm number changes each year or you tend to drop your cell phone in puddles frequently, you can change those numbers without changing your main “umbrella” number. There are tons of other cool things behind this service, but that’s the basic pitch. Email one of us if you’d like an invitation code to the Beta of this project, or just “reserve a number” and you can expect them to invite you about a week later.

 

Ring Central

I’ve been using Ring Central for quite a while now and I can’t complain. You get a stripped-down version of GrandCentral. It’s just a phone number that goes right to a voicemail box after a few rings. An automated-sounding voice tries to pronounce your name as a greeting and the subsequent voicemail appears as an audio file in your email inbox. The reason it’s great, again, is that I can keep this number for as long as I’d like and it’ll always reach me, even if my other numbers change or get disconnected.

 

Secret Bonuses

For those interested in life-hackery, here are some extra student-centric bonuses of the above services. If you’re just reading us for the business, skip these bullet points:

  • You’ll consolidate your inboxes. Those who preach the ways of GTD will appreciate this. A brief digression for those who aren’t familiar:
    For such a long time I had several different email addresses, ones for school and ones for GMail and AOL. There’s no point. You need to eliminate all the clutter by focusing it down to one place — as few final inbox recepticals as possible. What if in addition to forwarding all of your emails to one email address, you could forward all your voicemails there as well? That’s what GrandCentral and RingCentral will do for you. You’ll have fewer inboxes to check every day.
  • Your voicemail checkage won’t be dependent on cell phone signal strength. Cell phones update your voicemail status when they can reach cell phone tower. Are you missing voicemails while you work in your basement? Do you live in an area with poor reception? Problem solved.
  • You’ll save people money who call you from far away. This worked beautifully for me abroad. People could still call me and leave me a message for me even though I was in another country.

 

The Cell

As I said, I think it’s a little strange (perhaps, unsafe, also) to give out your cell phone number willy-nilly. So, I don’t put it on my card. I give out a professional-sounding email address and a Ring Central number. If I honestly really want this person to get in touch with me, I write my cell phone number on the back of the card before I give it to them. I think it comes off as a nice gesture — giving a business contact my “personal” number.

 

The Printing

Printing the card should be your very last excuse for not getting one. There’s one main reason: they’re cheap.

Above, we’ve resolved the phone number issue, but even if you change your number – just print new cards. Glue those old ones together into an art project, it’s only a couple bucks out the window.

I could recommend all sorts of online resources for business cards, but I’m not going to because there’s any easier way. No matter where in the world you are, OfficeMax has the best all-around option. They have a basic no-frills business card deal: 1,000 cards, less than 15 bucks, quick turnaround. Now, you have no excuse. Do it right now.

If you want to pay a little more for a stylish option, I really like MooCards. We’re getting some for the HackCollege team.