Better Than Business Cards

  If you’re looking for a job, don’t try to give a business card to this guy. 

HGTV’s Gary McCormick momentarily shocks young job seekers when they attempt to hand him their business cards, and he says:  “No thank you, I don’t want your business card.” 

Initially, that might seem strange for the PRSA president-elect.  So, Gary quickly explains:  “I am happy to give them my card and they are welcome to contact me with their questions, requests, inquiries, etc.  Why do I do this?  As I tell people, I’m going to take your card and put it in a pile with all the other cards I get today.  What will I do with them?  At best, enter them into my Outlook–today’s version of a Rolodex, and forget where I got the contact in the months that ensue.”

“Instead, I encourage them to email me or call and tell me what they would like from me.  Why?  It differentiates them from others, it starts building a personal relationship with me, it allows me to independently evaluate the partnership and determine what is best for both of us (which may mean a referral to someone that is better equipped to help them), and determine the resources it will require for success,” Gary says.  “None of that can be accomplished in a brief meeting and I know that I will be remiss in doing the follow up with multiple requests from a speaking engagement.” 

Like me, Gary has similar feelings towards LinkedIn.  If you don’t know the individual you’re asking to link with or have a good “business case” for extending the invitation, then don’t. 

Gary’s bottom line:  Simply exchanging business cards isn’t networking.  “By defining their needs to something that is tangible, measured, time-constrained and focused they you will build an invaluable network.”

8 comments on this post.
  1. Crystal:

    This is amazing advice and something I would never have thought about. Thanks so much for the insight.

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  3. Lauren Groblewski:

    I never thought anyone would reject being handed a business card, and I probably would have been quite offended and defeated if this had happened to me. Thanks for the post because now I know exactly why someone wouldn’t care to take on another piece of paper, and how I can get the most out of what they do want.

  4. Ricky:

    I try to hand out business cards to every person I speak with. You just never know who can potentially become a client.

    Interesting article.

  5. Kelsey Brown:

    Would you suggest that two is better than one in this situation? I can understand that someone in Gary’s position will probably not contact the people who hand him business cards, but will having that business card help someone recognize you when you follow up with a personal email? Or are the business cards completely pointless?

    CULPWRIT: In my opinion, two is better than one. Gary was making the point that only relying on business cards is not going to win the day.

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  7. Glory Borgeson:

    You can always ask the other person if you may have their business card. Simply say, “It’s nice to meet you. Do you have a card?”

    Then don’t bring out your card automatically. If the other person asks for your card, of course that is the time to give it. If they don’t ask for your card, that’s okay. You now have their card (along with their contact information) and you can follow Gary’s advice and contact them later.

    The only exception I can think of is if the other person is your peer — in age & experience. In those cases I have considered our encounter to be an exchange (of info & cards).

    Also, I find it more important that I get their card than that they get mine, so that I have their contact information handy. (You would not believe the number of people who don’t carry cards to a networking function.)

  8. Amanda Powell:

    This reinforces the importance of real relationships and more personal interaction. I’m merely a student and the few business cards I have received have been looked over simply because it seemed to be an impersonal gesture. If it were coupled with a relationship-building event, I’m sure I would have been more likely to take that information and enter it into my phone book.

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