The day you decide to retire or separate is the day you should order business cards. When you transition from a military to civilian career, you will build a career strategy, network, create your messaging, and prepare your marketing tools. A business card is a vital tool in your transition, which you should have on Day One of your transition.
A business card shares an important first impression of you: What you stand for, how you represent yourself, and the audience you are seeking to connect with. When you consider that you won’t carry copies of your resume with you at all times, a business card serves to link your background, skills, and talents to a future opportunity in a very portable way.
What does a business card give you?
A business card is more than a small piece of paper with your phone number on it. Your card gives you:
- An important marketing tool that reflects your professionalism, interests, and goals, and shares your pertinent contact information.
- The ability to network with confidence, exchanging business cards with people you meet.
- A link to your online profiles, providing more information about your background, experience, skills and goals once you leave the military.
What makes an effective business card?
To make your business card serve you and your job search in a strategic way, it should be:
- Comprehensive. Be sure to include your full name (with your nickname in “quotes” – for example, John “Jack” Smith, if you go by Jack), cell phone number, email address. You can choose to include your home address, if you want, but it’s not necessary. If you have a personal website, include the URL.
- Easy to read. Use fonts that are clear and professional. Avoid quirky fonts, script and use ALL CAPS sparingly. Remember that using all capital letters can appear rigid and overly formal. If that is your brand strategy, then do it. Otherwise, upper and lower capital letters works well.
- Uncluttered. Your business card is not your resume or brochure. Keep text to a minimum – including only what is most important to you and relevant to the recipient.
- Professional. A professional looking business card is traditionally white or ivory with black, charcoal, navy, or burgundy lettering. Avoid using bright colored paper or lettering unless you are pursuing work in a creative industry (advertising, marketing, graphic design, etc.) where it makes sense to show off your creative side.
- Simple. If you have a mark, symbol, or logo that goes with your name, and you’ve been using it for a long time, then include it subtly on your card. If not, consider eliminating design elements that are cartoonish or could detract from the professional tone of the card, and send a mixed message.
- Complete. Consider using the back of your business card for important information that might clutter up the front of your card. You might put a link to your online profiles, a short description of what you’re looking for, or a tagline of your value proposition on the back of the card.
- A reflection of you. You should feel proud to hand over your business card. Therefore, your card should reflect you. If you prefer to have your card in a minimalist style, because that reflects your style and approach, then go simple. Your card should reinforce the physical first impression someone gets of you when they meet you.
Once you announce that you are leaving your military career, you will find yourself in many situations where business cards will be exchanged. Presenting a card that you are proud of and that represents your goals and brand can be a powerful form of marketing!