Business Cards, Job Titles, and the Cult of Self

Catch the Fire, my employer, was getting set to print some new business cards for us. I've recently changed jobs, and so was asked what I'd like to include on my business card. In time this led to a conversation at a one of our weekly meetings about business cards, and the idea was presented to drop job titles from our business cards. I'd not heard that idea before, but I liked it. It's been in the back of my mind until today, when Slashdot had an article discussing the future of the business card. The arguments put forth by the technology pundits essentially boils down to the prevalence of what you might call a cult-of-self. It's become increasingly common for people to jump jobs rapidly and so printing 500 business cards becomes a pointless endeavour, as they don't stay with the company long enough to give them out. I'm currently hiring for some positions on the IT team in Toronto, and I noticed this too during the hiring process; a lot of folks with no more than 8 months with any one employer.  So you end up with people looking to sell themselves, rather than their employer. Now obviously during the hiring process you're trying to sell yourself, but I think it's become increasingly common to look at your entire career as a continual hiring process, so the selling process doesn't end. Hence the entry of the self-serving business card. The business card that says "Google Me".

On one hand, I love the Google Me business card. I think it's cheeky, and reminiscent of LMGTFY. But as I drafted an email to our Communications Director about how I wanted my business card to include my Twitter account, and my Google Profile URL, and a photo of my dog... I realised that I didn't want most of those things at all.  Sitting on the can, I thought a bit more about this, and realised the driving question is really "What are you selling?". In the cult-of-self, what you're selling is yourself: business titles don't matter, current employer barely matters, but your online presence, your cell phone, your Kik Messenger tag, anything that helps you sell yourself as the go-to guy to tasks x-to-z is what you'll stamp on your business card.

And that's fine, I guess. But I'm not into the culf-of-self. At least not today. Today my employer is Catch the Fire, and I am committed to the goals of that organization. Catch the Fire is the product that I am selling, Catch the Fire is the cool-aid I want people to drink. Now, I'm not in a sales role, but when I network, when I meet people, I'm representing my organization and I feel a certain commitment to present us well. I'm not tooting my own horn here... I don't even know why such things would be considered as tooting your own horn. Why else do you work for someone if not because you believe in what they do? For the money? Please. Statistics proves you are unhappy in your job.

I work for Catch the Fire, and so the biggest thing on my business card will be "Catch the Fire". It's a happy coincidence that I happen to like our logo (along with liking all of our design staff). I will not include my job title, because I don't think my job title matters externally. Internally I like my job title, because it helps me define what I do, and how I relate to others within my organization (which is something I spend a lot of time doing). But externally, when dealing with customers, constituents, and even vendors... I am simply a representative of Catch the Fire. I view it as my job to interact with and help customers just as much as it it's our Customer Service Rep' job to do the same. (That's one of the reasons why we use GetSatisfaction for our customer support community, because it's a level playing field). What was I talking about... oh, the title. Yeah, I honestly don't think it matters to customers what my title is. They want help. If I can provide it, I will. Vendors aren't so different, and especially when you work for a faith-based non-profit, the reality is that vendors and constituents can be one-and-the-same. Job titles don't matter outside of your own organization, because everyone is a customer, and every employee's job #1 should be helping the customer.

So I won't include a title. I also won't include my Twitter account, any other social networking account, or my personal website, because those things are about me. I won't include my Skype account, but that's just a personal preference, I know plenty of people who do and I think it often makes sense. I will include my cell phone, because I work in an international role and travel frequently. I'm tempted to include my Kik Messenger account, because Kik is like SMS for the 21st Century, but given that I don't use data roaming when I travel it's usefulness is in question on my business card. I will include a QR code, because it lets someone immediately grab a digital copy of the information without having to type something in, which is infinitely better than me having to spell out my email address to someone. (If they don't have a smart-phone they're not going to ask for my email address, generally.)

When I get them printed, I'll show you a copy.

I also like the idea of creating small-run customized business cards for specific events/conferences. This is not something every company would have application for, but if you've got a booth at SXSW or PAX, then try creating a slightly tweaked design with a "Played games at PAX" ribbon sitting in one corner, or else "Blew your mind at Streaming Media East". Folks go home from events with a metric billion cards in their pockets, and reminding them who you were and why they took your card in the first place is what I like to call "the win". I got this idea from Jeremy Wright, I thought it was great in 2006 and I still do.

Happy networking!

Business card image from: