Category Archives: Soft Skills

Your Business Card Sucks

You probably know one of the most common cliche lines someone will say during a break up is “It’s not you, it’s me.” Well, this time it’s definitely not ME. It’s YOU. More specifically it’s your business card.

I go to a lot of software development conferences, user group meetings and meet ups and I’ve collected hundreds of business cards. Many are very straight forward; name, title and contact information. Several years ago it was trendy to create an “interesting” business card. Sometimes this was a funny or interesting picture or phrase. Sometimes is was a curious bit of personal information about the person who gave you the card. On occasion is was even weird shapes or sizes.

One of the trends was the off-beat title. It wasn’t good enough to be just a “developer” or a “consultant” anymore. People had to have crazy titles that, it seemed, were more intended to get a laugh than to convey useful information.

I’m not saying the colorful titles are a bad thing. When done well they can certainly differentiate you from the rest of the herd. They can convey a feeling of passion beyond just slinging code. A well crafted title can make you memorable.

But here’s the key; your off-beat, colorful invented title still has to convey to me what you do. When this trend first started I would see titles like “Software Craftsman”, “Bit Herder” or even the occasional “JavaScript Ninja.” I like these. Maybe they are clever, maybe not. But they still convey to me some notion of what it is you actually do.

What. The. Hell?

Lately I’ve started to see a lot more titles like “Web Visionary” and “Awesomeness Instigator” and even a “Thinker in Residence.” I also seem to meet a lot of “Whisperers” who ironically always seem to be the loudest people in the room.

OK, other than screaming that you are likely a giant douche-bag, these titles don’t tell me anything about you or what you do. Well, that’s not quite true; they tell me that you spend WAY too much time trying to think of clever things to call yourself. Not particularly helpful to me.

By the way, the “X Whisperer” thing was played out two years ago. Can we finally make that go away? And can it take “Keep Calm and X On” with it? Can these be done please?

After a conference when I can no longer put a face to a name I need your business card to help me remember you and what you do. If your card says you are the “Chief Donut Consumer at WatchingPaintDry.com” odds are I’m not going to remember what you actually do, what your skill set is or why I should even care. I’m also unlikely to take time to go to your website and try to figure this out. I’m a very busy man, and, well, Arkham Knight isn’t going to play itself now is it?

The Takeaway

I’m not saying “zany” business cards or interesting titles are bad. The truth is that a well-crafted one will stand out and keep my attention. Heck, it may even get me to follow that person on Twitter. But we need to remember that the purpose of the business card is to be your proxy when you’re gone and the person you gave it to is trying to remember who you are, what you do and why they should care. I’ll take a boring informative card over a clever card that tells me nothing anytime. If you can combine the two, then you’ve got something!