An American Editor

August 31, 2021

On the Basics — Biz card, résumé tips as workplaces and in-person events return

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 1:57 pm
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© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

I’m breaking my usual pattern of posting here on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays because the writing spirit is strong, and there’s more to come this week on our usual posting days.

Now that businesses are going back to the office and a semblance of pre-pandemic worklife seems to be returning, it’s a good time to assess the effectiveness of résumés and business cards. They’re both still important tools for networking and job searches, even in the ever-increasingly digital world and for both in-house and freelance colleagues. 

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind if you’re getting ready to order new cards or update your résumé.

Business card basics

Business cards that work for you are especially important as in-person events start to come back to life, and real cards are still popular, from what I’m seeing. Someone who enters your contact info in their phone by scanning your card might still keep the actual card ­— and use it first if it has flair and the information they need. I’m meeting new people at such events and seeing a lot of business cards — but many of them don’t do their owners justice.

• Use larger type for your name, company/business name, e-ddress, website URL and phone number. I’ve been seeing a lot of business cards lately with type so small that you almost need a magnifying glass to read e-ddresses or phone numbers. Making recipients squint to read that essential information defeats the purpose of handing out your card and increases the likelihood of errors when someone tries to use your e-mail address or phone number.

• Make space for larger type by dropping street addresses and focusing on website URLs, e-ddresses, and office and cellphone numbers. Not only does that reduce the volume of information and clutter, it creates a more-dramatic design impact. Anyone wanting to visit your office (or send you a fax) can call or e-mail for that information or — for a brick-and-mortar business — find it at your website.

• Include a QR code; it can go on the back of your card so it doesn’t take away from valuable space on the front of the card. It makes you look plugged in and up to date, and makes it easy for recipients to find and file your information, as well as to learn more about you by creating a link to your website or LI profile, whichever is more appropriate and useful. You could even put a QR for each on the back of your card.

• Ditch the glossy paper stock; it’s hard to write on coated paper for anyone wanting to take notes about where and when they met you or add other information.

• Put a handful of business cards in every briefcase, jacket/pants/skirt pocket, handbag, cellphone case, etc. You never know when they’ll come in handy, and you don’t want to have to scribble your contact information on a napkin or the back of someone else’s card.

• Scan your card and add a low-resolution image of it to your e-mail signature (sigline) — unless you’re job-hunting, in which case don’t include anything related to your current employer.

• If you are looking for a new in-house job, create a separate personal card to hand out to prospective employers or referral sources. Employers will want to know about your current and past jobs, of course, but you don’t want to disrespect your current employer. A personal version can still include your job title, with an e-ddress and a home or cellphone number that’s different from your work information.

Résumés that work well

Whether you’re looking for freelance or in-house work, you need a résumé that reflects current practices while making you look good. These suggestions are my own, based on observation of student and colleague résumés and recent reading.

• Label your résumé with your name so it stands out from all the people who will send theirs with the filename Résumé.doc.

• If you have a job and don’t want your employer to know that you’re looking for a new position, create a new e-ddress for this kind of personal activity. Never use your current work e-ddress for something like job-hunting!

• Keep it simple — no more than two typefaces/fonts, black type, no photos or artwork (other than a logo if you have a business identity or are a freelancer).

• Keep it relevant — include volunteer or professional development and membership activity, but leave out personal or family details unless they relate to what you’re responding to. For instance, I recently responded to an opportunity to write about eldercare, and included a (brief) mention of looking after my mom and my beloved Wayne-the-Wonderful as part of my qualifications for the project.

• Don’t attach your résumé to an e-mail message unless you’re responding to an opportunity that has expressly said to do so. Instead, provide your website URL and say that your résumé can be found there. Many business communication systems block messages with unsolicited résumés, whether they’re in Word, PDF, or some other program or format.

You might think of AARP as an organization for older retired people, but it offers advice and resources that anyone of any age and employment status can use. A recent issue of the AARP Bulletin newspaper addressed résumés with advice that works for both freelance and in-house job-seeking (I’ve paraphrased and, in some places, added to their advice).

• Use 11 or 12 point type size and sans-serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, Verdana) rather than serif (Times Roman).

• For your e-mail address, use your name or a variation of it rather than a nickname.

• If you don’t have a professional website that can be the basis of your e-mail address (Yourname@Yourname.com or Yourname@YourProfession.com), opt for one from gmail, which looks more current than AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.

• Use a heading like Professional Summary for a snapshot of who you are and what you bring to a job, rather than Objective. The obvious, assumed objective is “Find a new job.”

• List your relevant skills. Consider not including Word or Outlook, which AARP says are “universally expected.” (I had no idea Outlook was considered some kind of standard!)

• If you’ve been doing temp work to fill in while you’re job-hunting, call yourself a consultant for that timeframe and list your relevant assignments under that heading.

• Do include dates for employment and degrees, even if you’re worried about appearing “too old.” Leaving them out creates suspicion and the assumption that you really might be too old for a given opportunity.

• Use the heading Experience rather than Work Experience, so you can include work-related volunteer projects you might have done to fill the gap between paid work or to build new skills. 

• Use bullet points and action verbs to make it clear what you’ve done and how your work has contributed to the success of a project or business. That can save words and space, so you include more information, and often is an easier voice to use in writing up your experience.

• Describe your achievements and background using keywords in the listing or opportunity — and check out the prospective employer’s website to find more to include.

• Feel free to include hobbies and philanthropic activities as long as they are relevant to the kind of work you’re looking for.

Your input

Have you updated your business card or résumé recently, or created a new one? What gave you the incentive to do so? Has there been time to assess whether it’s making a difference in your networking and work search?

Best to all in your endeavors as the world tries to go back to a semblance of normal.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and owner of An American Editor. She created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and sponsored by An American Editor. She also owns A Flair for Writing (www.aflairforwriting.com), which helps independent authors produce and publish their books. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter/An American Editor. Content may not be recirculated, republished or otherwise used without both the prior permission of the publisher and full credit to the author of a given post and the An American Editor blog, including a live link to the post being referenced. Thank you for respecting our rights to and ownership of our work.

October 17, 2016

The Business of Editing: The Card — Don’t Leave Home Without Them

A repeatedly asked question goes something like this: “Any tips on how to find clients?” There are any number of variations, but the question really is asking “how should I market and to whom should I market?”

The answers given are always the standard answers for today. Be on social media, have a website, ask for referrals, and so on. Never mentioned is one of the oldest and most effective methods of marketing: The Card.

“The Card” is the business card. That little scrap of heavier paper that acts as an introduction of the giver to the recipient — the one piece of paper that a businessperson should never leave at home. It is the gold mine of essential information about its giver.

Colleagues who have attended conferences at which I have spoken know that the first thing I do is make sure everyone present receives at least one of my cards. What they don’t know — because I never said so — is that I also made sure that every hotel or restaurant employee I came in contact with also received a card; I do not know who they know. Experienced conference colleagues also know that I expected to receive a card from them. Some gave me one, but some just made excuses for why they didn’t have a card to give me or for the quality of the card they were handing me. I’m willing to bet that since I stopped speaking at the conferences, the exchange of cards has withered — probably not thought of anymore because the value is not so evident in the internet age.

Yet that is a mistake. Sure, an online presence is important, and today’s young publishing professionals disdain the ways of the past. But I think of it more like I think of Sun Tzu (ca. 544–ca. 496 bc) and Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) and Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527) — ageless, priceless, and still authoritative. Just as we study these past masters of war and politics because what they said hundreds of years ago is still relevant and accurate today, so the smart hunter of business views the business card.

If I were looking to edit indie fiction, I would attend local writers’ gatherings and I would hand out my card to every attendee every time. It doesn’t matter if they take it home and throw it away; what matters is that for at least a few seconds — and likely longer — the only editor they will think of is me. And the card reinforces my information because it isn’t easy (or polite) to refuse to accept the card, unlike an email that can be put on the spam list.

Years ago I did something a bit different when it came to the card: I had it made into a mini-chocolate bar and I handed out the bar freely, often several at a time. Because I wanted to make a “lasting” impression, I wrapped with the chocolate (sanitarily, of course) the paper version of the card — the recipient received a chocolate card and a paper card.

I’ve stopped using the chocolate card because I am semiretired and can’t make up my mind whether I want more business or less business — but every so often I think about doing it again. Why? Because people liked it enough to actually ask me for a card if I didn’t proffer one immediately — within my narrow market circle I became associated with the chocolate card.

The card is, as I noted earlier, a source for information about me. But it gets boring to read the same information repeatedly (although not to eat the chocolate :)), so I made it a point to redesign my cards every 12 to 18 months. I changed the text, its placement, the colors, the image, the feel. The card was my walking billboard and so it had to be treated as a billboard — it needed to reattract the recipient’s eyes.

The problems are several with relying on social media and online forums to spread your name and attract business. I’ll set aside for this discussion the amount of time it takes, much of which is unproductive (by which I mean not income generating), but will acknowledge that it takes a lot of time. A good example is this blog. It takes hours of work to produce a single essay and it would take even more hours to properly promote the essay across the internet. And the financial return is not commensurate with the amount of time spent to get that return.

Instead, I’ll focus on other problems. For a website to be effective you have to properly design it, maintain it, update it, and most importantly, provide some reason for someone to make the effort to come to it and once there, stay there, not just skate by. The card, on the other hand, requires minimal amount of maintenance and already has a reason for someone to accept it — you are face-to-face in the same room. People are generally social, so you do not need to entice them to say hello when you occupy the same space.

Which raises another problem with online selling — separating yourself from all of the spam that clutters the internet and that most potential clients try hard to avoid. You have to make the recipient of your message want to read your message and then act on it, usually by clicking a link to visit your website. We all know how reluctant most people are, just like we ourselves are, to click a link in an email from someone we do not know. But when I walk up to an author at a book signing, introduce myself and hand over the card, there is no resistance — the recipient sees I am real and has to do nothing more than what they would normally do.

The point is that the card has not lost its value in finding clients; we just need to use them differently in the internet age.

Business cards need to be well-designed and printed, not just slopped together on the home computer and printed on tear-apart business card stock on the home printer. The information on the card has to be just right for your audience. (At one time I used five different cards simultaneously. Each was designed for a different target market and I would hand to a recipient the card appropriate for the their market.)

I suspect few of my colleagues still use business cards to a great extent, which means there is a marketing opportunity for the adventurous. Old-fashioned marketing is still the most effective marketing in a business like editing because it is personal marketing of personal services. It gives us the chance to demonstrate our interpersonal skills, something that is greatly diluted by the internet.

If I were looking to build my clientele today, I would make business cards part of my effort, especially because it would force me to think about and define my market and how to reach it in a novel fashion.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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