What’s the Deal with Business Cards?

By Jen Chan

Q: What do you do with Business Cards?

A:  Write down key details of your conversation on the back of each business card and keep it somewhere you can easily find

Inevitably, after a flurry of greetings and small talk, an unrefusable gift will appear: The Business Card.

These small rectangular tokens have a deeply rooted history. In the 17th century, European merchants distributed miniature card advertisements to potential customers. Now, the tradition has developed a personalized flair. One of the founders of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, briefly handed out a business card that stated “I’m CEO, bitch.” (The Economist reports that since then, his card has assumed a more traditional approach to stating his title)[1]

Regardless of how these cards look or where they come from, there is one key question that people fail to answer: What on earth do you do with them?

Step 1: Write down key details on the back of each business card

After each interaction, write down as many details of the conversation as possible on the back of each business card. Does the person in question have children? How many? Where did you meet them? These comments should be purely factual and free from opinion (i.e. avoid phrases like “seems like a nice person”).  This will keep the person’s contact information and key details in one place. Afterwards, stow the business card away.

This advice has been given to me by countless mentors, career coaches, and friends. It has helped me to remember who my interviewers were upon starting my job full time and enabled me to keep in touch  with people from various professions. By using this trick, I was able to send a well-thought follow-up email to a guest speaker in my class. Later, that email led to a job offer from his firm, even though I missed the entire formal job interview process.

Image result for pile of business cards

Ultimately, this small exercise helps to solidify facts each person in their mind; this is an important exercise considering that you never know who you may serendipitously encounter.  Once I happened to meet the Comptroller of the State of Illinois in a Chicago subway station. On another occasion, I found out that my Uber driver was one of my firm’s clients. Evidentially, he was doing Uber part time on the side to help pay student loans from his MBA and Law School program. After each chance encounter, I added their business cards to my collection.

This brings me to my next point point: Storing the business cards.

Step 2: Put the business cards in an easily accessible place

Over time, business cards tend to accumulate into massive disorderly heaps. The cards end up invading random crevices of desk space or get chucked into boxes to never be seen again. That is not very helpful.

Image result for business card holder bookletPersonally, I suggest using a business card holder booklet. These holders generally cost $10-$20 and some are able to store hundreds of cards. Ever since I started using this, I have not lost a single business card that I have been given. Additionally, when I have needed to look for contact information, I have been able to find it with ease.



Business cards are physical reminders of conversations with other people. Regardless of the brevity of interaction, a tiny piece of paper can jog memory of an interaction better than staring at an email

Do you have other tips and tricks relating to business cards? Leave a comment below.


[1] Ryder, Brett. “On the Cards.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 12 Mar. 2015, http://www.economist.com/news/business/21646226-why-business-card-thriving-electronic-age-cards.

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