Tips For The Modern Professional
Wikipedia defines etiquette as “a code of behavior that influences expectations for social behavior, according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.” I’d say, additionally, that success in any capacity simply relies on good relationships. When one is polite and considerate in dealing with others, a long-term, productive relationship can be formed…which is why a working knowledge of business etiquette is essential.
There are tons of topics to cover in the arena of business; however, let’s start with a subject that’s near and dear to me: proper business card etiquette.
Ohhh, the business card. When you receive one, a common thought is, “This is nice. Oh, I’ll just stash it!” Yet in doing that, you may potentially lose a viable contact if you don’t properly do something with the information on that card.
If we were all on our A-game there would always be a bit of a ritual that goes behind the act of exchanging cards. For example, in theory we are to present our cards with both hands as a sign of respect and reverence. This is adopted from the Chinese culture where respect, reverence and honor are highly regarded. Similarly, we are to receive other people’s cards the same way to show that the card is important to us, and that we are honored to have received their information. The action shows reverence toward them and that we are treating their card with respect.
Since you don’t see too many folks practicing that kind of mindfulness in the Daily Great Business Card Handoff, our American adaptation of the Chinese practice can be as easy as taking a few seconds to read the card before putting it away (in your business card holder, of course). The action lets the giver know that you are indeed interested in what it is that they do, or the services their business provides.
You are nobody in this town without a business card! (Kidding, you’re amazing. But seriously, get one.) Let’s dive in.
A Few Easy Tips to Properly
Using Business Cards
Always carry your business cards with you. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many professionals neglect to make this a habit and find themselves in non-business environments wishing to the stars that they had a card. Make it a habit to always have a few on your person.
Do not place them in your wallet. It is a bit unsightly when trading business cards to be digging in your wallet run amok with your receipts, personal business and etcetera, trying to find your card. Not to mention, it looks unprofessional and can make the receiver uncomfortable as they watch this all unfold. It is also not a good idea to have your business cards wrapped in a rubber band. It gives the impression that you just got yours hot off the press. Instead, invest in a business card holder. You’ll thank me later.
After a networking event or social soiree where there are exchanges of business cards, collect your new contacts and file them. Consider setting up categories based on industry or service, or maybe alpha-order is easier for you. Regardless, you never know when you may need to share a card with a colleague or when you yourself may need that book publisher’s info that you never thought you’d use.
Ask for a business card ONLY if it is related to business. Often, a “different type of connection” may be on the horizon (wink*) and you can avoid unprofessionalism if you simply opt to separately ask for the person’s personal contact information instead. We wouldn’t want our bosses or colleagues to get a glimpse of a pending dinner invite coming across our computer screen.
Remember your manners, as they are key when asking or receiving your potential contact’s information. Some examples are, “Do you mind if I have your business card?”, “Would you be kind enough to accept my business card?”, “Shall we exchange business cards and get together for a coffee sometime?” or “I’d be delighted to further discuss the possibility for crossover opportunities between our businesses! Let’s exchange information.”
Also, remember not to nonchalantly throw the business card in your back pocket or in your wallet or purse. Place it respectfully (there’s that word again) in your business card holder!
Looking at business cards with some semblance of reverence means the difference between turning an ever-filling bowl of cards on your desk to a viable tool in your arsenal of communicating with current and future colleagues. Keep these tips front-of-mind the next time someone hands you their precious little card (or when you decide to part with yours).
In the next issue of DLXVRSN, watch for my article,
“Netiquette: Techniques for Communicating on the Internet.”