Here is my business card

Here is my business card…” How often is this sentence uttered in conferences, meetings and places where we try to network for professional growth.

cartoon about business cards

The ubiquitous business card is a marvellous thing, ever expanding in its repertoire of functions. Even more interestingly, business cards from different countries bear the cultural hallmark of their place of origin. There are cards that are small and spare in design: carrying only a name and contact information. Others are more ornate with logos, job titles, in coloured text and large in size. The cards can be classical in presentation and of beautiful thick ivory paper, or betray the “green” ideology of its owner by its recycled paper, or be of humbler origins: just printed off on simple paper from a laser printer. Some are printed in more than one language to facilitate cross cultural information exchange. Each card represents the personality and means of its owner and the place where they both come from.

Increasingly, business cards now are miniature CVs. The first time I saw a card with long string of letters after the name, I was bemused! What do MAbcd, MEfg, FHijk, CLmno signify?

Much later I realised, the simple rectangular piece of paper barely 2×4 inches in size, is so much more than a convenient way to give someone your email address. The contact details are the least of it! The cards list every degree the person has acquired (in some cases even where these were earned!); all their affiliations. It’s a way to inform and impress.

Is this smart, pompous or just strange?

When you state (via the card) that you are MAbcd (Member of Abcd professional organisation), and FHijk (Fellow of Hijk) and CLmno (hold Chartered status in profession Lmno), you are relating key achievements, abilities and your net professional standing. The longer the string of incomprehensible list of letters after your name, the more you are a person worth knowing. It is selling yourself without even opening your mouth or giving someone a full CV.

For people within a discipline, the acronyms and abbreviations are information, for others it can be befuddling. For example, FInstP within the UK Physics community implies the honour of being a Fellow of the Institute of Physics: perfectly reasonable and very impressive. On the other hand “SMOSA” may lead to associations with the fried Indian snack of samosas, while the intention is to state that the card owner is really quite distinguished and is a Senior Member of the Optical Society of America!
And finally, in which situation do we need to tell everyone where we did our undergraduate degree many moons ago and to which august institutions we pay a yearly membership subscription?

In a global world, a card can’t quite convey context that helps make sense of the data it presents. Yet when deciphered correctly it can capture a person’s professional life!


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