Tips for designing a contact or business card

businesscardI often get asked for tips on designing a business or contact card. My response is to keep it simple. The goals are for the recipient of the card: 1) to be able to easily contact you; and 2) even more importantly, remember who you are.

Here’s a few tips on how to effectively design a contact card to keep on hand for networking purposes. Avoid any flowery designs or nonessential wording. Just include your contact information and a few highlights of your professional activities. For an example, my business card (featured here) contains the following components:

Front of card:

  • Business name (if applicable)
  • Name, degree optional (e.g., MS)
  • list of your top 3 or 4 skills/services offered
  • email
  • phone
  • personal website URL or custom LinkedIn URL*

Back of card: There are options for a back section on a card to include more information that is relevant for your professional needs. For example, I included my custom LinkedIn URL and a QR code to my LinkedIn profile that people can scan with their phone, in case that makes it easier for them to connect with me. Other options for the back of a card include features like appointment reminders, or leave it blank and hand write a message to help the person remember why they should contact you.

On a side note, if you want to use the logo for the university/company with whom you are affiliated then you will need to use their printing services due to copyright issues. However, if you want to promote yourself professionally as independent from an entity (perhaps for consulting opportunities) then use a vendor like VistaPrint or Staples and make a customized card.

*You can customize the URL for your LinkedIn profile to make it easy to remember; be sure  your profile is set to public, go to “edit profile” then click the setting icon next to your LinkedIn URL to “edit your public profile setting”, which displays the option to modify it.

LinkedIn feature: “Mentioned in the news” can mean bad publicity for you

Not all news is good news.

Not all news is good news.

LinkedIn released a new “Mentioned in the News” feature in 2015 that uses an algorithm to search for online content in which you may be featured. Your contacts will then get an email message notifying them that you are in the news with a link to the article. However, there is no guarantee that the highlighted news will be good news (and we all know that bad news spreads like wildfire) or that the news will even be about you. As LinkedIn points out in the Help Center, “this algorithm is good, it’s not perfect.” In fact, LinkedIn has added the disclaimer at the bottom of email notifications that states, “LinkedIn does not guarantee that news articles are accurate or about the correct person.”

For example, if your name is Jane Smith and there’s a news story about another Jane Smith who, let’s say, has been indicted for a recent crime or has written a controversial op-ed, it’s possible your contacts could get notified. There could be a lot of confusion and damage done by such an incidence. While LinkedIn encourages your contacts to report identity mistakes in the email notifications, I am unable to find any way for the mentioned person to actually monitor his or her own “Mentioned in the News” notifications or approve content.

In addition, the beauty of social media is that YOU can control what your professional network sees about you, which allows you to paint an image of how you want to be viewed by others in your field. I was alerted to the issues behind this new feature when I received an email with a subject line “News about so and so”. Shockingly, It turns out the article about so and so was a biased, opinion piece on a watchdog group’s website that belittled the use of federal funds for the individual’s research project. This type of bad publicity should not automatically be distributed to an individual’s professional network without the consent of that person.

Overall, this feature is a bust, and I highly recommend disabling it on your LinkedIn account. To opt out of this feature, go to your “Account & Settings” by hovering over your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner of your LinkedIn home page. Select “Privacy & Settings” and then select “Turn on/off your news mention broadcasts” under the profile tab to uncheck the “Yes! Let them know” box.

To turn off email notifications about your connections, from within “Privacy & Settings” select the “Communications” tab and then under “Emails and Notifications” select “Set the frequency of emails”, choose to edit “Updates and news” by clicking the pencil icon and set “Connections in the News” to “No Email”.

I hope that the LinkedIn crew will realize the potentially damaging aspects of this so-claimed feature and remove it soon before it damages the professional reputation of its members.

Self-Marketing Tip: Sharing Content with Your Network

Sharing regular content with your professional network is a quick and efficient way to increase your online presence, stay fresh in the minds of colleagues and establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise. Content can be shared on social media platforms and discussion boards (e.g., LinkedIn), through your personal website, by direct email to a targeted list of contacts and via internal communication methods (e.g., company newsletter, internal website).

The content shared needs to add value to your network’s day and be in line with how you want people to view you professionally. This material may include recent articles on new discoveries in your field, thought-provoking editorials, upcoming funding opportunities and relevant job announcements. For example, if you are a climate change scientist you may want to post an article outlining new global carbon dioxide measurements; an editorial calling for policy changes needed to address rising carbon dioxide levels; a funding announcement for a new research program in your area; and/or a link to an open research position within your institution.

How much time should you spend in sharing content? I recommend developing a weekly routine that fits your schedule. My general guidelines are to spend 15–30 minutes a week to check your online profile(s) for completeness (e.g., updating publications); post a link to a relevant article; share a status update on a recent accomplishment (e.g., award); and/or connect with your network by congratulating colleagues or sending a private message to say hello. I also suggest spending the same amount of time in scanning discussion boards and popular media sites in your field to comment on other people’s shared content or to start your own discussion thread.

The biggest mistake that I see people make in sharing content is simply posting a link on a social media site without any added description. You have to put a little effort into this process by adding a short description of what people will read in the article, stating your opinion on the material and/or posing a question to engage your network in dialogue around the content. By adding this information, you will compel people to check out the information, which also leads to more visibility if they comment or share your post. Other common mistakes include posting status updates that openly ask your network for job leads and sharing chain posts (e.g., inspirational quotes) that distract from the focus of establishing yourself as a professional in your field.

Do you have questions on how to share content on LinkedIn or other sites? Use the comment box below or ask a question anonymously here.

Survive the Shark Tank of Science with a Self-Marketing Plan

Image credit: Benson Kua (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

In a sea of white lab coats, how can science and technology professionals get noticed? The answer is to develop a self-marketing plan — a strategy that showcases your professional accomplishments and expertise — that will put you at a competitive advantage in the shark tank of science.

Why do you need a self-marketing plan? As an early-career researcher, you may assume that everyone knows about your brand new paper, but research is so specialized that oftentimes only a few people will see your work and understand it. You also have a responsibility to show why your work is important and to translate the results to a broad audience.

Additionally, you have a personal priority of finding employment after you finish your education or post-graduate work. A majority of jobs are found by having a connection to the employer that can be made through networking and promoting yourself. Plus, recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly turning to websites like LinkedIn for recruiting efforts. Therefore, it pays to make your work visible and to maintain a good online presence.

Science Careers columnist Dave Jensen makes the analogy that your career needs to be run like a business, “Just like any product-driven company, you’ve got something to offer. You need to find a niche to sell it in, and package it just right.” This attitude allows you to take a strategic approach to your personal career planning.

Many companies and institutions have communications departments that recognize the value in promoting the work of their researchers. “Publicizing accomplishments can help researchers attract collaborators and recruit top talent as well as inform taxpayers and program managers of the return on their research investment,” says science writer Dawn Levy.

A first step in marketing yourself is to learn about the communication services offered through your employer, alumni associations and other institutions with whom you are associated. According to Levy, “Easy ways to promote your work include informing your institution’s news office when you win an award, when you’ll be delivering a talk at a scientific meeting, and when you’ve received notification that your journal article has been accepted.”

Communications experts can help you navigate the proper channels to promote your research. Future articles will follow-up on different techniques and tools for self-marketing.