Five months to go until Commencement.
With graduation on my mind, I’ve attended more than a few networking events. At each event, I faced a question I didn’t have the right answer to: “Do you have a business card?”
As an unemployed undergraduate, my answer, over and over, was “No.” It never even dawned on me until this year that I’d be qualified to have one, since I didn’t have a job title or company logo to imprint on them. Instead, I collected business cards from potential future employers and emailed them my name and other information after the event was over.
A few months later, I finally gave in and decided to order a set of my own. Throughout that experience, I wrestled with the pros and cons of actually owning and using business cards as a college student. But in the end, I realized that purchasing business cards isn’t solely a superficial exercise – it’s about embracing your own confidence and aspirations.
With my computer open to a blank business card template, I found myself confronted with a list of new questions: How should I describe myself on the cards? Which of my social media profiles should I highlight? Does this make me look conceited?
I settled on “disability advocate and media strategist” as the phrase to put under the section where official job descriptions are traditionally placed. I felt comfortable with the phrase “disability advocate” since I’ve had two internships in that field and many of my professional connections come from that world. To me, that phrase felt natural. I felt like it spoke to an area where I already had credibility, if not a formal job.
The experience I had gained from my educational career as a political communication student felt somewhat less legitimate. Was it as authentic and as accurate as my professional experiences? I put it on the card anyway, despite my hesitation.
Finally, the cards arrived in the mail – three times. That’s right. Due to an error with the order, I received triple the number of cards I initially ordered, leaving me with about 750. That overwhelmed me with even more self-doubt about whether ordering a single card was the right course of action. After all the cards arrived, I felt pretentious and undeserving of a business card without working for an actual business.
Truth be told, there has been more than one instance over the past few weeks where I opted out of giving my card to a potential business connection because I felt like a novice when trying to play up my credentials to someone who already had an established career.
Why did I spend all this money on business cards if I had no intention of actually putting them to use?
These instances have shaped my own internal dialogue about why I visited a printing website in the first place, forcing me to really evaluate not only why I purchased business cards, but what they mean in the broader context of the beginnings of my own professional life.
See, they call it a “college career” for a reason. Like it or hate it, coming to college signifies the beginning of one’s professional life – and at GW, that truth is even more apparent. Being a college student is not a prequel. It’s the actual story itself.
Each and every day, I work hard to craft my own personal image – both in the classroom and through internships. Though experiences on and off campus might not necessarily feel the same, they’re both legitimate and essential in building an arsenal of experiences that make me a strong candidate for jobs that may come my way down the road.
If you don’t think about making the most of your professional life until graduation day, you have waited too long. Ultimately, I needed to get over my personal insecurities and feelings of inadequacy and realize that my name in and of itself is a brand. “Brand” is a word tossed around so often it’s become practically meaningless. But the concept of a personal brand actually carries importance.
I am my own business – and coming to that realization is difficult, but it’s also essential and empowering.
As I near completion of my political communication degree, and as I pursue a graduate degree in media and strategic communication, I’m confident that the “media strategist” phrasing also applies to me. It might be somewhat aspirational, but there’s nothing wrong with lofty goals at this point.
Since I have so many cards, I’ve been putting them to good use in my daily life, employing some as coasters for drinks and making playing cards out of others. That’s not exactly what I had in mind at those networking events over the past few months – but maybe down the road, at least one or two will truly come in handy.
Jaggar DeMarco, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.