Making a snazzy first impression with stationery!
April 14, 2008 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be graduating with my PhD in chemistry within the next year or so. Should I get business cards? Should I order them with the university logo or just get something with my basic contact info?

Recently I was at a conference where I gave a research presentation. Afterwards I was approached by a few folks for a business/contact card and felt unprepared when I didn't have any. Now I'm considering ordering some before I go to another conference, start going to job fairs, and to just have around so I can feel superior with my snazzy business cards. If it matters, I'm a young woman looking for jobs in the scientific R&D industry.

Here are my questions for recent grads (undergrad or grad school) and current professionals who are more worldly in the ways of networking:

1) Is it silly or pretentious for (under)grad students to have business cards?

2) Should I get cards from my university with the logo? Regardless of my future employment prospects, I'll have to get new cards with my snazzy new title after I graduate... (Sararah, PhD, Unemployed and Overeducated, Cardboard Box Under the Bridge, 10108)

3) I take a lot of pictures and they occasionally turn out decent. A while back I ordered some Moo Cards for a craft project. On the off chance that someone would want to hire me to take pictures I think those could serve as contact cards. However, I don't think I would want to use Moo Cards regularly for job hunting purposes since they may appear unprofessional and/or wacky to recruiters in the scientific industry.

4) Good places to order business cards on the web? Seeing as I enjoy a subsistence grad student salary, I'm not looking to order these $200 letterpress beauties. If I decide to go with the university logo, I'll order them from the university printing services.
posted by sararah to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should do this. Get them with the university logo from printing services: the purpose of these cards is job hunting, and your current affiliation is extremely relevant to any prospective employer. You shouldn't have to pay any more than $50, and even that is on the high end.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:22 PM on April 14, 2008

Since you're going to have to get new ones anyway, you might as well get the free ones from VistaPrint
posted by majikstreet at 3:28 PM on April 14, 2008

I wouldn't use the university logo; if I saw a business card with a university logo on it, I would assume that person worked for the university. I'd go with text-only. Just my two cents.
posted by korres at 3:31 PM on April 14, 2008

Depending on your university, there may be rules that if you're going to have a business card associating you with it, you have to use their logo/colors/wording/whatever. If you want to go that route, you might look around the marketing/PR department's web site for information. (That said, I doubt anyone's ever going to find out if you don't follow the business card rules).
posted by Stacey at 3:37 PM on April 14, 2008

An extremely affordable place to have business cards or calling cards printed up is through I ordered their free samples and was impressed with the quality. I'm in the process of designing both business cards and postcards for henna business, as they make gorgeous double-sided full-colour cards for a fraction of what I've seen elsewhere. You can also order them in smaller quantities, still at a reasonable price.

Also seconding the comment about the university logo; if I saw that on a calling card or business card, I would assume that the person worked for them in some capacity.
posted by Jade Dragon at 3:40 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Go with the Moo cards. I use pics from my firefighting days (I'm a grad student in a related field) and handing over one of my slick, beautiful cards always provokes a positive response. I've gotten contracts, job offers, and met colleagues with whom I'm collaborating after giving out my moo cards- they look super-professional, but are suitable to my age and status (twenties, grad student) and unique enough that they don't get tossed in the post-conference pile.
posted by arnicae at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2008

I wouldn't use the university logo; if I saw a business card with a university logo on it, I would assume that person worked for the university.

Also seconding the comment about the university logo; if I saw that on a calling card or business card, I would assume that the person worked for them in some capacity.

In my experience, a graduate student in the natural sciences would be expected to have the standard cards issued by their university, showing the university logo. They are, in a very real way, working for the university.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:50 PM on April 14, 2008

I second majikstreet's suggestion of VistaPrint (free + postage).
And keep it simple - text only.
(No connection with the firm, just a satisfied customer.
posted by lungtaworld at 4:00 PM on April 14, 2008


I've used them in the past with little issue, but my wife ordered business cards through them last year and was automatically enrolled in an involuntary monthly scam service. (Google "Vistaprint scam" for more information.)

Just FYI.
posted by rentalkarma at 4:19 PM on April 14, 2008

Best answer: I had business cards when I was Masters candidate. Definitely very useful at conferences, industry seminar/networking events and while job hunting. See if your department will print you some, or if a student organization will (I got mine through IEEE).

I wouldn't use the university logo; if I saw a business card with a university logo on it, I would assume that person worked for the university.

For a graduate student, that's basically true. I had my university logo on my cards and other grad students I met all had their university logo on theirs as well.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2008

Why get the uni's logo on your cards? Are you employed there?
Basic business cards sound like they'd be useful. Conferences are all about networking and it's easy to forget all the people you meet at them. Do you have a website? If so, you can print the URL on the cards and they can find a photo of you there. That would be more professional than putting a photo of yourself on the card like a realtor.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:43 PM on April 14, 2008

Response by poster: mr_roboto is right about grad students in the natural sciences. I've been working as a researcher for the university for nearly four years in addition to teaching for them. Although my position is "Graduate Assistant," a PhD in the sciences is much more of a "job" than in other disciplines.

Thanks for your advice (again), mr_roboto. I gather from your profile that you've been here before!
posted by sararah at 4:48 PM on April 14, 2008

If you've been working for the university, then it would make sense to get cards with the uni logo on them, and your working title there...

I'd find it pretentious for a PhD student to have a card that said "Doctoral Candidate", but not if they worked there and had a card that said "Graduate Assistant" or "Adjunct Assistant Professor".
posted by ranglin at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2008

I see no reason not to get university business cards -- I know many grad students (esp. in the ABD stage) who have them, just for something to pass out in just those situations. Even if it looks a little pretentious (which I doubt), it's worth it if one person remembers you for a job.
posted by paultopia at 5:52 PM on April 14, 2008

I've had free cards done through VistaPrint. I haven't been enrolled in any scams that I'm aware of. The quality was fine, but be aware that they put their URL on the back of the card. This may not be the most professional look, if such things are important to you.

Use an email address that you will always have access to, not your university account if that one may be deleted after you're gone.

And there's nothing (except $) stopping you from having more than one type of card - a university-logoed one, a plain one, a wacky one...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:06 PM on April 14, 2008

I'm also an advanced PhD student, and I also agonized over getting biz cards for my recent conference. I ended up only using a dozen or so (still working on that networking thing), but it made life much easier when I wanted to give someone my email address. I'm also certain that many of the other grad students had them as well. I think I would stay away from moo cards both for the borderline professionalism but also because you often can't write details on there (e.g., the person you met wants to make a note of what they're supposed to send you).

As for purchasing-- I got 200 cards from Staples for $19 including shipping. I think they look really nice, glossy and on decent stock (and much better than home-printer, perforated stuff). The standard card designs just happened to include a very plain styled card with my university's colors, and I printed the university's name on there (because I do work for them as an RA), so I think outsiders wouldn't even realize they weren't official (and they were less than half the cost of real university cards). Staples will let you upload a logo, though obviously uploading official university logos would be a bit illegal in many cases.
posted by parkerjackson at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2008

If you're at all interested in doing something unusual with your cards, I suggest Moo minicards. They're the same width as std business cards, but not as tall. Completely personalized, will stand out in a sea of boring business cards, cheap, come in a box, shipped fast from the U.K. Photo or design on the front, up to 6 lines of text on the back---what more do you need?
posted by hulahulagirl at 8:50 PM on April 14, 2008

(ok, sorry, saw the bit about Moo cards----the thing is you can make them look as "professional" as you want)
posted by hulahulagirl at 8:50 PM on April 14, 2008

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