I Just Work Here

Credit endangering job prospects

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Experts say if a potential employer advises you they'll be doing a credit check before taking you on, be sure to let them know if there's anything negative on the report -- and why. (Adam Gault, Getty Images/OJO Images / September 11, 2011)

Q: Beyond dropping them in a fishbowl at Chipotle or Dunkin' Donuts, why are we still handing out business cards? All my contacts are managed through an online tool and new contact information is obtained electronically. Has the business card gone the way of the watch?

— Anonymous in Minnesota, via e-mail

A: First off, never take for granted an opportunity to win free doughnuts. Until food raffles are conducted by scanning the computer chips in our foreheads, I will have business cards on hand to enter any and all contests — it just makes good fiscal sense.

As to the broader point, however, I consulted some folks who deal with personal branding and career building and that sort of stuff and the consensus is that business cards will not be disappearing any time soon. The primary reason is that despite our national love of electronic gadgets, most of us still like to leave a tangible reminder of who we are and what we bring to the table.

"It's a really interesting dynamic with regard to how technology should make things better and faster and easier while not taking the place of more personalized connections and relationships," said Deborah Shane, a Florida-based business and career branding specialist and author of "Career Transition: Make The Shift." "Your brand is a value statement about who you are, what you do and what value you bring to your business space or the world. A business card is no different than putting up a sign for your business so people can see you from the street. It's a visual representation of your value."

It's certainly possible that we'll reach a point where business cards becomes outmoded, like a pager or a Walkman or Madonna. But in the meantime, Shane suggests not only keeping a card handy but also finding ways to make yours innovative.

"That's one of the most important things we're all tasked with today is make yourself stand out," she said.

It also ups the chances that your card will be picked out of the free-lunch jar.

Q: How do I get work to lower their expectations of me enough that they will stop hoping for results but not so low that they fire me?

— Anonymous via e-mail

A: Bring in a wide array of pastries or "fun-size" candy bars each morning, then spend most of your day writing "Mork & Mindy" fan fiction. That should do the trick.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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