How to Reuse Your Old Business Cards

How to Reuse Your Old Business Cards

It is 2020 and business cards are still a thing in the business world.

You just left your job, and they gave you a box of business cards when you started. What do you do with them?

As reported by Wall Street Journal on January 30th, 2020 by Te-Ping Chen

It’s 2020. Why Can’t We Let Go of Our Business Cards?

At a recent job at an industrial lubricant manufacturer in Jacksonville, Fla., Kyle McBride received a box of 500 business cards.

By the end of his three years there, he still had 497 cards left. “I gave out an average of one per year,” he says. “One was to a relative, who was curious.”

The demise of the humble business card has long been predicted, thanks to the rise of smartphones and LinkedIn. Yet they’ve had extraordinary staying power—in more ways than one—as workers struggle to Marie Kondo those they’ve collected from business acquaintances or representing jobs they’ve left behind.

Mr. McBride, 34, held on to a couple as souvenirs and threw the rest away. “I did feel bad about it,” he says, adding that they went into the recycling bin.

Many others wish they had his aplomb. Reluctant to junk their cards, some workers have tried shredding them into confetti, using them to amuse their children or to wallpaper whole rooms. Still more cards wind up jumbled in drawers or filing cabinets, endlessly reshuffled with each office move.

Chris Lose, 41, went further: He disposed of his cache in a bonfire last year. A former lighting designer for Fleetwood Mac, he found himself so attached to the roughly 600 cards he’d collected over two decades, mostly from others, that he took several boxes of them when he moved in 2017 from Las Vegas to Canada—even as he left other mementos, including wedding photos, behind. Many of the cards’ owners had long since changed jobs. Some were so old they didn’t feature email addresses or websites.

Mr. Lose intended to dump them into the flames in one go but ended up feeling the need to hold each card and bid them individual adieus, an hours long experience he called “cathartic.” He had previously twice tried to throw out the collection, only to fish them out of the trash.

“I’m like an addict trying to lock the liquor cabinet so I don’t have access,” he says. “I had to get rid of them altogether, cold turkey.”

In San Diego, software developer Amy Szczepanski, 46, keeps a box of around 700 of her old cards with an outdated logo in her office. She’s used some to make origami and thinks it’s possible—if implausible—that the rest might come in handy. Perhaps, she says, she might use their blank backs to take notes. “Or I’ll work my way through thousands of the new ones and I’ll have some kind of business card emergency and have to dip into them.”

Unlike old Post-its or rubber band collections, she says, business cards can be particularly hard to throw away. “This will sound sort of corny, but business cards are in some sense mementos of your career path,” she says.

Karen Schrimper, 51, a Charlotte-based director in the finance department at Duke Energy, is less sentimental. She’s currently working her way through a pile of cards dating back to a job from 2005, with several dozen cards still left, which she keeps handy in her desk.

“They make excellent toothpicks,” says Ms. Schrimper, citing their pointy corners.

It’s difficult to gauge the overall size of the current business-card market, given the number of providers involved. Vistaprint senior product manager Adam Depelteau says the company prints nearly six billion business cards per year and that sales “continue to grow.”

“We’re really seeing that even in a technology age, people still want an analog experience,” says Brendan Stephens, global creative director for MOO, which sells more than 250 million business cards a year.

Even short professional stints can add to the pile, as in the case of Adrian Sanabria, who received a new box of 1,000 business cards after his company was acquired in 2018. He stayed at the firm for only another three months but hasn’t thrown them away.

These days while on conference calls, the 40-year-old cybersecurity evangelist occupies himself by flicking them forcefully across the room to see how fast they’ll fly. (Midrange card stock, he advises, flies nicely; too heavy and they’ll flutter to the ground.) Like Ms. Szczepanski, he also folds them into elaborate origami blocks, which he calls “poor man’s Legos.”

Billie Denise McGhee, 32, a graphic designer living in Beverly, Mass., is among those who also isn’t giving up her stash. She keeps a carefully curated collection of more than 200 cards with designs she admires from professional contacts, as well as restaurants and boutiques, squirreling them away in a cigar box until she needs to flip through them for visual inspiration. “They definitely spark joy,” she says, quoting Ms. Kondo’s Golden Rule of decluttering.

For early career workers, business cards can still provide a thrill. Erica Hickey, a 24-year-old growth coordinator at an integrated creative agency in Rochester, N.Y., was tickled to get cards with her name on them when she joined the firm last summer. The first in her family to attend college, she says her mother was especially proud to see her daughter’s title in print.

“It’s like, you made it,” Ms. Hickey says.

Still, unless employees are working in sales or business development, today’s more digitally minded workers often have few occasions to use business cards. Some prefer the ease and quick sense of intimacy that comes with exchanging a text or email with business contacts instead. Like Jon Boyd, academic editorial director at InterVarsity Press, many cubicle dwellers have never finished a box.

Mr. Boyd estimates he’s had at least 14 different business cards over the course of his career. If it wasn’t a new job title, says the Chicago-based Mr. Boyd, 53, “the mailing address would change, or there’d be a new domain name or a rebranding, and we’d get new ones all over again.”

A self-described pack rat, he has held on to his old cards for decades. His daughters have used them as flashcards and drawn playing cards on them. He’s hole-punched those with blank backs and turned them into tiny notebooks and attempted to use others as fireplace kindling. Thousands more still sit in his basement. Mr. Boyd doesn’t plan to throw them away.

“They’re a little slice of time,” he says. “All those career milestones.”

What are your thoughts are recycling your old business cards?

Additional Business Cards Resources:

Is The Business Card Dead? 16 Experts Share Their Thoughts (Forbes)

30 Creative and Unique Business Card Examples (IDeas BIG)

4 reasons why you should never refuse to take someone’s business card that I learned the hard way (Business Insider)

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