What's your Problem?

Do I deserve to get business cards?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: This might seem petty, but I'm upset that all my colleagues and mates have business cards but I don't. I asked my line manager about it and he said that because I don't go out on client meetings and am quite junior, I don't need them. I tried to explain that I sometimes meet contacts at conferences and that it would be useful for me to have one, but he refuses. I don't think it's fair. What should I do?

A: I wonder how long you've been with this company and just how junior you are? Assuming your line manager to be a reasonable sort of person, it sounds to me as if he's not yet comfortable with the thought of your publicly representing the company.

There's something about a business card, even without a title on it, that confers a certain authority on its holder. It's presumably this very fact that makes you want one - and may also be the reason why your manager has so far decided to withhold it. I dare say he'd be reluctant to spell this out to you.

If in the course of your conference-going you encounter genuine prospective clients, it's clearly in the interests of your company that you should hold a business card. But as long as suspicion lingers that your request for a card is primarily for reasons of self-aggrandisement, you're likely to remain disappointed. I know that's a bit chicken-and-egg, but you need to demonstrate maturity and value before you can reasonably demand one.

So I'd keep quiet, if I were you. The more you pester, the more petulant you'll seem. And whatever you do, don't squeal about it being unfair. You'll get your card soon enough when you begin to contribute to your company's reputation as well as benefiting from it.

It's possible, of course, that you'll bust a gut to be useful and still won't get that precious card. If so, I'm afraid you should see it as an early indication that your manager still has doubts about you. In that case, you'll need to flush things out at your next assessment.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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