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Context: I am a graduate student within the social sciences, who will be obtaining their Master's degree on their way to Ph.D. (hopefully by the end of this academic year). Though I have not yet published to any peer-reviewed journals, the work I do this year will likely be the foundation for my first publications and I will be attending conferences soon. That being said, I have had my fair share of networking at conferences (outside of my field) and been given business cards, but very rarely have I ever seen a business card from someone in my own field! My program encourages many strategies that will help fellow scholars find me online to contact me, but regarding business cards, I have been given various answers. Most of my mentors seem to think that surely business cards are important, however, it seems that they only become imperative after I have started to publish my research, i.e. give people a reason to need my business card.
As of now, passing out my card at a conference would only serve to introduce my research interests.. which have not yet been conducted and it will take 1-2+ years before I am out in the field, producing this research. Moreover, the conferences I attend within the next 1-2 years are geared towards introducing graduate students to panels and whatnot, and it is unlikely that their research interests will substantially align with my own. Even more perplexing - I have met students in my field that are far more experienced than myself but are not concerned with business cards whatsoever at this early stage of their career, but I have also met students with my same level of expertise who hand out their card often.
Provided this information, when should I start seriously considering business cards? To what extent would my business card matter to you personally, and if it does not matter much because I am so early on in my career, at one point do you suggest taking business cards more seriously? As of now, my business card would likely list my occupation as "graduate student" or "teaching fellow," which do not seem substantial enough to purchase cards in bulk.. especially when my occupation will change, as I progress in my program. Any and all advice is welcome, as well as personal anecdotes regarding one's experience with the timing of obtaining their own business cards!