My wife just started a postdoc at an R1 university and needs business cards for a conference and her future job hunt. She asked me to design them for her.

Normally, I'd put her current (postdoc) institution, but because the temporary nature of the postdoc position (1 year), and because she'll be presenting her dissertation work at the upcoming conference, it seems like the cards should perhaps brand her individually rather than as part of her institution.

If possible, I'd like to avoid creating some business cards now and then creating new ones again in a year or so. This would mean I would want a more general business card — one less tied to her current institution -- but I want even more for her business cards to be professional (following current best practices), and to not cause any confusion.

I see these options:

  • Include both her grad school and postdoc institutions.
  • Include only her postdoc institution.
  • Include no institution, but instead use the card to describe her and her research. Use these business cards for a longer while.

Is there a common practice for postdocs?

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    I would use a personal email (e.g., gmail) rather than her current postdoc email (e.g., @R1.edu). Also, does she have a personal webpage rather than a school webpage? I would list that rather than her profile on R1.edu. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 12:51
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    What is R1 university?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:19
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    @Ooker Research I University (also here) It's one way to classify universities in the USA. R1 is a large, research focused university.
    – R.M.
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:11
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    I second @RichardErickson's great idea, having a personal website independent of the university allows whoever is interested to get in contact regardless of where you are, even if the card you make has the name of an institution.
    – user347489
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:48
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    @RichardErickson: I think that might not be such a good idea. It implies a sort of distrust and dissociation from your institute. If you could add a personal website, that would cover the case of the institute address being revoked.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 18:58

6 Answers 6


Business cards themselves are not a terribly common practice for postdocs in my field (some combination of biology, physics, others). I think I've been handed one at a conference maybe once or twice.

I don't have a simple answer, but here are the factors I'd think about:

  1. Don't put her institutional email on it, because it will expire quickly once she leaves - it's better to use a [professional-sounding] external one. (Similar factors can apply to university websites, but they've been better in my experience.)

  2. Consider how likely it is that she'll use the entire run of 100 or so cards in the next year, before having to change the affiliation.

  3. I would probably not list an affiliation that isn't current on a business card. She may, however, list that affiliation in the conference program if she's talking about her dissertation work - or it may be obvious from her coauthors.

  4. Will having no visible affiliation make her look like a crackpot? This depends on the culture of the field. Probably there are no strange unaffiliated people presenting their Unified Theory of Russian Literature at the MLA Convention, but in physics, it's an issue.

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    I have seen (in applied maths) the following two self-advertising methods used by job-hunting postodocs more often than business cards: (1) put a slide at the end of your presentation where you say "Hey, I'm looking for a job" (2) print it on a t-shirt and wear it at the conference. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 6:20
  • @FedericoPoloni But it would still be helpful to have a short, preprinted paper with contact details (-> business card) for interested people who talk to you about that slide/t-shirt.
    – skymningen
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 10:42
  • @FedericoPoloni: People print stuff on T-shirts? What kinds of things do they say?
    – jvriesem
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:16
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    @einpoklum: No academic under 50 has ever handed me a business card. Rather, when you meet someone, you learn their name and their institution, which should be enough to find contact information. (Let me know if it takes you more than ten seconds to find a contact address for "Pete L. Clark.") If you really want to exchange email addresses, you take out your phone and it's done. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 15:30
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    @einpoklum: As I said, generally it is enough to learn someone's name and institution, which is something you should be paying attention to when you meet people anyway (and is much helped out by name tags). If you can remember names, you can contact people even when you haven't had a one-on-one conversation with them. Anyway, if business cards are used in certain academic circles, there's certainly no problem there. In my circle (and for people under a certain age) use of them would look strange. To each their own... Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 20:15

The cards should list the employee's current place of employment, just like business cards for any other job. The only thing that should be different for a postdoc is that you should make sure the image file for the cards is easy to update when she gets a new job.

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    Is there any good method to update business cards? Everything I can come up with sounds more expensive and/or cumbersome than "throw them away and get new ones". Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 6:21
  • @FedericoPoloni Recycle them and get new ones. Unless you're going for super-fancy business cards and buying in bulk it shouldn't be a big expense.
    – JAB
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 16:31
  • @FedericoPoloni I get them printed in a print shop in the alley of a poor neighbourhood. It's cheap. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 20:59
  • I ordered business cards online. Very affordable. You upload your layout. If you save your file you can just edit it next year. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 22:01
  • when being more mobile stage, It is also extremely helpful to be easily searchable in one or two places that you also keep up-to-date - if someone looking her up during or after the postdoc cannot find her on a webpage somewhere then it is missed opportunity when someone is trying to be supportive of young career researchers. Try to choose from linkedin/researchgate/googlescholar/googlesites) to keep up so that when someone does a simple search of her name and some 'memory' words related to her expertise, they can find her and be better reminded of her exact expertise/interests.
    – Carol
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 22:14

First, is the University sending her to this conference? (i.e. paying for her attendance, flight, hotel, etc...) If so, I would consider her a representative of the University and her business card should reflect it, email address and name of the institution. If the work presented was performed at a different University, then this should be evident in her presentation.

Second, When I was at an R1 University and wanted business cards for a conference, they had a few approved templates that I could choose from and then they printed them for me. Their might be rules about using a "non-approved" design. Check with her University.

Lastly, keep in mind that the quality of her research and presentation is much more important than the branding on her business card.

  • 1
    +1 for pointing out that Universities have approved design templates. They often have rules about using the university logo and related media, including the font. Sometimes they even have a deal with a print shop that the cards must be printed through that specific print shop. (Hehhh, business....)
    – jvriesem
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:18

Here's a format I saw recently.

Two-sided card. Front had:

  • A photo, name and current email*
  • Summary line (a la LinkedIn 'tagline')
  • Current Employment info (Postdoctoral Fellow, Univ of ABC)
  • Academic Highlights (PhD 2013, R1 Univ., M.S. 2010 XYZ College)
  • Shortened link to profile page (linked in)*

On the back:

  • PhD research: One line summary
  • M.S. Work: One line summary
  • One line Skills list
  • Github link

* 1. An email account that is unlikely to expire: most academic accounts can be kept alive or at least auto-forwarded. 2. LinkedIn or other 'permanent' and up-to-date profile page. About.me or even just google sites works. Investing in a domain name is also advisable.

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    There actually exists and Univ of ABC (ufabc.edu.br/en), and it's not an acronym for anything...
    – Shake Baby
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 19:34

If this is your private business card then you can pretty much put on it what you want. AJK's comment on using a long-lasting email is a very good one. I would perhaps also add the information that she is a post-doctoral researcher but leave away the affiliation -- adding that to a "private" business card suggests to any receiver that in this moment she represents the university, when she does not. Also, the university would likely want to see its own design guidelines followed when its name is mentioned.

If this is a university-issued card or the university has asked her to create a card then it should follow any design guidelines of the university and get some sort of approval.


I favour the following approach to create a lifelong point of contact.

Dr FirstName Initial(s) LastName

                                                      [email protected]

This will require buying LastName.com. (Given that it probably won't be available, you might need to compromise a little.)

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