Someone has given you a business card, either at a networking or social event, what do you do next? A business card is an invitation for future interaction, but how you treat that contact afterward will determine how responsive they will be.
Here are some dos and don'ts for handling business cards to ensure that you strengthen that initial interaction and build the relationship properly:
DO make notes on the back of the card. Write down anything that helps you remember the event, the person and the conversation.
DO follow up with a nice email. Say you enjoyed meeting them and hope to stay in touch. If you had mentioned that you would send something, a link to an article, website or a book, include that as well.
DON'T send your résumé. Unless they've already asked for it, it's presumptuous. In your follow up email, though, you can say, "If you hear of any openings, I'd be happy to forward you my resume."
DO look up your new contacts on LinkedIn. A few days after your follow up email, send an invitation to connect with you online. This expands the ways that you're able to stay in touch, and keeps your resume information at their fingertips. Be sure to change the generic default message to something more personalized. You can re-iterate how nice it was to meet them at the event, in case they need a subtle reminder.
DON'T add them to your email list. When someone gives you a card, they are giving you permission to contact them, but only on a one-on-one basis. They haven't agreed to be on your joke mailing list, blog update list or any other mass broadcasts, so don't add them.
DO organize your cards so you can find the info later. Add your new contact to your address book and toss the card or keep the card in a filing system. Some people scan cards into their computers, others use three-ring binders with plastic sleeves specifically designed to hold business cards. Personally, I use an index card box purchased at an office supply store, along with index card tabs. I write the date of the event on the tab and file the business cards behind that tab. Another alternative is to file alphabetically. Whatever system works best for you is the one to use.