The Blank Business Card

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviserretired at 34. He is married, has three kids.Ā  Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.

I was at the playground yesterday with my kids. The weather was great and it was a weekend, so there were lots of families there. I meet another father and we got to talking. He told me that he has been working, but he doesn’t really enjoy his job as he used to. He would like to move back into writing and public speaking, or consulting on community building initiatives in rural towns. I told him that I had been working as a stockbroker, but I’m not currently working.

You know that moment in a conversation where you decide you’d like to stay in touch with someone? He handed me a business card, and I wanted to hand him one. But since I’m no longer working, I don’t have a card to give out. I apologised, and explained that if I did have a card, it would be blank. It would say something like:

Robert H.
Doesn't Really Do Anything
Phone: 403-254-xxxx

That’s a bit fanciful, but he generously smiled at my joke. He told me that he’s looking forward to the day when he has a blank business card. He has met people who have given him this kind of card, with just a name and contact information, and he’s been envious. What does the blank business card symbolise?

I’m not owned by someone else. I admit that I may be the only one who felt this way. Presenting a business card with my name and the name of my employer together always made me feel like they not only employed me, they owned me. The business card was only the outward manifestation of that relationship. They set the rules I had to follow, they told me what I could and could not say, they even audited my emails to make sure I was onside. Now, no one tells me what I’m allowed to say. I stand for what I believe in.

I control my own time. I no longer have somewhere I need to be each weekday at specific hours. I used to work 7:00am to 4:00pm. Now, I often stay in bed until after 7:00 in the morning. That’s not to say that I don’t have places to be or appointments to keep. But each day provides variety, and if I want, I can be flexible with my schedule. As an example, if my son’s class will be going on a field trip, I can reschedule my other activities and choose to join him. There is a risk of being less productive, since my deadlines are now self-imposed, but I make my own choices and take responsibility for the outcome.

I can choose what I work on. Some people define themselves by their job. When that’s the thing they’re most excited about, it makes sense. “Hi, I’m a …” financial advisor, teacher, engineer, doctor, etc. I’ve made an effort not to define myself by my job. That was helpful when I stopped working. I was a financial advisor, but I was also a father, a volunteer, an advocate for public education and an reader and writer (blogger). Now that I can choose where I spend my time, I don’t just work on one thing. A business card doesn’t have room to include everything I do.

A blank business card says: I work on a variety of things that I care about, on my own time and on my own terms. I’m printing off a batch, and I look forward to handing them out. What do you look forward to about no longer working in a business?

13 thoughts on “The Blank Business Card”

  1. I’m still not sure if I would ever want to label a business card “does nothing”. But this does make it sound appealing to have a business card with no title or business name (maybe a website address). This might be effective in lines of work that don’t revolve around constantly being subservient to someone else (yes there are some).

  2. I would love to have a blank business card like this someday! Passive income is something that has always intrigued me but there is also a good feeling that comes from putting in a good hard days work even if it is for somebody else!

    Right now, Iā€™m not sure what the future holds but Iā€™m pretty sure I will be working for somebody for at least the next few years.

    I ended up posting this comment on two blogs because I was reading one about passive income and the other about a blank business card at the same time – haha. I ended up combining my thoughts without realizing it and posting without thinking. They are probably thinking: “what does this guy mean by a ‘blank business card’?”

  3. I love the idea of this Robert.

    When I was younger, I was always proud to hand out my business card because of the unspoken message it implied that I had arrived and was someone important. Now as a middle-aged father – I get your point of view far more and am closing in on having a blank card of my own.

  4. Value Indexer, of course you’re right that it wouldn’t really say “does nothing.” Instead, I’ll simply have no job title. So if I introduce myself to someone as a father, or a stock investor, or an education advocate, or a writer, the card still works.

    SavingMentor, I really don’t believe there’s anything wrong working for other people. For some, that’s the best arrangement. I learned about myself, though, that it’s not really for me.

    Steve, you make a good point about how our values may shift over time. Maybe in a couple years, I’ll take pride in something totally different.

  5. Stay at Home parents have been handing out “contact cards” for a long time (I gave some to some other moms during my daughter’s first week of kindergarten; and that was 12 years ago!!)….I think they’re a fantastic idea in general for handing out to people in any non-business setting. Often the preference is for people we meet socially to use our ‘home’ email and/or phone rather than our business contact info. anyway. It doesn’t have to indicate a profession on it at all–just your name/email/cell #.

  6. I don’t agree that it’s blank – your name & number are on there after all. šŸ™‚

    Like Ldk said – I’ve heard of stay-at-home/mat leave Moms handing out “personal” cards at the playgrounds.

  7. ldk and Mike Holmes, you’re both right, of course, that it a “business” card could really be a contact card. And that this works for all types of people. For me, however, it’s just a tangible part of no longer working.

    George, I assume you meant that a personal contact card is super classy, like a Victorian gentleman. šŸ™‚ Maybe that’s something else to work toward.

  8. I know a gentleman who retired from a fairly succesful business and now spends most of his time with his horses on his small hobby farm. His “business” or “personal” card has his name, address and phone number but also has a great aerial shot of his farm and horses as the background.

    Maybe use the extra space on your business card to include your personal logo ie. a picture of your family, or a picture from a place that you have travelled to or will travel to when you move overseas. Basically move the focus of your life from your job/employer to your new commitment, family/travel

  9. I like the idea of the personal business card. It is also a way of networking with others and having contacts. I have been out of work since 2010 and I have been working with new people to network with and finding a new job. This is one way of doing that. Good idea.

  10. I no longer look forward to not working in a business because I retired in June. Since that time we have remodeled a small townhouse, sold our large house, and are moving in five days. This project has been fun but it has taken up most of my time this summer.

    I am looking forward to having the time to see just how I want to live in retirement after the dust has settled, so to speak. I doubt I will have a business card but if I did it might say I am ‘open to possibilities’ at this point.

  11. My Dad (long retired) had cards printed up. His name, phone and email, and then in capital letters “PROUD CANADIAN”. Seems about right.

  12. I’m 54 and planning to retire from my government job in a few months. (My husband plans to continue working for a few more years) I’ve been thinking about doing some business cards for myself but what to put for occupation? I am already thinking about what to have for my Facebook account, have “Reading Novels All Day” as my occupation and I don’t want to have “retired” because then I imagine an old woman sitting on a sofa watching afternoon TV. One friend of mine is active in a local Riverkeeper group and calls herself an Environmental Activist.

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