May 16, 2012
When is it OK to use initials after a name?
Q: I've been seeing many business cards and LinkedIn profiles listing "MBA" after a person's name. Is this appropriate? I thought that was reserved for those with specific certifications or J.D.s and Ph.D.s.
A: For quite a while, all my business cards read: "Rex Huppke -- Super Genius." Apparently some people found that a little intimidating, so I changed it to: "Rex Huppke -- Professor of Awesome."
I don't have many friends.
Anyway, to your point, there are varying opinions on whether post-nominal titles belong on a business card. Some career experts take the "if you've got it, flaunt it" approach and encourage people to highlight anything that might impress.
Others have a more strategic view, one that I believe makes the most sense.
What's important here is context.
"You should put MBA on your card if it's going to impress people that want to see that on your business card," says Corey Harlock, a job-search expert from Calgary, Alberta, who created what he calls the Fearless Job Seeker System. "But if the job you're seeking doesn't require an MBA or if the people you're around won't care about it, don't put it anywhere. Don't even breathe it."
The point is that we tend to overload our business cards and resumes with achievements that aren't relevant to our career goals.
"Somewhere along the line it became common practice to put everything we've ever done on a resume," Harlock says. "The only thing that should go on a resume is a thing that the hiring manager is looking for. Being overqualified is as effective a way to get eliminated as being underqualified."
This applies equally to job seekers and people with jobs. If you're in sales and you happen to have a Ph.D. in an unrelated field, nobody needs to see that on your business card. Maybe the occasional person will be impressed, but more likely people will find it pretentious and, worse, confusing.
Harlock suggests having two sets of business cards -- one with the title and one without. If you're networking and you come across someone who would be impressed by the title, give him that one. Otherwise use the others.
Norine Dagliano, a Maryland-based job-search strategist, says she often works with people who have obtained advanced degrees without first carefully considering how the degrees fit into their career paths.
"What I'm finding quite frequently is individuals who were not having any success finding employment, so they decided something like an MBA might just be the ticket," Dagliano says. "So they get one and then I get them on the phone and I ask what kind of work they're looking for and they say, 'Well, I'm kind of open.' How can you be open? So they were having trouble finding a job because they were clueless about how to look for work and now they have this MBA and they're still pretty clueless about how to look for work."
The bottom line, she says, is to figure out the point of your post-nominal title and whether it's relevant to what you do or want to do. "If you have a clear career goal in mind and you've found that the MBA is what's going to open the door, then get the MBA and by all means shout it from the rooftops. Slap it on the top of the resume, put it on the business card."
But if it's not on point, tuck the title in your pocket. You don't need a boastful business card to impress.
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- career profile (164)
- cool jobs (67)
- education and training (61)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (107)
- events (71)
- featured (413)
- finding your passion (95)
- health care (73)
- interviewing (88)
- job fairs (60)
- management (88)
- market trends (92)
- networking (274)
- resumes (102)
- salary (85)
- social media (91)
- technology (113)
- unemployment (55)
- work/life balance (91)