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I'm going to be creating some simple business cards for myself going forward, and would like some advice on the addition of my degrees and professional designations to the card.

So far, the planned text, aside of the graphics, phone numbers, e-mail address, etc, would look like (using made-up names):

Alessandro Giuliani, P.Eng, Ph.D, M.Eng, FIEEE
Something something something consultant

The P.Eng. designation is critical, as it means I am a "true" engineer, have the requisite supervised experience, no criminal record, have completed the law and ethics training, and so forth. In Canada, one is not allowed to have the word "engineer" in one's job title or on his/her business cards without earning the P.Eng. designation. It would be like calling one's self a "medical doctor" without the right credentials, and you can be fined heavily for it.

At least one academic degree should be listed, but I opted to list both my PhD and Masters in Engineering, as in my neck of the woods (North America), at least in the tech sector, there is a common trend where people will do just a Bachelors and a PhD, or sometimes just a PhD, usually from a degree mill. The common sentiment is that people who have taken this route are "professional students" with no relevant job skills, or the degree is meaningless if it smells like a degree mill; while one with the Bachelors, Masters, and PhD plus at least so many years of experience can actually be hired for real work. I've even known several individuals who don't even include their PhD on CVs/resumes for this reason.

I opted to leave out the Bachelors of Engineering since I feel it would be overkill. Finally, I feel the FIEEE designation shows a lot of committment to my field, and opted to include it.

So, my question is as follows: Does this seem to be overkill or snooty in professional or academic circles in North America? My main concern is listing two degrees, and using the format described above has already gotten me some vicious comments on e-mail threads for being "elitist", though the individuals who made those comments tend to exhibit anti-academic sentiments anyways, so I'm probably just (unintentionally) rubbing salt in a wound or hitting a nerve.

Also, if anyone could weight in on whether this is acceptable in Western Europe (I sometimes work with Field Application Engineers in France, UK, and Italy), it would be very helpful.

My plan is to use this advice to create multiple sets of business cards and/or e-mail signatures if there is enough variance in cultural attitudes to justify it. Thank you!

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    The answers here are likely to be very opinion based, especially when "snooty" is one of your options. I would think that P.Eng and Ph.D would be sufficient. The Ph.D either includes, or supersedes the Masters degree, and nobody would doubt your commitment to your profession unless you demonstrate your lack of commitment, so the FIEEE is not really necessary. IMO. (Southwestern USA, fwiw) – Kent A. Aug 9 '15 at 17:06
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    Your business card is not your CV. If you feel like the only way you can be taken seriously is to beat people over the head with your qualifications, you're doing it wrong. – Eric Aug 9 '15 at 19:00
  • @Eric A business cad doesnt need to impress people but rather should be a small piece of paper which yields all information about a person. And if this guy is good at doing a specific or multiple thing (s) that it would be nice if other people would be able to see it because it adds value to the person and thus to the ability to connect to other people – BlueWizard Aug 9 '15 at 22:42
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    @JonasDralle Again, your business card is not your CV. It's a way for people to remember you after meeting you and contact you. If you couldn't make your qualifications known and yourself memorable when handing out the card, you're doing it wrong. – Eric Aug 10 '15 at 3:28
  • The commentary about needing to have a Masters in addition to the PhD to be taken seriously sounds very odd. – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 10 '15 at 5:41
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It seems your question can be answered with the old cliche "You can't make everyone happy".

That's something that's very important to consider with personal branding. Are some people going to think you're an academic intellectual elitist with your large degree listings? Sure maybe...

But at the same time aren't a lot of people going to find your degree set as something that designates you as a great contractor to give their engineering department (or whatever they need consulting on) the boost forward it really needs? Probably. I think you have two pretty good options here...

  1. You could experiment and collect metrics from your personal brand with different levels of degree suffixes, and see which one gains you the most customers and engagements with as much control of other variables as possible.

  2. (What I would do) Is you can kind of apply the "have your cake and eat it too" principle by drawing minimum attention to the degree principle, which seems to (in my opinion) say "Hey I got all these awesome degrees but I'm totally not snooty about it". That best way to do that is to either put a more subtle color contrast on the suffix and/or make them smaller.

For example:

enter image description here

Hopefully that helped and to harp on that main point, you really can't please everyone, just make sure you're pleasing the most amount of people possible.

  • You're very welcome – salad_bar_breath Aug 9 '15 at 19:35
  • Smaller - good Idea. That small - no. I think you worked hard for those titles and you have every right to show it to the world. This title is now legally part of your name and no one can blame you for using it like it. – BlueWizard Aug 9 '15 at 22:40
  • I threw that together in Paint.Net in less than sixty seconds, cut me some slack @JonasDralle lol. I agree it definitely shouldn't be that small but I was just trying to show the concept for content that you want to draw less attention to. I personally totally agree with you and I'm all about parading academic accomplishments (as you can see by my Dean's List awards flaunting on my LinkedIn). However, the intellectual elitist label is an existent one in our society, and I want to help him sell to as many clients as possible, including the ones tossing that label around... – salad_bar_breath Aug 9 '15 at 22:52
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    Ah ok. I think it could look pretty good when it's the same font size but has a dark gray as color (not black) with small line thickness. This would look modern and decent without disturbing the eye thru diffrent font sizes. But thats just an Idea – BlueWizard Aug 9 '15 at 22:56
  • That would be pretty cool, I think it could work with the same or almost the same font size but I still think it would look good super-scripted. I put the colors on there more to demonstrate contrast, because I have no clue what color theme he was planning to stick on his business cards. Maybe you should start something up in Graphic Design Stack Exchange on how to throw together some sick designs on name/suffix combinations. Send me the link when you do I want to see that. – salad_bar_breath Aug 9 '15 at 23:28
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Unfortunately this depends a bit on context, culture and the recipient. For a while I had actually two set of business cards, one with the PhD and one with PhD off. PhD is useful in Europe and when interacting with the press and public communication. PhD in day to day business in the US feels pretentious so it's better to leave it off.

Business cards are cheap, so there is no problem in carrying two sets.

I would leave the Master's off. The PhD already implies that you have a master (and a bachelor, and a high school degree etc.), so unless it's in a different field or major, it doesn't add any information.

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I'm assuming you are approaching this problem as an independent contractor trying to sell your services directly to potential customers.

You are not selling your credentials. You are selling services or solutions. If your competition with fewer credentials is offering better and cheaper solutions to your potential customers, you have a problem that your credentials alone will not solve. Your crendentials may make you a more trustworthy supplier to new customers, but after the first job, trustworthiness will be defined purely on how well you have already delivered. If you get word-of-mouth recommendations from customers, you can be assured it is not because you have 4 acronyms after your name but rather because you provided a great solution or service.

If you approach it from this angle, you will see that emphasizing your credentials is important, but it should not be the central focus of your message. You should mention your credentials clearly on your website in a section about your background. You should also place enough emphasis on your background and experience to be taken seriously in initial conversations. Your credentials are a small part of this. The main focus of your website and initial conversations, though, should be about how you will meet the potential customer's needs. You should focus on how great your solutions are, how you have provided similar solutions to other customers before, etc.

Once you have a great initial conversation and a great website to entice potential customers, then you should find that your e-mail signature and your business cards become more of a reminder to people of who you are and how to contact you rather than a sales vehicle in their own right. In this context, it should not be necessary to include your credentials everywhere.

If you simply can't resist putting credentials in your signature and on your business cards, try to limit yourself to one that best conveys how having that credential will ensure your solutions are top notch.