There are few descriptions of a career more sterile than a resume.
Resumes are text. Resumes are written and rewritten. Resumes exist for one purpose only: to help get that next job. They do little to capture the character of a position as it was being held. Yet for many, they’re the only document that bolts one job onto the next in the construction of a working life.
There is another kind of document that can both trace a career path, and help recall feelings a position evoked. It is the business card.
Cleaning out my desk recently, I came across a stash of those paper rectangles going back decades. It was an eye- and emotion- opener: of the thrill in seeing a name above a title and company for the first time; of being a part of a team made official in cardboard; and of having a business identity to freely share with others.
In my teens, I and my friend Mike Merenbach decided to publish a couple of amateur science-fiction newsletters (known as fanzines). Syntactics was a quarterly fiction and commentary fanzine; Sirius XIV was a bi-weekly science fiction news and review zine. Since both were sold by subscription and at a very few stores in Santa Barbara, of course I needed a business card. Why I didn’t put a phone number on it is beyond me.
Around the same time I did some freelance writing for a monthly tabloid-size paper called Santa Barbara Life. I must have convinced them to give me some cards. Note the lack of an area code.
My first paying radio DJ gig was at KIST-AM Santa Barbara in 1976. I’d moved up from typing my name on the cards to using a rubber stamp. (I was a mere part-timer at the Top 40 station.) Personally, I loved the intricate KIST logo.
In 1979, the chance to go to a station with a “W” up front (really) took me to WNFL Green Bay, where I headed up a five-person news and sports staff — and was the youngest. Yes, this adult contemporary outlet was the Packers originating station.
I left Green Bay for Tacoma and KTNT-AM in 1980 to work again with Denny Luell, my program director at KUHL Santa Maria, as a news anchor-reporter. This news/talk station on the edge of the Seattle market was a step up. The cards, however, were a step backward.
In 1981, I went to my first major market station: country-formatted KMPS AM-FM Seattle. I did mid-day news anchoring twice an hour. The rest of the hour, owing to my appreciation of what was still called “country-western” music, I turned the monitor speakers to zero.
Only a little more than a year later, I joined a startup that was to become Seattle’s first all-news station: KING-AM. We hit the air in fall 1982, switching from a soft-rock format to what was briefly identified as NewsKING 1090. I spent my last full-time years in broadcasting there, moving from news reporter to anchor-reporter to health/science reporter and doing occasional work for sister station KING-TV through 1987.
In all these years, there was no such thing as an e-mail address on a business card. That was about to change.
(This essay originally appeared on Frank Catalano’s FrankCatalano.com blog.)