Your Name Is Part Of Your Brand

My daily commute is an hour to work and by default an hour home. During those two hours I’m often listening to news and conversation on the radio, and every so often it is punctuated with some music from some emerging artist across a wide spectrum of genre’s. I admit to having a reaction every time someone is introduced by some pseudonym.

It’s a good thing in my humble opinion that these names people give themselves don’t translate to the real world of interviewing and daily work life. Can you imagine being taken seriously as you wait in the hall with other applicants and an interviewer pops her head out the door and asks, “Fat boy? I’m looking for Fat boy?” Or how about working away on the plant floor when you hear a building-wide page that goes, “Wannabee Risen”, or “Ritalin”. That last one is the actual name of a man who reads his poetry once a week on the radio.

Now many people in the music industry have gone with name changes: Ringo Starr is Richard Starkey, Bob Dylan is Robert Allen Zimmerman and Sting is Steve Borden. Now if Sting decided that Steve was just too plain for the stage, why would Robert opt for plain old Bob? Individual choice. Some of us go by our middle names, some by our first names, some by initials or a combination of the bunch. Some of us use nicknames too; just look at all the, “Junior’s”, “Chucky’s”, and “Bubba’s” out there.

And when you get married, in many cultures one of the two people may decide to take the name of the other, most often in North America and other locales where the woman takes the surname of the man she marries. Of course a trend in the last couple of decades or so has been to hyphenate the two last names for some women, which begs the question of what to do if and when a woman should marry two or three men over her lifetime. “Hello I’m Janice Smith-Davidson-Thompson.” You’ll need a bigger business card or smaller font!

Your name is your brand. Some women opt to retain their maiden name because they have established professional contacts, their name is the name of their business when self-employed, or their partner’s last name doesn’t flow well with their first name. Just imagine if a woman named Kelly White married Franklin Kelly. Is she to be Kelly Kelly? It might sound more like a stuttering problem.

Of course in our modern societies, we should also recognize that this practice of taking on a partner’s name no longer only applies to the female sex. Gay and lesbian marriages do exist quite legally in some jurisdictions, and in those situations, one of the two partners may change their name to take on that of their partner.

In deciding what to do in the case of your surname when you enter into a relationship, the choice is very much a personal one. For that reason, the subject isn’t one where I personally prescribe any standard advice because it does depend on so many factors as outlined above. However, consider that whatever name you opt for, it does not necessarily mean you are subservient to your partner, but perhaps a sign of your traditional values or your signal to your partner that you are giving yourself over to them. Hopefully you and your partner give yourselves over to each other on a daily basis and the relationship thrives.

Of course if things don’t work out, there is the issue of retaining an ex-spouses name, or reverting back to your maiden name or birth name. Will this confuse your clients, or is this your way of announcing you are unattached again without having to discuss the breakup with every person you talk to?

When applying for jobs, it is still a safe bet to give your first and last name on an application or resume. It’s not advisable to hand in a resume with names like, “James D.” or “R.I. Patterson” although a middle initial, as in the case of “Craig. A. Fairbanks” is very formal but acceptable. Consider how you want to be identified and called. There are exceptions to every suggestion and I recognize that, but if you walk in with a resume you’ve previously submitted as, “Craig A. Fairbanks”, and you say, “but you can call me “Slim Pickens”, your chances of making a strong positive first impression just might be.

Employer’s again and again say they want to see the genuine candidate emerge in an interview. For that reason, they ask probing questions that get at your attitude, your behaviour, your past experience and they are trying to visualize you as part of their workforce. They want to see the real you in other words. For this reason above all others, sticking with your given name limiting yourself to commonly accepted variations only, as in the case of “William” to “Bill”, or “Elizabeth” to “Beth” or “Liz” is good advice indeed.


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