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VOL. 129 | NO. 12 | Friday, January 17, 2014

What’s in a Name?


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The name we go by with our friends and family can be a very personal thing.

In a professional environment, I go by Angela Copeland. At home, I go by Angie, Angie Dawn, Sister and Aunt Angie. So often, our name reflects our role or status, whether its doctor or dad. We have an emotional tie to the names we choose to go by. It’s such a strong tie that, in fact, it can often cause internal conflict when we attempt to adjust it. Our name is our identity and part of our personal brand.

But more importantly, when we’re looking for a job, it’s how an employer knows who we are and how to find us. When they meet you, an employer connects the name you introduce yourself as to your face, your resume, your business card and your email address.

When one or more of those things doesn’t match, the employer can become confused and it can be harder to contact you.

For example, many people are known by their middle name, or a nickname. Some job seekers also have two last names – a maiden name and a married name. Other people go by their first name, but use their first and middle names on job-related materials. You can see where the confusion may start to set in. If you go by one name, but your resume, email address or business card reflects another, a potential future employer may not be able to figure out who you are. Or, when they are ready to email you an interview request, they may have a tough time finding your email address.

You only need one employer to hire you. What if this hiring manager is the one who doesn’t want to take five minutes to piece together your four names, which ones you go by and which ones you’re using in your resume, email address, and business card? Do you want to lose a job over this confusion?

I can empathize at how sensitive a topic this can be. My middle name is Dawn, so early in my career, my resume either said “Angela Dawn Copeland” or “Angela D. Copeland.” When it was suggested that I remove Dawn from my professional materials, I felt sad and disappointed. I felt like I wasn’t being genuine in some way. But after some thought, I decided that it was better to create a consistent brand for employers than to hang onto my middle name. Keep in mind I’ve legally kept my middle name. It just doesn’t appear on my resume, business card, or email address anymore.

If you’re one of those people who fits into these categories, I encourage you to think seriously about how you present yourself. It’s OK to go by your middle name or a nickname, and it’s OK to have two last names. But use consistency. If you go by your middle name or a nickname, use it and drop your first name. If you have two last names you like to go by, use them – everywhere. Don’t pick and choose which one you will use for your email, which one you’ll use for your resume, and which one you’ll use for your business cards.

Believe me, in the long run, you will save yourself questions and time. When you do find the job for you, you will be glad you chose a consistent personal brand, and that your future boss was able to email you that great job offer.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com. You can follow on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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