Tag Archives: Personal branding

What’s in a name? More than you think!

I found myself sitting in a group recently and the conversation turned to the challenge of names!  It transpired that all present had some issue with their names and much to my surprise  over 50% of the individuals around the table had changed theirs legally. This is much more common than I ever imagined with 58000 people in the U.K. changing their names in 2011 alone and not limited to celebs such as John Wayne and  model Elle Macpherson wanting to lose their less glamorous monikers!


In my group the reasons given were:

  • Marriage  – assuming new husband’s name. I was quite surprised that the young women in the group had either changed their names to assume their husband’s name or intended to do so.
  • Divorce  – dumping the ex – husband’s name. I was equally surprised by the women who hadn’t changed their names post divorce, even in the most acrimonious circumstances. Others had reverted to their maiden names (which is their father’s name quite often). Declaring your marital/ relationship status is no longer necessary in most countries  but it might be advisable to check your employee handbook to establish what the requirements are for your company  for communicating this transition.
  • Merging names: Many couples are double barreling names after marriage as a compromise.
  • Never liked assigned name   – the majority of changes were because they simply never liked their names and wanted something completely different,  a name of their own choice which they felt was more in line with their own personalities. Not just their first names, but family name as well!   I actually only connected with my own name relatively recently! Here, there will be legal guidelines to follow and informing any necessary contacts. Make sure that you have a document  (Joe Brown formerly known as Peter Jones for example)  to support this change. It will be especially necessary for academic certificates and references from previous employers, credit checks, bank accounts etc.  Apparently leaving the office on Friday as Melanie Dobson and returning on Monday as Zoë  Maitland was relatively seamless,  producing only minimal difficulties. One woman reported testing a number of different names with friends and colleagues before finally selecting her first choice!
  • Name difficult to pronounce – my son tired of people mis- spelling and mis-pronnouncing his Welsh surname and anglicised it.
  • Discrimination – sadly, some people in the conversation had changed their names fo fit into the culture of the country they had chosen to live in.  They felt particularly in job search this had increased their chances of being called for interview.
  • Name too common:  One group member had tired of being one of the millions of John Smith’s globally and never being able to claim a domain  name or unique email address!  He just wanted to stand out!
  • First and last names : One woman had no problem with her names but commented that her boss introduced all the men on the team by their first and last names, but her only by her first. Should she be put out? Yes possibly! She isn’t Beyoncé.   It just seems more professional and perhaps this more familiar, slightly indulgent approach  suggests a more service role  (maids, waitresses  are frequently referred to by their first names only.) Definitely ask why there is a different approach based on gender.

So, how do you feel about your name?

Job seekers: the new breed of entrepreneur?

I was chatting to a girlfriend  recently who wanted to talk about her career options. She didn’t know really what she wanted to do – but she did have strong ideas about what she didn’t want to do – “nothing entrepreneurial   ” she  told me emphatically.     The sub text was that  this was a bit risky, possibly   slightly pushy  ( all that  ghastly selling  ) and maybe even  vaguely tacky,  just  too reminiscent of Alan Sugar and the Apprentice for comfort.  She just wanted to find a normal job.

But what is a normal job and can it be found normally?

I think she’s due for a wake up call.

The internet has revolutionised our lives in so many ways especially the way and speed in which we do things and exchange information. The recruitment process, as with many other sectors has been dramatically impacted and is constantly evolving in response to technological advancement.  These developments have coincided with a  dramatic worldwide recession and a huge decrease in the number of jobs available. Job loss outstripped job creation 3:1 in the first quarter of 2009 in Europe.  Globally unemployment figures are now tipping over the 9% mark, so that  in some countries and sectors almost 1 in 10 people are now unemployed. The number of jobs posted on line in the US dropped by 13%, 2008 on 2009, where there are now 3.3 candidates for every position.

The goal posts are moving
HR Managers claim that thousands of applicants per vacancy is commonplace. 80% of recruiters use on-line media and search engines to identify and source candidates for the hidden job market and only 20% of jobs are advertised in a traditional way.   Entry level candidates compete even for unpaidemployment .   

“For every 1,470 resumes, there ’s 1 job offer made and accepted” – Richard Bolles, bestselling author, What Color is Your Parachute?

Phrases such as  personal branding,  career management,   raised visibility and google ranking  have slipped imperceptibly into the career coaching lexicon.  The goal posts are moving faster than you can say Beckham or Ronaldo. Today’s “normal ” may have reached its  shelf life before the Q4 results are released.

The days when we could join a company and stay with it ” man and boy”   ( or to be politically inclusive “woman and girl”)  as the saying goes,  are  long gone.  As are the days of guaranteed employment until retirement in any job. Will retirement  even exist as a concept  for future generations? The truth is we don’t  know.  What we do know is that there are no guarantees. 

We are also learning that we have to do things differently and if we don’t we’ll get left behind.

Doing things differently
So as I coach people in  enhancing their competitive edge by recognising their added value and looking for metrics to demonstrate that, identifying their USPs,  creating a personal brand, increasing their visibility via different media to just the optimum level   (not over doing it to become a nuisance factor), protecting their on-line image , topped off by the perfectly pitched elevator sound bite,  for casual  and appropriate introduction  on all occasions and functions,  it strikes me that this is actually probably no different to a company running its operations and  launching a product on the market.   

Does this mean that we all now have to become mini entrepreneurs in our job ( opportunity)  seeking efforts and that managing a career is now like managing a business ? 

Both require  creative thinking,  identifying  target markets,  an effective product launch, closing the deal , client relationship management,  long term planning and maintenance, underpinned by sound  on – going investment. 

So yes …I guess it does.