Your name is one of the most important keyword phrases for your job search and your career.
Most employers Google the names on job applications and resumes, and if they find someone else they wouldn't consider hiring, your job search is in trouble.
Consequently, a new and very serious problem has developed: mistaken online identity.
Someone else's misbehavior or bad reputation may be ruining opportunities for you when an employer finds that person when they search online, and that person is someone they wouldn't want to hire.
The name you use professionally is just as important to you in many ways as a "screen name" is to an actor or actress.
A 2018 CareerBuilder survey * revealed that 22% of employers rejected job candidates if the candidate's screen name was unprofessional.
Your screen name identifies you to employers, recruiters, members of your network, and anyone else involved in your professional life, including clients, customers, and suppliers.
Your screen name needs to be:
If you aren't using the same name for all of your online professional activity, you are blurring your online reputation and weakening your online visibility and personal brand.
Research your name on Google, Bing, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Didn't find anyone else using your name? Lucky you! Claim your name on your LinkedIn Profile, including the customized LinkedIn URL for your Profile. You're done. Congratulations!
Most of us find other people who have the same or very similar names and are currently using those same/similar names online. If that's what you find, too, evaluate what you find to determine which version of your name is the best professional screen name for you.
Now you have a starting point for choosing your name.
This won't change the name your family and close friends call you. It won't change the name on your birth or marriage certificate or other legal documents. But it will change the name used for your professional presence online.
NOTE: This does not mean you will be changing your "legal name" -- only your public name.
Options to modify your name so it will be unique to you include:
CAUTION with additions to your name like Jr. or PMP:
Adding suffixes to your name can be problematic because the various systems which store names may not be able to save the suffix as a separate field. As a result, suffixes will occasionally (or often) be lost or ignored. They may even, in some relatively rare situations, replace your last name with the suffix, changing Ed Smith, Jr. to Ed Jr. OOPS!
LinkedIn doesn't have a suffix field but does encourage suffixes, certifications, and degrees to be added to the "Last Name" field of the Profile. With the current dominance of LinkedIn, adding the information to your LinkedIn Profile will probably be sufficient.
As much as possible, you need to differentiate yourself from others with similar names, but your family and friends don't need to change.
A Google search on almost anyone's name will turn up many results, but at the top of the first page of results is usually that name on LinkedIn. So, claim your name on your LinkedIn Profile by simply editing the name in your existing Profile.
If you can, grab the customized LinkedIn URL that contains that name.
LinkedIn allows you to specify a "Former" name, which is great if your last name has changed a few times.
That can be very helpful for people who knew you before your marriage.
That name is your professional identity. Use it consistently online and off-line in your:
Be sure that -- when an employer or recruiter does a search on the name on your resume, application, or networking/business card -- they find your professional image.
Once you have determined the best name to use for your professional life, protect that name. A 2018 CareerBuilder survey * of employers revealed that employers rejected job candidates for the following reasons:
So, if you absolutely must rant online (or even in email) about politics, religion, sports, or other controversial topic, use a different version of your name and a different email address.
Your professional/screen name is the foundation of your online reputation. Manage it carefully, knowing that it represents you to current and potential employers and others (clients/customers, network members, and people in your personal life).
Don't assume your work is over! Now, monitor your screen name using Google Alerts or monthly "defensive Googling" so you can adjust your name if necessary should it become damaged.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.