Ever heard of onomastics? Nor had I until I started reading various articles about the link between names and career success and in some cases, even career choice. I’m sure many of us, when coming across people with unusual (or downright ridiculous) names – my neighbour has a stack of women’s magazines where those bestowed with unconventional names seem to prevail –  have wondered what it is like to go through life bearing such a name. And can your name have an effect on your future career prospects?

Onomastics is the study of names and recently LinkedIn staff took time out to explore the correlations between professionals’ names and their careers as listed on the site. They discovered that there is a definite trend for male CEOs across the globe to have short, or shortened versions of popular names  –  Peter, Bob, Bruce and Fred are frequently found to be the top dogs. For men this apparently portrays friendliness yet for women the reverse is true; they tend to use their longer name to be seen as more professional.  So if you are a Debbie now, you may want to be a Deborah on your CV. And the top name for a CEO in New Zealand? Mike. 

There is some suggestion that having an unusual or a ‘made-up’ name may be detrimental to your career prospects in terms of being taken seriously but I believe that most employers would rate personality and performance over a name. In a blog by Amanda Bryan, Gordon Spence, a psychologist specialising in organisational wellbeing and performance at the University of Wollongong says:  

Whether you are blessed or cursed in the naming stakes, any stereotypes are usually wiped out once you meet a person for the first time. Being prompt or late, well dressed or scruffy, organised or scattered will have a much greater impact than your name.

Check out the full LinkedIn survey.

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