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CV advice: How changing your name on your CV can boost career success

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Kayleigh Dray
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Making just two tiny tweaks to your CV could have a huge impact on your career…

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually: your moniker can determine whether or not you are a descendant of the Vikings, indicate whether or not will be impulse buyers, and (apparently) even determine our future happiness.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that it can also affect our career chances.

There are plenty of studies which determine how employable our names really are but, being as we’re pretty attached to our moniker by this point in our lives, reading these reports isn’t all that helpful.

However there are ways we can adapt the name we already have to get ahead in our chosen career path. In fact, according to the experts, all it takes is an edit or two on our CVs and LinkedIn profiles...

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1) Use your middle initial

First things first, we all need to take a leaf out of JK Rowling’s book and start using our middle initial when we’re applying for jobs.

According to research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, using a middle initial can genuinely help to boost our chances of career success.

The study, conducted by social psychologists Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg and Eric R. Igou, asked participants to judge strangers they had never met in person.

They found that those with middle initials (to use the researchers’ example, ‘David F. Clark’) were perceived as smarter, more eloquent, and more qualified than those without (‘David Clark’).

Not only that, but they found that using more than one initial (think ‘David F.P.R. Clark’) was more likely to receive glowing reviews.

Is JK Rowling's enormous success due, in part, to her middle initial?

CV advice: Is JK Rowling’s enormous success due, in part, to her middle initial?

Explaining why this was the case, Tilburg and Igou revealed that “middle name initials often appear in formal contexts, especially when people refer to intellectual achievements,” so our brains tend to associate them with accomplishment and success. 

It’s certainly worth a try, although experts advise that – if you are going to use your middle initial – you do so everywhere. Think business cards, email signatures, CVs, LinkedIn profiles, and the like.

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2) Use your full name – not an abbreviation

Andy Sachs did her best to forge a career as a fashion writer in The Devil Wears Prada, but she’d have been far better off if she went by her full name of Andrea Sachs.

A recent study by LinkedIn has found that, while men tend to secure the top jobs if they go by a nickname (hey there, Phil and Bob), it’s a very different story for women.

In fact, the most common names of female CEOs include Deborah, Cynthia and Carolyn – without a shortened name in sight.

So why the gender divide?

Speaking to LinkedIn about their findings, onomastics specialist Dr. Frank Nuessel suggested that men use shortened versions of their names to denote a sense of friendliness and openness.

Female CEOs, on the other hand, use their full name to “project a more professional image”.

Using your full name could help to secure you a senior role at work

CV advice: Using your full name could help to secure you a senior role at work

So there you have it: two tiny tweaks to your name could have a huge impact on your career.

Excuse us a moment, we just need to give our CVs a quick edit…

This article was originally published in June 2017.

Images: Getty/Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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