rose.jpgDoes a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

As a career columnist I’m asked a lot of questions, but this one I just received ranks up there with the most difficult to answer:

If you have the time, I would be ecstatic and honored to hear your opinion on whether you think that changing my name would be advantageous toward my career.

The writer, Sunni, asked for my “brutal honesty.”

This is one of those issues that is near and dear to my heart. With a name like Evanthia Tahmincioglu, the issue of my name and how it impacts my career has come up more than once. I’ve also written about how the what’s-in-a-name issue has plagued my family.

Some of my family members changed their names, and I chose to use “Eve” but keep Tahmincioglu ages ago. Did it help or hinder me? It’s hard to say. But once someone gets to know me they rarely forget my last name. And there aren’t a lot of Eves out there, so it does make me stand out.

I’m not saying Sunni should follow my example because I don’t like to tell people what to do. Ultimately, Sunni has to figure out what’s right for her, but there is some evidence that your name can impact your work life.

Sunni is 22 and wants to pursue a career in public service after school but wonders if her name will hinder her.

I am a college senior named “Sunie” on my birth certificate. Pronounced “Sunny,” I have always spelled it as “Sunni” since it was so often mispronounced as “Soon-y” beginning in preschool.

While I have been able to maintain an “A” grade point average in high school and in college and don’t feel that my name has negatively impacted job success thus far, I do fear that it will cause negative first impressions as I seek future employment in public service.

First, there is the fear that in our post-9/11 world, the “Sunni” spelling causes negative associative images with the Islam faith (it is a travesty that the xenophobia rampant in this time shall continue to so deplete a beautiful religion, but this appears to be the reality for now).

Secondly, I aspire toward a career in policy analysis at the federal level and, despite my small glimpses, simply cannot imagine a “Sunny” being taken seriously in a political context. It seems to me to connote images of a hippy cocktail waitress, beach babe, or even low-end stripper, which belies my reserved, serious, and intellectual work ethic and character. (It has been joked that I am even more of a “Cloudy” or “Stormy” than a “Sunny”).

Personally I like the sound of Sunny, and I have no problem with Sunni.

But I thought she might benefit from all your thoughts on this topic.

So, I’ve decided to do a first-ever, should-I-change-my-name poll. To the right of this page you will see Sunni’s question. You can help her by voting right now. Also, you can suggest a name for Sunni in the comments if you’re so inclined.

In addition to the poll, I also asked an expert in civil servant careers what she thought Sunni and people like her should do when applying for a government gig.

Kathryn Troutman, author of “Ten Steps to a Federal Job”, said:

We work with many clients whose names are foreign and they simply apply for federal jobs. They state in the USAJOBS questionnaire that they are a US Citizen. It is a global world now and the government has many people working in permanent federal civil service jobs with names that are not typically America. She should proceed with her name, and write a GREAT federal resume that focuses on relevant skills, accomplishments and KSAs (knowledge, skills, ability).

(Also, here’s a link to a column I wrote on landing a federal job that included advice from Troutman.)

It’s all about how you feel about yourself and your name. Come on, who the hell would have ever predicted a Barack Obama would be president.

Would he have been as successful if his name were Bob Smith?

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