Some weeks ago, U.S. News & World Report columnist Liz Wolgemuth wrote about whether having an unusual name can affect your career prospects:
While a bizarre first name rarely says much about the individual who carries it—serving instead to lay the parents out like an open book—will Zuma, Apple, or Kyd have trouble being taken seriously in the working world?Liz cites blogs that raise the question, and asks, “Would you mind letting Sage Moonblood manage your money?” Her advice on the issue mirrors the Internet philosophy of being conservative with what you give and liberal in what you accept:
If you’re a parent, consider the professional ramifications of your child’s name. But if you’re an employer, focus on performance.
Commenter #2, a man who is himself named Sebastianalexander, says that an unusual name is, indeed a problem — and he speaks from personal experience. But he opened his comment with this:
While we all strive to be nonjudgemental and open minded, based on name alone would you hire Shaquinella Jackson or Jane Goldstein as your defense lawyer? It’s a silent decision we all make quite often and we do what we honestly know is best.
My response to that, which I gave in the comments there and have meant to blog about here since, is that I don’t judge people on their names alone. Sure, I’ll note an unusual name, a “strange” name, and will sometimes shake my head in wonder. But when it comes to choosing someone to hire or befriend, no, I won’t consider that as a factor. I mentioned that when I talked about what I look at in résumés.
I do wonder why parents give their children names that they’ll have to spend their lives repeating (“Sorry, I didn’t get that... what did you say your name was?”), spelling, and explaining. And, as Liz says, some names certainly appear to assume that their owners will go into entertainment, rather than, say, law or medicine. Still, as Liz’s commenter #1 points out, we may soon have a president called Barack. And if you’re looking in the phone book for a defense attorney, you’re more likely to see “Jackson and Goldstein, LLP”, and not see the given names at all.
But, here, let’s have a quiz. Suppose you were looking for that defense attorney, or someone to get financial advice from, or otherwise just someone to trust. Decide something from the names before you look at the links... and then think about whether anything changes afterward. Would you put your trust in Epatha, or Lynette?
You can’t judge people by their names.
You can’t make assumptions based on people's names.