Keywords Critical for Your Career: Your Name

WorkCoachCafeA recent experience reminded me how important our names are as keywords for both our job searching and our careers. Working with a college professor recently, I needed to find her LinkedIn Profile to document her professional qualifications for a short bio.

I had difficulty finding her LinkedIn Profile using her name for my keyword search. (I could find her with her job title, though.)  That was a very unusual and frustrating experience for me. If I had been a recruiter or potential employer trying to track her down, I would probably have given up.

Once I found her Profile, I understood why it was hard to find. Although we had spoken on the phone and emailed for a few weeks, the name she used in her professional email was not the name used on her LinkedIn Profile.

Her use of this critical set of keywords — her name — was very inconsistent.

This woman is very accomplished and visible on the Internet. This is a fictitious example of her visibility, not using her real name:

  • Suzie Davis (LinkedIn profile)
  • Dr. Suzanne Davis (her faculty profile at the university where she works)
  • Dr. S. J. Davis (her profile in a national professional association for her field)
  • Suzanne Davis, PhD (her email signature)

All are legitimate versions of her name. However, without a fair amount of research, connecting those separate identities is not easy. But, if she were in a job search, connecting those identities should be easy so that employers could be sure they were evaluating and communicating with the “right” person!

Use ONE Version of Your Name for Your Professional Life

For your job search and career, the most significant set of keywords you have are the words in your name. When you apply for a job, most (more than 90%) of employers will Google your name to see what they can find.

They are not necessarily trying to find “bad stuff.” They are usually trying to confirm the contents of your application and the “facts” on your resume and gain a sense of your professionalism, communications style, and personality.

If they can’t find you when they search using the name on your resume or job application, they will assume you are either not “current” in your understanding of using the Internet for business. Or, you are hiding something. Neither assumption is helpful to your candidacy for their job opening.

Claim Your Professional Name on LinkedIn

Today, LinkedIn is the best place to establish your professional name. In any name search, LinkedIn is usually very near the top page of Google search results which means your Profile will probably be found even if 20 other people on LinkedIn have exactly the same name.

Since your LinkedIn Profile is visible to your family, friends, co-workers, and other business associates, most employers assume that what you publish on LinkedIn is the truth  because you wouldn’t lie publicly in front of those people. Being untruthful or exaggerating would be personally embarrassing to you.

Use Your Professional Name Consistently in Your Professional Activities

Then, use that version of your name for everything connected with your work:

  • Your website. Register your name as a domain name, if possible, like for our example. The cost is less than $20/year. It makes a memorable business email address, like
  • Your business email address. We all know to avoid, but few recognize how important it is to use your professional name for your professional email address.
  • Your email “signature” information at the bottom of every email (followed by your LinkedIn Profile’s URL).
  • Your business/networking cards that are exchanged at in-person events like sales, networking, and other business meetings.
  • Your name tag for professional in-person (and virtual) networking and business meetings
  • Your other online and off-line visibility.

Don’t forget to Google your name on a weekly or monthly basis to see what is associated with it. This is appropriately named Defensive Googling — you can’t fix a problem you don’t know you have.

More About Keywords

New Rules for Successful Job Search Today

Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough

Reputation Management (or Recovery)

To Be Hired, Be Reachable

To Be Hired, Be Referred


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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