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September 4, 2008 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to toss my current last name and take a different one, for non-marriage-related reasons. For what/how long do I need to tell people my "maiden" name so that they realize that I existed before recently?

I'm currently FirstName MiddleName Parent1Surname. Given that I've been estranged from Parent 1 and their family for most of my life, I've considered changing my name to FirstName MiddleName Parent2Surname. I'd rather not change my name to FirstName MiddleName Parent1Surname (as a second middle name) Parent2Surname — I don't want any association whatsoever with Parent 1 or their family. Also, all 4 names together are well over 30 characters.

Other than submitting all the necessary legal/financial/academic documentation, I'm not sure how to handle the logistics of entirely discarding one's surname. I'm still in university, but I've have a reasonable amount of work history (as well as employment-relevant Google results) under my current last name. At what point do I mention my previous name to prospective employers? Are there any other circumstances where I'll have to let people know about my previous name? Is this situation potentially complicated enough to warrant me keeping my current surname and adding the new one as a hyphenate?

If it matters, I'm in Ontario, Canada.
posted by thisjax to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Under the general law of most or all US states, you can use any name you like, at any time, as long as it's not for purposes of fraud.

Many application forms, etc., and government forms, will ask you for previous names.

You'll get the legal approval from the government, and then one-by-one inform everyone of the new name and ask them to change their records.

At what point do I mention my previous name to prospective employers? Are there any other circumstances where I'll have to let people know about my previous name?

I would note the name change on my resume and freely let employers etc. know about it by adding it to their forms. there's no downside. there's no need to explain it either.

Is this situation potentially complicated enough to warrant me keeping my current surname and adding the new one as a hyphenate?

As you pointed out yourself, this comes up in the marital context, and not so complicated as to force anyone to keep an unwanted name.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:37 AM on September 4, 2008


Often when you apply for jobs, potential employers will ask if you have ever been known by a different name, and if so, what that name is. Name changes are a pretty common occurrence, so you shoudn't worry about it as long as you are forthcoming with your former name.
You may want to include on your resume that you were formerly called FirstName Parent1Surname, as well.
posted by Jemstar at 6:38 AM on September 4, 2008


As far as I can tell, the key once your name is officially changed is to always put that name out first. When you do run into issues, you explain the name change. Most forms (tax, voter registration, etc.) have a "previous names" section.

On a resume, I'd mention the former name to aid their research, but that's pretty much the only exception.
posted by explosion at 6:41 AM on September 4, 2008


I have a friend who did that for the exact same reason. He did it after graduating college (or possibly right before so his diploma and educational stuff was in the new name), before entering his professional work arena. As far as I know, he had no trouble whatsoever. I think it made it more meaningful to him to do it then as well- shedding the craziness of childhood and beginning adulthood proudly.

My advice would be to not worry too much about it. I doubt you'll have to do too much of that once the project of name changing is done. I'd change it, tell your school to update your records with the correct name, so that when people check with them using your new name, you will come up with no issues.

If any former employers are relevant enough that prospective new employers would check references, it might be easier to call those employers' HR departments and tell them you changed your name and would they please update your records so that your history will come up when people call them. Easier than putting a disclaimer into your resume and confusing the issue.
posted by gjc at 6:46 AM on September 4, 2008


gjc: I'm timing my name change with the same things your friend had in mind. And yes, the work history involved includes career-relevant internships, so references will definitely be checked.

Also, where would I put a name disclaimer on a resume? At the top, with the rest of my contact info? I can understand doing that on my CV because of the exhaustive amount of information that tends to be on those, but on a standard business resume it seems almost excessively conspicuous.
posted by thisjax at 7:04 AM on September 4, 2008


Someone I worked for did something similar, I think, right about the time he started his summer internship here. Everyone seemed cool with it, except me, but that was only because of a couple of tiny mistakes he made handling it --

1. He played around with how to render his name a LOT for the first couple weeks, right when he was signing up for all the differnet mail accounts, etc. He started going by Firstname Maternalsurname-Paternalsurname, hyphenated like that. But then he dropped the hyphen. Then he switched to Firstname Middlename Maternalsurname.

So the tech support thought he was Firstname Paternalsurname, thinking that Maternalsurname was actually a middle name. So his email was firstname.paternalsurname at big-co.com. People who tried emailing him at firstname.maternalsurname couldn't reach him.

Our mailroom thought he was Firstname Surname-hypen-surname. So anything addressed to firstname maternalsurname never got to him.

Payroll thought he was Firstname Middlename Maternalsurname. So that's how they wrote the checks.

It took a solid MONTH for everyone to sort out what this guy's email address actually was, what name should be on his checks, and what mail should be delivered to him. All because he hadn't picked a name form and stuck to it.

2. To make matters worse, he seemed to just kind of "forget" whenever he ran into trouble like this. He'd call the travel office and confirm that they had a reservation for firstname maternalsurname, and then panic when they said they didn't and get me involved. And so I'd end up in a conference call with him and the travel agents, trying to sort this out, and then finally I'd innocently ask, "wait, you're looking under firstname Maternalsurname? Can you look under firstname PATERNALsurname?" And travel would find his reservation within two seconds. I never understood why he didn't think that "hey, right, I changed my name, maybe I made the reservation when I was going by THIS name, maybe they could check that."


So -- to avoid this kind of mess, just remember to 1. Pick one form and stick to it, and 2. don't forget to check the old name at first just in case people got the message late.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on September 4, 2008


I think you're on the right track in comparing this to getting married (or divorced!). A quick Google search in those terms yields the excellent advice of putting your name on your résumé as "FirstName MiddleName (Parent1Surname) Parent2Surname" or, alternatively, putting your new name in regular-sized font and then "formerly [new name]" underneath it in smaller type.
posted by teremala at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2008


(er, formerly old name.)
posted by teremala at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2008


gjc has it -- just tell former employers that your name has changed if any prospective employers call and this will avoid the awkwardness on your resume. What you're doing is not all that different from changing your maiden name to your married name and people do that all the time, so I'm sure prospective employers have dealt with this same issue before.
posted by pised at 7:22 AM on September 4, 2008


Set up your old e-mail address to forward to your new e-mail address- people will get the picture if they keep writing "Sally Smith" and "Sally Jones" responds.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:31 AM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, where would I put a name disclaimer on a resume? At the top, with the rest of my contact info?

If it was your maiden name that's where you would typically list it; you could word it "Previous name: asdf dsfargeg" if you want to be brief about it.

If you didn't want to put it there, you could mark your employment history section with "job foo, while known as asdf dsfargeg"
posted by Mike1024 at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2008


I changed my middle name when I was 21 and got married and changed my last name when I was 22. I now use Middlename MarriedLastname for everything but when I sign my credit card slips.

I disagree with gtc about asking your old work places to change their records. It won't be a priority for them, so it is likely not to get done. Plus it would be easier to tell one reference checker that you had a different name at Jobs x, y, and z, then to tell x, y, and z that you changed your name. Few companies check references before talking to a candidate, so that is something you can mention in an interview. Plus if you provide your references when requested, you could simply add your old name to the sheet.

The biggest holdouts for me was my family. I didn't go back to my maiden name when I divorced, but most of my birthday cards are addressed to Firstname Maidenname. I am pretty sure my dad doesn't know my full legal name even though it has been the same for seven years.
posted by Monday at 7:21 PM on September 4, 2008


I changed my last name for similar reasons without going through the courts or anything complicated, and the only places where anyone was a stickler about it was the airlines (frequent flier programs only, apparently terrified that I might snag someone else's 2138 miles) . No one else really cared. No one else required proof or anything. It was a snap all around.

I began by changing my name on the following records: driver's license, social security administration (taxes, employment), passport, college transcripts. Once these were done, everything else was treated as if I'd just changed my address, and you know how easy that is.
posted by Capri at 11:04 PM on September 4, 2008


This is based solely on my personal experience of being someone who spent their days staring at resumes and applications and checking references.

You don't really need to put your former name on your resume but you should put it at the top of your separate references sheet (because you don't have that on your resume riiiight?). You will most likely be asked to fill out an application that will absolutely include a space for you to fill in any former names. Any prospective employer is going to talk to you before they call about any references and verifications so you will have a time to tell them about your name change.

If possible, change you name before you graduate, universities and colleges can be annoying to check on degrees and having that name match your current name is very helpful.

I cannot stress enough how important Empress's advice is, my job was also to process name changes for current employees and changing it more than once puts you on my least favorite list. Pick one and stick with it.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:15 AM on September 5, 2008


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