My name is unusual in the US, and the associated hassle is inconvenient. Should I use a nickname, change my name or keep it as-is? If I keep it, what strategies can I use to wear it better?
Both my first and last name are rare in the US but common where my ancestors came from in Europe, and my last name contains a sound combination that trips up most English speakers (e.g. Gerad Rzucidlo or Andries Xerogeanes). My family has been in the US for generations, and I am an urban professional, male and in my late 20s, without an extensive publication record or professional network.
When I introduce myself, people usually look confused or mishear my first name as a similar-sounding but more common name. They sometimes think my first name is my last name, ask about the origins of my name or assume I'm a recent immigrant. This hassle annoys me. Plus, my career path has been mediocre, and I've read studies suggesting an unusual name hurts hiring prospects, with the strength of that effect ranging from minimal in some studies to significant in others.
So what can I do to make meeting new people easy and advance in my career? Use a nickname (Jerry for Gerad or Andy for Andries), even if a nickname ending in "ee" sounds childish to me? Change just my first name or both my first and last name, despite the hassle of a name change? Use my full original name and treat it as a conversation starter that makes me memorable? If I do that, should I include a pronounciation guide -- Rzucidlo (roo-ZID-lo) or Xerogeanes (zer-ROY-ans) -- on my resumes, business cards, and emails?
I don't particularly like or dislike my name, other than disliking the hassle of introductions and the potential harm to my career. Neither my middle name nor my first two initials are good replacements for my first name.
Here's the research I've come across:
Can your name keep you from getting hired?
The "name game": affective and hiring reactions to first names
"Russian and African-American names were intermediate in terms of uniqueness, likeability and being hired, significantly different from Common and Unique [names thought by the researchers to be fictitious and/or unheard of in mainstream American culture] names, but not significantly different from each other."
Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Six Thousand Résumés
In Canada, "a distinct foreign-sounding name may be a significant disadvantage on the job market even if you are a second- or third-generation citizen,"
The Psychology of Names: An Empirical Reexamination
"In Study 1, first names that are used more often today than in the past (young-generation names) were preferred to first names that have never been used often (not-common names), which in turn were liked more than first names that were used more often in the past than they are today (old-generation names). In Study 2, these names were evaluated in the context of résumés and personal ads. Old-generation names received the least favorable reactions, but inconsistencies were obtained between the other two classifications of names."
First Names and First Impressions: A Fragile Relationship.
"...the results argue against too much emphasis on the possible deleterious effects of a particular first name..."
What's in a Name? A Multiracial Investigation of the Role of Occupational Stereotypes in Selection Decisions
"Asian American individuals were evaluated highly for high-status jobs, regardless of their résumé quality. White and Hispanic applicants both benefited from a high-quality résumé, but Black applicants were evaluated negatively, even with strong credentials."
Stereotyping of Names and Popularity in Grade-School Children
"Good" names are correlated with popularity.