Is it time to come back to the grid?
July 8, 2011 9:51 AM   Subscribe

This is a little complicated, but it is about identity and employment.

My real life name is "Mary Smith." But for the past two and a half years, my online name has been "Jane Doe." All social applications, forums, Amazon, Paypal, Google... everything online bears the name "Jane Doe." I have a pre-paid credit card with the name "Jane Doe" to make purchases online. My P.O. Box is under both names with the blessing of the postmaster. I paid several companies to take the name "Mary Smith" off of their online lists. If anyone googles "Mary Smith" they will not find me -- I have checked several times, and not just Google but several other "who/where" databases as well.

There is a very good reason why I have gone through so much trouble to keep my real name offline. I do not wish for a certain dangerous someone to find me.

This is my question: I have been basically off the grid for a while now and I will be looking for work soon. Now that I have all but erased my online presence, is this going to be a problem? I will need to email prospect employers because I do not plan to stay in this state and many of the positions I am looking for have online applications. And they may wonder why they are receiving emails from "Jane Doe" and not "Mary Smith." I would prefer it if I did not have put my name back on the internet again because I don't think that dangerous someone has stopped looking for me. Any suggestions?

Anonymous because I obviously do not wish to put my name(s) online in relation to this question.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can see it maybe being a bit of an issue. Why not get another email address using just your first name and a random number, such as There's no law that says you have to use your full name, and lots of people have fairly common first and last names and therefore have no choice but to do something like I've suggested. Just don't call yourself, or something equally unprofessional.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:01 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is creating a job application email address with your real name as the sender an option?
posted by Zophi at 10:01 AM on July 8, 2011

Perhaps more directly, though, given how far you've gone with Jane Doe, have you thought about just changing your name permanently to Jane Doe?

She'd have to officially register her new name (and I think in some states would have to print a notice in the paper), which would make it trivial for a motivated person to find out that Mary Smith is now Jane Doe. My guess is that if the OP has already gone to the lengths she has in using Jane Doe, she's already considered this.

Unless your real name is extremely uncommon, I would do what MexicanYenta suggests. Either firstname### or lastname###, whichever you think would be less searchable.
posted by phunniemee at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2011

i agree, just create an inconspicuous email address, it can forward to your personal account, but at least you'll have some level of anonymity.
posted by fozzie33 at 10:05 AM on July 8, 2011

You may want to speak to a lawyer, but it seems to me that it would absolutely be reasonable to apply for a new jobs as Jane Doe, from Jane Doe's email account, but mention as quick aside in your cover letter that your previous name was Mary Smith (as one might do when their current married name is new), lest they hit any obstacles when doing background checks etc., and to lay the groundwork for when it comes time to fill out your I-9.

Also, I wouldn't close the door on the option of changing our name legally before investigating the procedures in your state, and what privacy controls are available for you to put in place should you choose to do so. A local battered women's shelter, for example, is likely to have good resources to support you on this.

Best of luck.
posted by mauvest at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think it will look odd that you don't have an online presence. If prospective employers google you and find nothing bad, they'll almost certainly be pleased rather than puzzled. This is especially true if your prospective employer is old enough to have started in your industry prior to the widespread use of the Internet. But either way, I don't think there's any reason to compromise your safety. I don't have much online presence at all and have been hired by younger and older hiring managers.

I do think, however, that you should take MexicanYenta's suggestion of creating a new email address in order to avoid confusion with prospective employers. This may be a naive question, but if you're comfortable filling out online applications as Mary Smith, what would be the danger in having a generic-sounding email account with just your first or last name that you only use for job applications?
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2011

Like mauvest says, I'd apply under the new name. Lots of women get married, change their names and subsequently apply for jobs, so employers must be used to dealing with it.
posted by emilyw at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't think twice if a prospective employee had an email address that was not related to her name, eg
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2011

I think using the new name to apply for the job is a terrible idea. For one thing, you'll be exposing your online identity to not just your employers but anyone - including the person you're avoiding - who can make a connection between your old and new identities.

Secondly, you have no driver's license or social security card in that name. You can't fill out an I-9 in that name. And eventually you're going to be asked "um, why are you using a fake name?"

Make a not-your-whole-real-name email (like others have said, just make it professional-ish; even Mary92111 is better than hotsexxxxxxxxy42, which is similar to emails I have seen on people's actual resumes), use your name or something approaching it in your application process. Consider changing your name eventually, but maybe not to Jane Doe.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:27 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd apply under the new name. Lots of women get married, change their names and subsequently apply for jobs, so employers must be used to dealing with it.

This is sort-of incorrect. Unless you legally changed your name and have the documents to prove it, you are, as far as the government is concerned, Mary Smith and may only be employed as Mary Smith until you legally become Jane Doe.

You can't fill out an I-9 in that name.

Basically, this. If you want to be legally employed, the name on the I-9 and the documents you present for the I-9 (and, to a lesser extent, the W-4 and, lesser still, internal paperwork) need to be your government name.

Of course you can go through the hoops and only tell them what's up when it is time to fill out the I-9 and W-4 (after you get hired) and hope they understand why you want to go as Jane Doe, as you have technically misrepresented yourself and this would be cause for alarm as to why none of your ID names match the name you gave them.
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

(When women who got married apply to jobs, at least at the place where I did I-9 work, and the ID name didn't match the name they wanted to use, they were required to provide marriage/change of name licenses.)
posted by griphus at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2011

If you are still worried about creating an email add like "" then go for something like ""
posted by WizKid at 11:45 AM on July 8, 2011

What's your profession? Set up an account as or ParaLegalPlus@yahoo.
posted by theora55 at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older Vistaprint for over-sized postcards? Yay or nay?   |   Aside from Hershey... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.