Some people upon arriving in Canada wonder if they should change their name to sound more “Canadian.” Common reasons people give are 1) a concern that their name sounds too “ethinc,” and they worry people will discriminate against them, 2) concern that people will have a hard time pronouncing it. Specifically, I have had clients wonder if they should pick a more “Canadian sounding” name for their resume and correspondence. Is this necessary?
The answer is no, It’s not, but even in Canada some people will choose a different first name for people to address them by. This is usually because their first name is long (John, v.s Johnathon) or because the simply don’t like the name they were given. For example, I have a friend whose first name is Agnes, but she prefers to go by “Sue.”
However, most people in Canada are used to “ethnic” sounding names because Canada is a nation with a long history of immigration. Canada is also a meritocracy where people’s ethnic background is largely considered irrelevant to whether they can competently perform a job. The majority of Canadians however, do not care what your name sounds like when it comes to hiring you for a job.
My advice is to use the name you are most comfortable with but above all else, be consistent. This means whatever name you choose, use it all the time and on everything involving your job search and work (including all marketing material) such as:
- Cover Letters
- Email address
- Personal websites, or blogs.
If for instance you use your full name on your resume, use it on your cover letter as well. If you shorten it on your cover letter, shorten it on your Resume. Remember, BE CONSISTENT.
Name formatting and naming conventions in Canada.
In Canada, people’s first name or “given name” comes first, and the family name or “last name” comes second. For example, it would be ‘Jane Smith,’ not ‘Smith Jane.’ In many cultures it is the opposite. If this is the case with your name, I highly recommend changing the order to match the Canadian style, otherwise people will call you by your last name.
Try and get an address that reflects the name you choose to use on the rest of your marketing materials. If your name is John Doe, try and find an address like email@example.com or the closest thing to it.
Official documents (Transcripts, Passports, government Identification):
You can change your first name for work purposes but I would not advise changing any of your official documents. I would also not advise changing your last name because it is how people will verify that your transcripts, or Identification, etc really does belong to you, even if the first name is different. If people ask you why your first name is different, just explain you were more comfortable with a shorter, or Canadian sounding name.
Use whatever name you are most comfortable with, but whatever do, use it consistently (all the time, and on everything).