Your name and photograph provide the bedrock foundation of your personal brand online (LinkedIn, social media, etc.). Because of this, as your personal and professional lives evolve, you might find yourself “rebranding” with a new name. When that happens, you need to know how to change your name on LinkedIn.
Why People Change Their Names
I got curious about the types of motivation people have for changing their names and found a load of answers via Google, including:
anonymity, assimilation, avoiding debt collectors, divorce,
avoiding embarrassment, financial gain, hiding from someone,
joining the Witness Protection Program, liking a particular name,
marriage, political statements, religious reasons, simplicity, spelling,
transgender identity, un-assimilation, whim, and more
As you can see, people have many compelling reasons to change their names and, in essence, rebrand themselves for the lives they want.
How to Change Your Name on LinkedIn
Thus, it makes sense to understand how to change your name on LinkedIn.
You have four options. Three of them pertain to LinkedIn’s name fields. The fourth concerns how you choose to display your last name on LinkedIn.
- Change either or both your first and last name using LinkedIn Help’s simple instructions.
- Further establish your brand by adding credentials to your last name.
- Add a maiden or former name.
- Abbreviate your last name to its initial (see below).
Abbreviating Your Last Name on LinkedIn
LinkedIn lets you hide your last name from people who aren’t your connections. However, your full name is always visible to your connections.
To do this:
- Click your mini “Me” photo on the top, horizontal rail of your profile.
- Click “Settings & Privacy.”
- Scroll down to “Who can see your last name” and click.
- Choose your name and your last initial.
That’s it, you’ve abbreviated your last name on LinkedIn to people other than your 1st-degree connections.
Why People Hide Their Last Names on LinkedIn
I write for active and passive job seekers. Thus, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would hide their last name on LinkedIn. To get more understanding, I reached out for help and got these reasons:
- Didn’t realize it was hidden (LinkedIn coach, Andy Foote).
- Protect privacy (resume writer, Annette Richmond).
- Avoid recruiters (legal recruiter, Wendy Schoen).
- Prevent discrimination (developer, Todd Lovett).
- Avoid connection requests (sales trainer, John Marrett).
- Avoid people who might be dangerous (coach, Lauchlan Mackinnon).
- Lack of confidence (LinkedIn trainer, Irving Frydman).
When we look at why people change their names and why they hide their last names on LinkedIn, we see overlaps. For many reasons, some people want to be present, but don’t want to be seen by people they don’t know.
Lisa Rangel, a resume writer observed, “Not everyone on LinkedIn is using it for exposure…Some people only connect with who they know well and use that philosophy very effectively.” And she’s right.
Does Hiding Your Last Name on LinkedIn Work?
However, that begs the question of whether or not hiding your last name helps you accomplish your goal.
Brian Stewart, an executive recruiter, noted that people can often find your last name from your profile URL. Your original LinkedIn URL contains your name. If you haven’t changed it, LinkedIn will do so when you go private with your name. However, if you have moved to a custom URL that contains your last name you’ll need to update it because LinkedIn won’t change it for you. Wendi Schoen also mentioned that any good recruiter can figure out who you are in seconds. That’s pretty much true.
Beyond that, hiding your last name puts people off. Several people mentioned they wouldn’t connect with anyone who hides their last name. So, if you invite someone to connect, be sure to add a brief note that includes your last name and your reason for the invitation.
Irving Frydman suggested getting comfortable with LinkedIn incrementally if the site makes you uneasy. First, hide your public profile page from Google and other search engines and limit the visibility of your contact information. Then open up as you get more familiar and feel more comfortable with the platform.
What’s in a Name?
As you can see, when it comes to LinkedIn, names are complicated. The conversations described above, which mostly took place in a LinkedIn thread (thanks to everyone who participated there and on Facebook!), gave me a richer understanding of what names mean and accomplish on LinkedIn. Use the platform in a manner that helps you achieve your goals.
If you’re a job seeker, that means establishing your personal brand, including your last name(s), unless you feel at risk by doing so.
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It’s a good idea to capture a copy of your existing profile before you make changes. Learn how and why here:
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Updated July 2020
© 2019 – 2020, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by 100+ business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse.
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