Is your name helping your professional chances of success?

On April 27th 2011, LinkedIn tried to answer that question by announcing some findings regarding first names and executive positions.

According to the official press release:

The top five names for male CEOs globally are:

  • Peter
  • Bob
  • Jack
  • Bruce
  • Fred

The top five names for female CEOs globally are:

  • Deborah
  • Sally
  • Debra
  • Cynthia
  • Carolyn

Based on this, it would seem that the guys prefer nicknames while the girls prefer given names, and LinkedIn’s blog post on the findings goes on to say that “Onomastics (name studies) specialist Dr. Frank Nuessel suggests that shortened versions of given names are often used to denote a sense of friendliness and openness. Female CEOs, on the other hand, use their full name to project a more professional image.”

Other highlights:

photo“In the U.S., there‚Äôs an interesting relationship between the amount of letters and top names for professionals in certain functional areas. Sales professionals tend to have short names, around four letters (like Chip, Todd and Trey), while engineers tend to have longer names, around six letters (like Rajesh, Jeremy and Andrew). U.S. professionals in the food and restaurant industry tend to have longer French names (like Thierry, Philippe and Laurent).”

What do these findings mean for you?

Not much, frankly.

If your name isn’t Peter or Sally, your chances of being a CEO aren’t any lower than before you read this article.

The names listed above may be “over-represented among CEOs” but LinkedIn doesn’t provide any numbers to back up these “insights”, and no one should make decisions based on numbers without knowing the context in which those numbers were measured. Who knows, maybe after “Deborah” and “Debra”, “Debbie” was 6th on the female CEO list, and that would seem to ruin Dr. Nuessel’s suggestion, unless there was a large discrepancy between the 5th and 6th positions.

Finally, these results are only based on LinkedIn profiles i.e., the lists above are for the top CEO names *on LinkedIn*. If you’re in the US where LinkedIn is very popular, these findings are more likely to represent reality than in a country where LinkedIn isn’t very popular at all.

There is one important takeaway lesson here

And that is:

Surprise, surprise- your name is important to your personal brand. Put differently, it’s important to have a personal brand name.

If your name isn’t helping you achieve your personal branding goals, consider changing it, either legally or by simply adopting a screen name. Perhaps male CEOs like short names because they’re easier to remember and it makes them seem more approachable, perhaps U.S. restaurateurs like French names so as to brand themselves with some of the allure of French cuisine.

What can’t you also benefit from the standards and stereotypes in your own industry?

If you’re like most people, your name is still the most unexploited tool in your personal branding toolbox. It’s up to you to recognize that, and start leveraging it asap.


Jacob Share, a job search expert, is the creator of JobMob, one of the biggest blogs in the world about finding jobs. Follow him on Twitter for job search tips and humor.