Recently at a business gathering, a newly arrived immigrant asked me if she should change her Chinese name to increase her chances of finding employment. She noticed that many people in North America have problems remembering not only her name, but to make matters worse is that they cannot even pronounce it.
Apparently a lot of new immigrants who come from non-English speaking countries ponder this question as to whether to change their first name or to at least to modify it. Changing one’s name is a personal choice; however, it could increase the chances of one finding employment.
Various studies have been conducted in Canada and the US with similar results. An applicant with an English sounding name has a greater chance of getting an interview than ethnic sounding name such as Indian, Spanish or Chinese. Changing one’s name is probably much more applicable to new comers who have little or no North American work experience.
Certain names with lots of vowels are much more difficult for westerns to pronounce than names with constants. For example Indian names such as Balbinder or Sharma are a little easier than Chinese names like Wai. Nonetheless majority of the ethnic names sound foreign to many native born North Americans despite the presence of large multicultural population.
In the 80’s when I got into the radio business I also had to change my radio name to “Tony”. At that time many listeners expressed their views to the management that name like “Gobinder” did not sound appropriate, and furthermore did not represent the radio station in a professional manner. Thank God such hardcore views are no longer present.
I can recall as a child in the 1970’s when large number of immigrants came from India, they quickly changed their names not only to fit in, but also to increase their chances of finding employment. For example, a name such as Jasbinder was shortened to Jas, which was not only easier to pronounce, but at the same time did not seem to be too foreign.
Changing one’s name is a personal matter. The bottom line is that if modifying a name can get you in the job market then there is nothing wrong with it. At a later stage when one is well established then they can change back to the real name as I have done. Good Luck.