What name to use?

Spending a lot of time obsessing about how one’s name looks and what name to use is usually limited to people about to be married and teen-agers. Since I’m already married and my daughter is closer to being a teenager than I am, thinking about how my name looks is a bit discombobulating. Recently I’ve been sending out resumes and applying for jobs so I’ve been looking at my name more than usual. For the longest time I’ve used “Thomas J. Mitchell” as the name at the top of the page but I go by “Thom Mitchell” for just about everything except legal forms, not “Tom Mitchell” or “Tommy Mitchell” or even the full monty “Thomas James Mitchell”. 

When I bought my domain name 10 years ago, I naturally chose www.ThomMitchell.com but on my resume and business cards  I still used Thomas J Mitchell. It was only during business school that my classmates at Babson pointed that my name on my resume and the name I use were different.  So when I updated my business cards, I ordered them with my name spelled the way I use it and dropped the middle initial. It was a very liberating experience if a bit odd to see how my name had shrunk.

The name Thomas is an old one with variations in many languages. When I was learning Portuguese my teacher called me Tomaz and when I was working in Latino communities I went by Tomas but most people in America abbreviate the name Thomas by spelling it Tom, even though it can be abbreviated Thos or Thom as well.  I ended up selecting Thom as my preferred abbreviation for Thomas in kindergarten. Not sure how or why I knew that was how it was spelled, but since my name was Thomas it seemed natural to my 5-year-old brain to spell it without the ‘as’ on the end. I even used a dictionary to prove my point to my teacher – needless to say I was a precocious kid. And it just stuck. Lately this particular variation  has become more common driven by the popularity of performers like Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Thom Filicia of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame. 

How a name is spelled and which version of the name you use means a lot more than it used to because of search engines like Google. If you have a common name it can be difficult to stand and conversely if you have a unique name it can be hard to blend in with the other search results. If you are trying to increase the ranking of your name search results then you need to be consistent in the use of your name with all of your online profiles:  Facebook, Linkedin, domain name, Twitter and Amazon profile all using the same name and thereby reinforcing your results. Of course it’s even more important that what you have in those places are things you are comfortable allowing the world to see.

Perhaps the balance and the formality of using my full name kept it atop my resume for so long but since I’ve been sending out more resumes – all of them electronic – It just seemed time to use my name on my resume the way I actually use it.  Should I use “Thom Mitchell” or ” Thomas J. Mitchell” or “Thomas Mitchell” or “Tom Mitchell” ? Does it even matter? What do you think and why? -t

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  1. #1 by Sara Lee Cely on 2009/11/17 - 11:59

    I think you should use Thom for all of it. It is concise and the spelling separates you from other Tom’s for sure. Love that “slice of life” from you. I think you should stick with it- you knew it at 5!!

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