passport1In the new world of work where it is necessary to be networking online and face-to-face, your name is of course your key identifier.

Personal branding is crucial in this new workspace; your LinkedIn profile belongs to you and you alone.

But what if you change your name? When women get married, more often than not they adopt their husband’s surname – consigning their old identity into oblivion.

As some of you may know because I have connected with you recently, I have been on a mission to track down my interim contacts in mainly the HR and marketing functions. I have managed to find virtually all my male contacts with no problem at all, female contacts – that is a different story.

I know some may have come out of the workplace for a career break, some could have retired from business, but the rest – I cannot track them down because their names have changed …If they worked for a company with an unusual name then I can find them, but if it was an organisation like BT – they have gone forever.

So what happens when a contact asks me to recommend a Non-Exec Director, Interim HRD or Interim CMO? I have a wealth of good contacts of course, but there are occasions when my ideal candidate has simply gone off the radar.

It’s an age-old problem – and I’m not convinced any of us have found a workable solution. And as a strong advocate of empowering women (and men) to achieve their absolute professional best during their career, it’s an issue that I’d love to resolve.

Here’s the rub: you get married, so, what do you do? Let all your professional contacts know? (It’s not really their business is it?), say nothing, and quietly change your name (losing your identity literally overnight), or attempt to use both names with a rather cumbersome double-barrelled name that works well for some, but for others is a bit of a tongue twisting nightmare!

There is a serious point to this – which is, if we female professionals can’t be found, how do we know what opportunities we may be missing out on simply because we’re untraceable?

A colleague of mine recently won a lucrative contract from someone who tracked her down 20 years after they first worked together. She hadn’t changed her name. Had she done so, she’s almost certain that opportunity, and the potential for future opportunities would have passed her by.

I have the same conundrum myself, should I be Sarah Taylor for the sake of maintaining the professional single persona I’ve worked on for 19 years? Or change to Sarah Phillips (Sarah who you ask?) to move with the times and use my married name? But what of the credibility I’ve built up over those years – Sarah Taylor is my brand, I’ve worked hard to build a solid, reliable and professional reputation, I don’t want to give it all up and sacrifice the potential it holds.

In Gloucestershire, I am Sarah Phillips, and no one knows who Sarah Taylor is! Confused? You will be!

Perhaps I should be Sarah Taylor-Phillips, or Sarah Phillips-Taylor? What do you think? It may create a stronger brand around me, easier to track down in the future but it still means I have to make that change.

Men of course don’t have this dilemma – there will be exceptions of course; I have a colleague whose husband has in fact adopted her surname after their marriage – but I believe that is a rare exception.

It’s another example of how we women in business must strive that little bit harder to achieve the dizzy heights of professional attainment, which befits our level of intelligence, knowledge and experience.

Interestingly, my friends who are doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons all keep their maiden names in work because that is the way it has always been.

Will things change? Probably not. Maybe LinkedIn could be adapted to allow search results for both single and married names – now there’s an idea!

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject and if anyone has a clever solution, please share it; I think we’d all be pleased to hear it.

Signed Mrs Hislastname or Mrs Herlastname – I just can’t decide!