Are you a Kate or a Katie?

Here’s a thought provoking question from Tim Tyrell-Smith at Career Hub.

Are you a Kate or a Katie?

[W]e don’t name ourselves.  Our parents do.  And that name is usually chosen for you well in advance of your birth.  But, as with all kids, your unique personality defines your working name throughout your life.  

True enough, but many of us use different forms of our names depending on the context. As Tim (not Timothy) asks:

If you are a Katie, why do you use Katherine on your resume?

At networking events, do you let the Katie out or do you wear a Katherine mask because that’s what people expect to see at these functions?

If you are a Katie and you interview with a Michael (the hiring manager), should you become more Katherine-like to match his style?  What if he was really a Mike (or even a Mikey to his pals) and was just stuck in that “professional interviewer” mindset?

But don’t a lot of people do that? I know I do. What’s on my business card and my conference name badge isn’t what most people actually call me, either socially or at work. The only people who use my full name are my mother and my wife when she’s annoyed with me.

Do people take you less seriously if you use a shortened form of your name? Or does it depend on the sort of job you do and the image people expect?

Some serious public figures use shortened forms of their names. Sometimes it is a deliberate strategy.

Would Anthony Blair ever have become leader of the Labour Party? Calling himself Tony enabled him to seem sightly less posh in what is still, at least in name, the working-class party.

For the Conservatives, David seems to work better than Dave Cameron.

So what does your name, and how and when you shorten it, say about you?

Anyway, the title of this post gives me an excuse to post what would otherwise be a totally gratuitous picture of my favourite newsreader, Kate Silverton, who is most definitely a Kate, not a Katie or a Kathryn.


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7 Responses to Are you a Kate or a Katie?

  1. jonathan says:

    Very interesting post.

    My wife has a friend who is called Carol but insists on being called Karole (with a hard K)

    Why are all australian cricketers called Robbie, Shane, Brad, Bruce or Ricky then?

    (I am an Emily Maitliss fan myself but I couldn’t imagine her being called anything else…)

  2. Rick says:

    Thanks Jonny!

  3. Marie Adams says:

    Great post. I also disagree with Tim at Career Hub – especially his idea that using a different form of your name is like hiding behind a mask. Whatever the reason, many people switch between their full and shortened first names in certain situations.

    I think it’s completely appropriate for someone to go by “Chris” with friends and “Christopher” at work. Whether people take him more seriously or not, it’s his personal preference, not a mask he’s hiding behind.

  4. jonty says:

    Its Jonty – actually!

  5. Rick says:

    Ah, so like Jonny only posher? 😉

  6. For really famous people like Blair and Cameron there is a tendency for the most euphonious variant of the person’s name to become the accepted usage, at least in public. Firstly, because the more often the name has to be spoken the more tiresome it becomes to use any version that doesn’t roll smoothly off the tongue. Secondly, because TV and radio reporters usually have a very short time in which to deliver their reports so they have to use the version of each person’s name that can be spoken most quickly.

    Thus, “Tony Blair” is better than “Anthony Blair” because the transition from “Ant” to “tho” creates a slight pause at the start of the name. It’s harder for journalists to pronounce with the dynamic, emphatic tone they use when they want to sound like they’re talking about Really Important Things. Equally, “Dave Cameron” requires a clear pause between the first and last names to avoid running them together into one word, which isn’t a problem with “David Cameron”.

  7. Hi Rick – I really enjoyed your take on my guest post on Career Hub. I’ve found it is a really interesting question for many people.

    I also appreciate those who disagree. I will say to Marie that my issue re: people wearing a mask has to do with people who fake their way into a job or situation that does not take advantage of their true self. While they got the job, are they happy? Situationally, I agree with Marie about using different versions of your name. Her example seems fitting.

    I also like Andrew’s example of Tony Blair. Interesting to imagine Anthony Blair on the job!

    Thanks to all for your comments!

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