What’s In A Name?


A joke name tag that uses a line from the Seinfeld episode, "The Outing". It was created using Gimp and for the purpose of this post.
A joke name tag that uses a line from the Seinfeld episode, “The Outing”. It was created using Gimp and for the purpose of this post.

Let me share something personal with you. It’s not something I usually do except with family and my closest friends and certainly not in a blog, but it helps set up the theme of today’s post.

When I was but a lad, I was picked on a lot because of my last name. For those of you who are under the age of 25, having been born in today’s open society where the LGBT lifestyle is (mostly) accepted, it might not seem like a big deal. For those of you who were born earlier, perhaps being as old as I am, you likely grew up in a time where homosexuality and other forms of sexual lifestyles were certified as psychological deviations. In those aforementioned times, having a last name Gay was quite a big freaking deal, so I got beat up and bullied a lot by just about everyone in school, including nearly all of my gym teachers and one female math teacher who shall remain nameless.

Not only was that part of my life extremely trying, the label I received was also extremely inaccurate. I am not gay, yet this controversial definition associated with my last name follows me to this age of the Internet where people can be looked up on Google or FaceBook. Here’s an experiment I want you to try:

  • Start up your favourite browser and go into Google. Turn on the SafeSearch filter to filter out any family unfriendly content.
  • Enter David Alan Gay without quotes in the search field and click the search icon (as of this writing a magnifying glass). Take note of the results (and yes, as you can see, I am quite prolific on the Internet. It’s all part of my job-search to get my name and my story out that I am looking for work). Take a screen shot of the results and paste it into any application like Paint or Word.
  • Turn off the SafeSearch filter and repeat the search. Take a second screen shot and compare it with the first screen shot.

See what I mean? In some cases you might even see some sexually explicit ads appear alongside the results. This is what a potential employer might see when he or she is doing a background check on me before considering me for an interview. While some may be able to filter out the explicit material and focus objectively on the task at hand, it’s not wrong for me to state some people with very conservative (perhaps to the point of bigoted) values might rule against me as a candidate.

I’m not implying the reason why I can’t get a job is because I’m being unfairly singled out due to my last name. What I am trying to demonstrate is how your name may be unfairly working against you if you are a job seeker, without one second of consideration being given for your amazing employment history, academic achievements, and volunteer work.

There are many interesting online articles about this subject that prompted the writing of the post, particularly on Freakonomics, The Global And Mail, NBC, and Workopolis. the last one of which I commented on. I know one bar owner named Paul who changed his very long Greek last name to something easier to remember because he was sick of being treated like an ethnic when he first came to Canada. A few Asian friends prefer to be called by their “English” name because their original name implies something not in the way they would like (Hung being one of them).

Let’s cut to the quick: you can’t choose the family you are born in, or even what part of the world where you are born. That’s something whatever power based on your faith has a say in, and is beyond the scope of this blog. This also goes for your first name. Your parents might name you after someone they knew, loved and admired or (as was the case with my parents) for no particular reason at all except to give you a human identifier.

What your name will ultimately stand for, on the other hand, is based on the choices you made in the past, are making right now, and will make in the future. How you interact with other people through those choices and during your travels in life will add meaning to your name.

The mere notion suggested by these so-called job search experts and career coaches that your name must be changed or at least presented differently in order to help you find a job is laughable, and distracts from the real reason job seekers like myself struggle to find steady work. Our economy is anaemic and we are in a jobless recovery. Companies are cutting back on hiring, since human resources is now regarded as a consumable expense that needs to be closely watched and trimmed where needed.

Names are just words, and since it’s been said that actions speak louder than words, perhaps it’s time we need to look past what people are called and instead focus on what they can do when given the chance to prove themselves.

Thanks for reading!

David

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