While once an automatically-assumed course of action after a woman ties the knot, adopting your married last name professionally doesn’t necessarily come with the territory anymore. Plenty of working women instead choose to keep their maiden names for career purposes, and many others have no problem bringing their new surnames into the office. But what if you’re not sure which direction makes the most sense for you? A Fairygodboss reader recently posted this question on our Discussion Board:
“I'm at a relatively-senior level in my career, and I'm getting married. I'd like to change my name...but I'm concerned about how it could affect my "brand." First of all, people inside my company and out already know me by my maiden name. But also, will it affect my career prospects and make it seem like I am too focused on marriage?”
Figuring out how to balance your personal and work lives poses a challenge to everyone, regardless of marital status. But because this particular matter arises frequently, we decided to consult expert sources and gather input from our awesome Fairygodboss commenters. Here’s the top crowdsourced advice on post-marriage name changes in the workplace.
1. Your professional identity is important...but changing your name after getting married is, above all else, a personal decision.
Concerns about personal branding and workplace perception are absolutely valid, but it’s important to remember who has the final say over your name-related choices: you and you alone. Our commenters agree, with one stating: “[I think that] your decision is a matter of personal preference rather than anything people will judge you for (i.e. I don't think it will impact your career prospects).”
Stacey Lastoe, Senior Editor of The Muse, wrote about her experiences taking her husband’s name both personally and professionally after her marriage, and she recalled some judgmental reactions from friends and co-workers. However, she felt confident in her decision, and her determination to stand behind her choice kept her workplace reputation in excellent standing. “It’s an overused phrase but quite fitting here: You do you. Whether you dislike the sound of your new name or you’re staunchly against a woman taking her husband’s name, it’s up to you what you do. To hell what anyone else thinks, says, or believes,” Lastoe wrote.
2. Name changes don’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor.
IIf you want to take on a new married name in your private life but also like the consistency of preserving your maiden name, you don’t need to think of the situation in binary terms. Hyphenating the two surnames or repurposing your pre-marriage last name as a middle moniker can be solid compromises. A Fairygodboss commenter used the latter tactic in her own work life and liked the result: “One way you could keep your brand and identity (remaining searchable on search engines for connections, etc.) is to drop your middle name and officially have your maiden name be your middle name. It's not a hyphenated last name, but it's a more subtle way to keep your maiden name. I did this 10 years ago, as my mom did 30 years prior, and am very happy with the decision.”
3. If you decide to change your surname professionally, understand that bringing people up to speed is a gradual process.
As with other career-related changes (like promotions and title adjustments), you’ll want to take the initiative on spreading the word about your new surname. No big announcement needs to be made, but small shifts like updating your email signature go a long way toward getting your colleagues and clients accustomed to your new manner of address. Lastoe broke it all down in her Muse story: “First off, you’ve got to let HR know so they can help you set the record straight with your insurance, 401K, and everywhere else your name appears within the company. Then you’ve got to think about your online branding. As a writer, I spent exactly one agonizing afternoon reaching out to all the editors I’ve ever worked with (at least those who I could remember working with) asking them to make the change on my digital publications.”
The name change process can feel overwhelming, but Lastoe assured her readers that the effort comes with valuable benefits. “To my surprise, all [of my name-change issues] were amendable. I was amazed and delighted as this was the part that I’d been most concerned about when I decided to go 100% ‘Stacey Lastoe’. I felt motivated enough to get a new personal site up and running to help cement my new last name professionally,” she explained.