Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unique First Name Makes For Difficult Job Search

Dear Tazi:

I have a unique first name that is difficult for many people to pronounce correctly from looking at the spelling of it. All through high school teachers would not call on me for the first few weeks of class, until they learned how to properly pronounce my name. Men would always call me “baby” or “honey” – rarely by my given name – unless I demanded that they call me by my first name, which they would then garble. I thought I could live with this problem by educating others, but a new wrinkle has shown itself.

By the time this letter is printed, I will be a college graduate; seeking my very first professional job! Unlike my classmates, I have never had an internship; so I do not have any professional work experience beyond my work-study job. I thought this might be the reason I have been having trouble finding full-time employment, but I just discovered that several of the companies to which I applied have hired members of my graduating class; many of whom have less experience in the field than me!

I am starting to think that my unique name is holding me back in life, and am considering having it legally changed to something easier to pronounce – like Lisa or Jane – but I am not certain if this is the right step to take. I feel that changing my name would be a denial of who I am, and that the people who refuse to hire me because of it are practicing some form of discrimination. I would really like your advice on this matter, King Nebuchadnezzar! How do you feel about shortening such a regal sounding name to “Tazi”?


Dear Jhéojhañâ:

Just out of curiosity, how do you pronounce your first name? Is it JAY-ohzh-an-yah? Am I close? I ask because I am seeing the problem you have described.

Mispronouncing a person’s first name is one of the more discomforting parts of being a human, don’t you think? Many people would rather not risk it and will simply ignore the person with the unusual moniker until they feel comfortable that they are pronouncing it correctly. Some, as you have discovered, will refrain from offering a job interview to someone whose name they cannot pronounce. Although this practice may sound discriminatory, I believe the intent is to simply save the embarrassment of destroying a hard to pronounce name. A Hiring Manager is a person who represents their company to those they seek to hire. To be put off guard by a difficult to pronounce name shifts the power to the other person and changes the tone of the interview and job negotiations.

It seems that you are very attached to your unique identity, so I would not advise legally changing your name to suit the needs of others. Rather, I would suggest adopting a suitable nickname that is to your liking but easy for others to pronounce. This practice is not uncommon among Americans who live and work outside of their personal ethnic culture. Simply choose a name that you like and put it on your resume; but first be sure to inform your professors and others who would recommend you for a job that this is the name you will be going by as you apply for a job. You could also choose to write your new nickname in quotation marks between your first and last name – like King Nebuchadnezzar “Tazi” Kat – to inform hiring managers that you are amenable to something that is easier to pronounce. A third suggestion would be to simply use your first and middle initials in place of your first name (if you have no middle initial you can use “X”).

To answer your question about how I feel about shortening my regal sounding name to the more familiar “Tazi”, I have to say that I never really thought about it. I answer to both names, and people who know me will call me both names – as well as a variety of endearments that let me know that they love me, including the generic “sweetie”. So long as the name is spoken with respect and is followed by treats, snuggles, or playtime I am a happy kitty.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


  1. Might I recommend simply Jay for a nickname? I know a lot of women who use it (including an old friend of my family, Janice).

  2. I was so excited to see my letter in print! My name is pronounced yuh-HAYO-ZHAWYN-yaw, but your pronunciation was the closest anyone has ever come to getting it right on the first try.

    I like my name, so I will try to use my initials when I send out resumes. Thanks,

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