I'm using "Jane Smith" as a placeholder for my birth/given name, and "Alice Jones" as a placeholder for my chosen name, and "Ally" as a short form of "Alice", though those aren't my real names.

I am changing my name to "Alice Jones" for various reasons that I consider very personal, such as not wanting to bear my abusive parents' surname "Smith", and strongly disliking the meaning of my given name "Jane" for spiritual/personal reasons. I don't want to disclose these reasons to employers - the last thing I need when applying for a job is to talk about childhood trauma.

I'm currently studying at university. I go by "Alice Jones" all of the time with my friends and with other students. My professors call me "Ally Smith" because they're much more used to the idea that someone could have a nickname / preferred name than a preferred surname. All of my achievements, such as GCSE and A level certificates, as well as stuff like my bank account, is under the name "Jane Smith". So I'm currently using "Jane Smith" on my CV.

I want to switch to using "Alice Jones" on my CV as soon as I can, because it makes me feel much more comfortable. In addition, all of my friends call me Alice and sometimes I slip up and refer to myself as "Alice" in a situation where I'm supposed to be "Jane" - eg. I'll wear my "Alice" namebadge, or I'll mention that a friend said "Hi Ally" when telling a story. When someone says "Jane", it sometimes takes me a couple of seconds to realise they are talking to me.

However, right now I don't feel like I can - for one thing, all of my references know me as Jane, for another all my certificates are under 'Jane Smith', and for another I will have to provide my birth name for bank details / tax forms and I do not really want to go through explaining to my employer that I'm changing my name to "Alice Jones" from "Jane Smith" for super personal reasons.

I'm planning to get a legal name change, but probably not until after I am financially independent from my parents (which will be when I leave uni at the latest) since they'll be furious if they hear that I've changed my name.

My question (which is similar to others I've seen asked but subtly different) is: WHEN should I make the changes?

Should I make the de facto name change ASAP, or should I wait to put 'Alice Jones' on my CV until after I've legally changed my name to 'Alice Jones'?

Should I get my name changed before I leave university, so that my degree certificate shows the new name, or should I not get it changed until after I've started at my first job, so that I'll be able to get employment using all of the certificates/references that know me as Jane Smith, and then I can look for second/third jobs knowing I have the reference from the first job that knows me as Alice Jones?

Should I change in between uni and employment, so that it's not awkward (I don't have to tell everyone to change the name they address me by), or should I change it whilst in either uni or employment so that I don't have to be stuck in a name-changey looking-for-job no-references-with-proper-name limbo?

Should I start using my new name for my online presence now, even when I'm not using it on my CV, so that I can build up an online presence in preparation for the name change, or should I always be using the same name for my CV and my website and similar things?

If I put "Ally Smith" on my CV until I can properly change my name to "Alice Jones", will people think that is weird and unprofessional? (My real name is much more unusual than Alice, and the short form is much weirder and more informal than Ally.)

Would you find it awkward or suspicious if you interviewed a candidate who put "Jane Smith" on their resume and introduced themselves as Jane, but then after you hired them, they said that they actually wanted to go by Alice? More or less awkward/suspicious who said that their former references would know them by a different name or that their uni certificates were under a different name?

I already know that I am, eventually, going to make Alice Jones my legal name - it's just a question of what the timeline should look like, which really confuses me.

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    @Pᴇᴛᴇ "GCSE" and "A-level" is a pretty good indicator of UK as well. Mar 7, 2017 at 8:47
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    As you are in the UK go to the citizens advice. They are free and can give excellent advice
    – Ed Heal
    Mar 7, 2017 at 12:07
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    Can we hold off on the judgement around why the OP feels necessary to change her name, and her relationship with her parents? She doesn't need to give the minutiae of 'why' (It doesn't really affect the question/answers): let's just say it's "personal reasons" and move on. Mar 7, 2017 at 12:31
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    Since you're still at university, you may also be able to get good advice within the university itself too — my college had a position called an "academic advisor", who would offer confidential sessions to give advice on things like changing your subjects. This type of question would fit in with their remit too. In my case, the advisor was a professor who used to head a prominent department, so his opinion carried a lot of weight in the uni and he had a lot of experience around how the place worked, so it's worth checking out. Mar 7, 2017 at 12:41
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    "all of my references know me as Jane" - if/when you change your name, you should probably inform them if you still want to use them as references, especially if what you put on the CV will be unexpected to them.
    – Brandin
    Mar 7, 2017 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


I'd say "As soon as you feel comfortable to". You say you can't change this now, but there's nothing to stop you from doing some research up front so you know what you can and can't do easily.

A lot of people change their names for a variety of reasons (my mother changed back to her maiden name simply because she wanted to). Of course, changing gender or choosing a different gender identifier isn't a rare thing these days.

So, companies and other regulationary bodies have processes in place to allow people to change their names. I imagine that you can change the name on your degree and have that printed if you offer proof of your name change.

You're probably aware there's a ton of places where your name is registered and used, but you could start your research with the agency you're going to use to make the actual name change - they're bound to have resources to facilitate your change. You may need to purchase some time with a professional to advise you to a more precise level.

And I offer you the best of luck in your new future.

  • Just from a quick Google, it seems that (some?) universities won't change a degree parchment once it has been awarded, except in the case of gender reassignment, e.g. Sheffield's page here. Mar 7, 2017 at 12:36

The hardest part about making a name change is the transition, so smooth that out and you'll simplify your job search.

A resume under the name "Alice (Jane) Smith" connects the dots for interviewers when references talk about "Jane" while putting your preferred name -- what they should call you -- first. Since you don't yet have records under the name Jones, you don't have to tackle that yet. The key is to tell the interviewers what to call you (and hiring managers what to put on the offer letter) while still enabling them to match up your references and transcripts. This approach does that. Later, when you change your last name, you can ask them to update their records to "Jones".

The name on your bank account shouldn't matter; it's not part of the hiring process. Once you're employed, you'll probably want to have your salary deposited directly, and at that point you'll hand over a bank account number. That'll be with the Payroll department, not your manager, and they probably don't even care what name is on the account -- it's your responsibility to get it right, not theirs to check, they'll figure.

If there is a formal application document that asks for your legal name, supply your legal name -- that's not the place for nicknames or future intentions. In some places that name will need to match the name on state-issued ID that you present later (passport, visa, etc). If an interviewer, hiring manager, or HR person should happen to see that application form before seeing your resume or meeting you, you can easily correct matters in the first conversation with something like "actually, I go by Alice".

I've seen a lot of resumes that take this approach (usually they're anglicizing foreign names), and I've never seen it cause a problem. Coworkers can interact with Alice while the paperwork says Jane.

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