Can Your Name Impact Your Career Choice?

Nearly three years ago I wrote a post I called, Franzese or Frazetta: DoNames Really Matter? It was inspired by my friend Michael Franzese telling me his favorite artist was Frank Frazetta. I had a good chuckle about that because I know names can significantly impact how much we like someone, where we live, and even the career we choose.

In the study of persuasion we say this is part of the liking principle because we look more favorably on things we have in common with others. There’s also another name for this, Nominative Determinism, which is a “term for the theory that a person’s name can have a significant role in determining key aspects of job, profession or even character.”

If you pick up a copy of a book coauthored by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., Yes!50 Scientifically Prove Ways to Be Persuasive, and flip to chapter 30 you can read more about this interesting phenomenon and some of the background on the studies for yourself.

Here’s the gist; statistically Dennis is more likely to become a dentist than Jerry or Walter. Lawrence also has a higher probability of being a lawyer than Bob or Tom. This also extends to places we choose to live and people we tend to associate with.

When it comes to names and careers it’s not that everyone named Dennis will become a dentist anymore than all people named Lawrence will become lawyers but statistically they have a much higher likelihood of choosing those careers than people with names wholly unrelated to those professions.

Why am I revisiting this topic? First for fun. I think this is interesting and people I speak with find it interesting too. They usually smile and laugh when I share more about it. I hope you do the same as you read more.

The second reason is because of something that caught my attention on the news. There was a story about a doctor named Lawrence Bone. That in and of itself is no big deal but he just so happens to be an orthopedic surgeon – a bone doctor – in Buffalo, N.Y.! I had to chuckle as I listened to the story.

Many years ago when Jane and I were looking for new countertops, I found it funny, and more than coincidental, that our salesman’s name was Dan Mason. How interesting that Dan Mason worked as a salesman for a company that sold marble countertops!

I got a real chuckle on this one. Some good friends let us know their daughter got a swimming scholarship to college and shared an article in the local paper. I clicked on the link they sent so we could read more and started to laugh when I saw her high school swim coach’s last name – Peterfish. Wow, a guy with “fish” in his name decided to coach swimming.

A friend at State Auto, Steve Ruble, works in our accounting department. In case you don’t know it, a ruble is a unit of Russian currency. I don’t know about you but I find it interesting that a guy with a last name having to do with money works with money.

Don’t you find it amazing that Marcus Webb was the director of The Amazing Spiderman? Get it – spider web.

Now long ago people’s names were associated with their livelihood. So last names like Farmer, Mason, Smith (for blacksmith), Woods, Hunter, etc., were common names for the people who worked in those trades. Those names have endured but in this world of so many choices it’s seldom that people have stayed in the family business.

I encourage you to pay attention to people’s names when you meet them because I’m sure you’ll spot these “coincidences” more than you might have imaged you would. If you come across some good ones please let me know. And last but not least, have fun with it.

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