Is it worth switching a clever email address you really like to something more professional to appease potential employers?
Back in high school, I created a clever email address that I've since used for everything that requires a username. Some of my friends have even used it as a nickname for me. I'm really attached to it and identify with it, but now that I'm starting to apply for more professional jobs, I'm worried that my email address will be a turnoff. Is it worth switching everything over to appease some imaginary future employer?
Email Address Attachment
Back when people started getting AOL email accounts, everyone loved thinking of a clever address. For some reason, people believed that using your actual name was a security hazard or some such thing. Now it's pretty much the expectation that you have some variation of [email protected] If you have an especially common name, you have a dispensation to add a middle initial or a number. Clever names out, actual names in.
Fortunately, we live in an era of gmail and email forwarding, so you're not trapped in an either/or situation. I can currently send email messages from four different addresses just by logging into one account. People ask me which address to use, but the truth is that it just doesn't matter because anytime you try to reach me, your message goes to the same place. Keep your quirky personal email and create a new gmail account for yourself of the firstname.lastname variety. Use this one for job applications, on your resume or when you write to someone to explore a networking opportunity. A good rule to follow: If it would be weird for the person on the receiving end of the message to call you by your email-inspired nickname, then don't use that address.
I also want to encourage you to use either gmail or a personal or business domain name. Just as you can be judged for using an unprofessional handle (the first part of the address), you can be equally judged based on the domain (the second part of the address). As this article (which will surely make you paranoid about all things related to email and potential employers) says, "An AOL address might be just as serviceable as any other address when it comes to sending and receiving mail, but to most people in tech fields it says, 'Hi. I'm from 1996. What is this Internet you speak of?'" Creating a personal domain name shows that you're tech-savvy, but there's a caveat there, too: If you choose something that sounds unprofessional, then you still come off as someone not necessarily suited for a professional position.
No employer needs to know your username for Amazon or your bank account, so you don't need to change everything. In fact, having a demarcation between things that are personal (email nickname) and things that are professional (firstname.lastname) might be a really helpful way to begin reimagining this new phase of your life. You don't need to ditch your email address altogether, but figuring out where and when it is appropriate will be a good first step in showing that you are an appropriate candidate for a job.