In a world where the average person in the Middle East has 2.2 mobile devices and spends up to six hours a day connected to the Web, it’s more important than ever that you actively consider how to curate your digital footprint. This is a new aspect of our reputation that we have to work at; we can’t just assume that it’s good and we can’t assume that we’re vigilant enough. Consider your Internet presence carefully and mindfully.
What is your digital footprint?
Your digital footprint is everything about you on the Internet. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or LinkedIn and other mediums
- Photographs of you that you or anyone else have posted online
- Anything you have written or that has been written about you, for instance on discussion boards, forums, blogs, or in articles
We are all being encouraged to put aspects of ourselves and our lives online, and much of this content is freely available to view. Each time we add something about ourselves on the Internet, we enlarge our own digital footprint. Whenever we mention someone else, we enlarge their digital footprint.
Personal information is routinely collected by companies eager to market their goods or services, and this can be retained for several years. Equally, your digital presence can be monitored by individuals looking for information about you. Why? Well, just think about your own behavior and how that has changed over the past two or three years. Professional inquirers tend to look at professional domains like LinkedIn to see whether you have a voice, whether you’re an expert or not, if you have something worthwhile to say, and if your approach is professional.
Clients, future employers, current employers, employees and many more stakeholders in your ecosystem actively look at your digital footprint to get a better understanding of you and your standing in your profession. I know for a fact that if a client believes that their technical lead’s digital footprint does not show up in the “right” network with the right information, they might be excluded from consideration.
To neglect a healthy online presence means increasingly to take a career risk. The REACH Employment Services survey revealed that social media and digital footprints of candidates were often or always checked during the interview process by almost half of the polled hiring managers (48.35%). Two out of five managers (42.22%) also used social networking sites to recruit potential hires. Almost a third (30.86%) said they have rejected prospective candidates due to questionable personal and/or professional traits observed about them online. A further 64% of employers say they have used professional social media to inform hiring decisions, with one quarter using the information gained from these sites at the interview stage and 35% when assessing new applications.
Uncover your digital footprint
To do this, you should first check what others can see about you. Search for your name using Google or other search engines (like on Facebook), and see what information already exists about you. Repeat the search regularly using services such as Google Alerts, which give automatic updates- although you may not have added anything new, your friends and family might have.
If you use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, or regularly post photos, videos, blogs and comments online, make sure to manage your contributions carefully, since much of the information stored on the web becomes public by default. Unless you change your privacy settings, your social network pages will come up on a web search.
Anyone who finds out enough about you could potentially impersonate you, so be careful about the personal information you make publicly available. Potential employers have also been known to reject applicants on the basis of information discovered online. So, if aspects of your online presence are causing you concern, then here’s what you can do to fix that:
- Separate your personal and professional online profiles
- Consider using a different name (e.g. a nickname) for your more private, personal profile, and change the privacy settings on your social networking site so that only your friends can see your personal information
- Remove anything from your public profile that is personal or private, or that might cause potential problems with colleagues, your current or prospective employer, and always avoid inappropriate language, ill-advised comments or jokes that can be considered poor taste or inappropriate
Capitalize on your digital footprint
A digital footprint offers many advantages when correctly built. Here are a few:
- You can build a positive online presence that showcases your skills, experience and interests. Moreover, with some online sites, you can control the information about you that is publicly available.
- An online profile that includes your CV, for instance on a professional networking site such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium, can expand your range of contacts.
- Professional networking sites can give you access to potential employers, whose digital footprint you can also research.
- You can update your profile in a cost- and time-effective way, so make sure to do so regularly.
Some employment sectors (e.g. advertising, public relations, technology and the media) may expect and actively encourage you to have a digital footprint. They may look for examples of your online creativity, for instance on blogs, profiles or videos. You can enhance your digital footprint by carefully judged contributions to blogs, news articles and discussions, or by adding reviews to sites such as Amazon. Keeping a positive online presence regularly updated can reduce the impact of any earlier content you may regret, because most Internet searches rarely access more than the top few results. In any case, before enhancing your digital footprint, consider whether it is worth the time and effort, and whether the content really does add value to your online profile.