It used to be that applying for a job was fairly simple: send in a résumé, write a cover letter, and call a few references to make sure they will say positive things. However, there is a new step that is now a common part of this application process—hiding (or at least cleaning up) your virtual self, or your “digital footprint.”
The ubiquity of digital media allows anyone to easily start developing an online persona early on. Although this footprint may not accurately reflect the individual, it may be one of the first things a stranger sees. Some photos may not look bad to friends and family, but your online digital footprint may be a hiring manager’s first impression of you as a prospective employee. Someone in charge of hiring could search the internet for information on you even before calling references.
First impressions are an important thing to keep in mind when making an online persona professionally acceptable. Your presence online can be the equivalent of your first words to a brand-new acquaintance.
While it’s possible to deactivate your social media accounts, once something is online, it’s impossible to delete it completely. Photos, videos and posts will likely outlive you. As a business professional, you’ll need to begin to carefully curate what you post online, and what has already been posted.
This doesn’t mean you should delete everything: in fact, employers and clients want to see that you have interests and connections outside of work. However, be aware that their first impression of you may be digital, and consider consider carefully what you’d like them to see.
5 Ways to Improve your Digital Footprint
- Google yourself. This is the best way to see what a potential employer or contact will see first, if they decide to do a search on you.
- Edit you own posts, including photos, video and multimedia. Content that involves drugs, alcohol, illegal activities, strong political views, or any other controversial activity should be removed.
- Ask friends and family who have posted controversial content to take it down.
- Set up professional accounts on one or more platforms, such as LinkedIn. This will increase the chances of employers/clients seeing your professional side first, and is an inexpensive way to build your professional network.
- Keep it positive with future posts and contributions. That will greatly reduce the chances that you will post something that could get you into trouble down the road.
How To Develop A Digital Presence For Professional Success