Years ago the term ‘digital footprint’ would not have been referenced when discussing job search preparation yet today we know that over 90 percent of employers are checking you out online at some point during the hiring process. While you may think that this tactic is an invasion of privacy, the harsh reality is that when you post something on one of your platforms YOU are sharing it with the world and, unless modified in privacy settings, anyone can access this information freely. We are increasingly hearing about educational scholarships and job opportunities being lost because of something recruiters have found online that does not align with their professional brand or vision. We all know the marketplace is competitive so putting our best foot forward is to our advantage. This begs the question “Is your behavior on social media platforms helping or harming your career prospects”?
Take time to “Google” your name at least once monthly. Ideally, this should be done from a community computer so you can see what a prospective employer sees and the search is not influenced by your prior internet history. If your search leads to other people, you may want to take some time to develop a stronger online presence through the professional platform of LinkedIn. If the results highlight someone with the same name who has a negative online image, you may want to provide employers with a clear link to your sites so there is no misperception. If the person you found was you and the online presence tells the story you want employers to hear, then you are on the right track. Keep up the good work!
Check out the website call Rep’nUp which provides you with a free analysis of your online image for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Your content will be reviewed and results will outline inappropriate content, alcohol content, questionable content, indecent content, and bad habits content. Because I would never recommend a resource to someone without trying it out myself first, I submitted an analysis request for what I thought to be my professional Facebook page and this is what I found:
- All posts related to our annual conference social events where directly connected to my profile so any pictures with attendees at the evening social event were part of my profile. If you are in a job where you manage multiple Facebook pages this may be an area of concern for you. I now stipulate that no drinks are to be included in any pictures as the conclusion is that any mug or glass has possible alcohol content.
- A picture of individuals in swimwear is deemed indecent content so beware of the vacation pictures you may be posting online.
- References to the physical anatomy can be referenced as questionable content including posting about the Dragon boat fundraiser aimed at supporting breast cancer research.
- Comical memes may be identified and inappropriate content and a costume party picture with a fake cigar may cite bad habits.
- Swear words/acronyms and inappropriate derogatory comments are viewed as inappropriate content
With this type of feedback in mind, it becomes ever important to be discerning about what we share online. Even having tight privacy settings can result in your content moving beyond your reach if a post or picture is shared by someone else on one of their social media platforms. As a result, your monthly Google search should include images as well.
The moral of the story becomes very clear. As referenced by Mitch Joel in his book Six Pixels of Separation, “You are who Google says you are”. That being said discretion, humility, respect and good old fashioned manners are the name of the game. Just because you think it, does not mean you need to post it. Controversial topics such as politics, gender identity, religion, and immigration to name a few are better left to offline conversations with friends and family rather than putting yourself out there for the world to see and being misinterpreted. Your dissatisfaction with your employer or job should not be addressed on a public forum. Before you post, take the time to THINK – is this content True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind. If not, keep your fingers off the post button and find another way to work through your frustration. You will be happy in the long run that you made that choice to take responsibility for your own reputation by keeping your digital footprint both professional and appealing to potential recruiters.
For more insight into managing your online image, check out our Creating a Positive Digital Footprint workshop.