Once you put something online, it’s there forever. That is one of the most well-known phrases in social media and internet use. Everything you do online – whether it’s sharing an incredible story of a breakthrough in your industry or posting a selfie of you in a bikini that says “Thug Life” on the buttocks, everything you do online leaves a trail.
All of these interactions you have on the internet make up what’s known as your “digital footprint” – the trail of information that you leave behind every time you do something online. The internet itself is a universe of data – data that can be recorded and accessed with the right talents. That data can both help and hinder your job search in dozens of different ways.
That’s why having social media profiles that accurately and positively represent you and your professional passions can create a number of networking opportunities and open doors that may have your dream jobs contacting you; filling your inbox with requests for you and your abilities.
How a Digital Footprint Works
The internet is data. When you visit a website, the website logs your IP address (data).. When you comment on a website, add a comment to your retweet, like a post, participate in a forum, or add a photo to your Instagram, you are creating more data online.
The data may be passive or active:
- Active Data – Active data is when you, by choice, share something online. Whether it’s personal information like a Tweet on Twitter or a photo you upload to a photo sharing board, that’s active data.
- Passive Data – Passive data is information collected about you, often through other sources. For example, if you visit a website about lawn care, websites may collect that data and link it to your profile or IP address. It’s passive because you did not release the data by choice.
You don’t always have control over passive data, but you can control active data. You get the opportunity to choose what you do online. You can choose whether to post picture of you with a shirt that says “Never Work” or you can choose to like and share an incredible article about changes to your industry that are relevant to employers.
Why Your Digital Footprint Matters
Your digital footprint can have a significant effect on your future. Imagine you are looking for a job, and you apply to a company that is very interested in hiring you. What happens if they try to find information about you online? Will they find any embarrassing photos? Will they find you follow professional organizations? Will they find any controversial statements? Will they find incredible insight? What is available that confirms that you are perfect for their business?
If you are like most people, you have probably Googled your name before to see what you came up with. But it’s unlikely that you’ve taken the time to thoroughly analyze what can be linked to you, and whether or not it will affect you. Remember, your digital footprint is everything you’ve done online, including:
- Website Comments – Especially those linked to a full name.
- Blogs/Blog Posts – Posts you’ve written.
- Social Media – In all forms where you have a presence.
- Other People’s Blogs/Websites – Posts written about you.
- Public Records and More – Information shared by third parties that collect data.
Even though there is some anonymity on the internet, your name is out there, and it may be linked to information that you do not want shared or openly available for information that you do. You may make comments under a pseudonym, but if your pseudonym can be connected to your name (and often people use the same handles on multiple sites, including Facebook user profile names, Pinterest names, and Instagram names), then everything you’ve shared can be connected to that name as well. That’s why you have to ask yourself: What will employers find?
You want them to find the “best you.”
Your digital footprint does not have to be a negative. Some professionals have an outstanding digital footprint, because they’ve been able to control what occurs under their name and they’ve successfully (whether actively or accidentally) marketed themselves positively. Your digital footprint can be in your control, and if you embrace that control you can make employers beg for you, not vice versa.
Cleaning Up Your Digital Footprint
Individuals rely on a clean and professional digital footprint in order to make sure that they are able to maximize their career choices. That means that you have a great opportunity in front of you – you can create a digital footprint that will truly make an impact. You can figure out what exists, analyze it, and determine how much it can affect you and how. You have the potential to spot problems, create solutions, and start generating a digital footprint that can be seen by clients, teammates, and your current and future boss.
Many people Google their name. But very few take the time to complete this level of analysis, and when you clean up your digital footprint and make yourself more employable, (by ensuring that your online history will not affect you in your personal or professional life negatively, and possibly positively), your digital footprint can be a weapon in your employment arsenal.
To learn more about how to analyze your digital footprint and explore your online profile, contact The Social Index today and find out more about your online history and how it may affect your employment chances.