What is a Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint is your ‘online presence’, or the trail that you leave behind on the world-wide web – including all digital channels. This footprint / online presence can be intentional (active) or unintentional (passive). An active digital footprint is what you as an individual post online (i.e. commenting on a Facebook status). A passive digital footprint is what others post about you and the trail that you unintentionally leave behind (i.e. your internet search history)
When you as an individual are on the job market, it is not only essential to create a good impression with your CV. It is just as important, if not more important, to have a positive digital footprint. Nowadays, with the advanced technology that we have, recruiters worldwide utilise all social platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to analyse your online presence and, in conjunction with your CV, assess your suitability for a position as well as your cultural fit with an organisation. You might have an outstanding CV with all the “bells and whistles” yet the slightest negative post or dodgy Saturday night picture could be the gremlin that stands between you and your dream job. The saying goes “If you wouldn’t say it to your boss, don’t post it online!”
Here are a few guidelines on how to utilise social media to create/enhance or just maintain your digital footprint:
It is imperative to maintain a professional and updated LinkedIn profile, not only as a job seeker but also as a professional individual to enhance your “individual brand”. If you have an outdated or incomplete profile this reflects badly on yourself as an individual and as a prospective candidate. Including a professional picture on your profile enhances your chances of your profile being viewed – one of these views could be your next employer or perhaps a recruiter! There are various things that you can do in order to utilise LinkedIn to improve your digital footprint such as listing your skills which can be endorsed, building a network of professionals, receiving recommendations and joining groups. Joining groups on LinkedIn is a great way to connect with others, share opinions and knowledge of your relevant industry. Including your key skills on your profile increases your chances of appearing in search results, when recruiters are seeking individuals who possess your skills and qualifications. In my personal opinion, when I as a recruiter look at detailed LinkedIn profiles, not only does it make an individual stand out but overall makes a candidate more recruitable.
Facebook is most likely the first place where recruiters and potential employers will look when screening candidates, and the reason for this is that Facebook is a true reflection of one’s true self. This is where all those inappropriate pictures of one’s weekend activities would be found, not forgetting the weekly rant about your job (avoid doing this at all costs!) Include positive posts that enhance your personality and elements that set you apart from the next individual. When you do decide to post a picture or update ensure that you customise your audience button and privacy settings, however this can become a bit tricky when you are tagged in a picture or a post. My advice – avoid inappropriate posts and pictures all together and be aware of what you are actually posting online.
Twitter is an extremely public social network unless your account is set to private. Constant personal tweets during working hours would question ones work ethic and commitment to a job. Your followers (whether it be companies and people) are a reflection of who you are as an individual. These are things that a recruiter or a prospective employer might look at to gain a better understanding of who you are as an individual. Express your views and opinions regarding various topics but be aware that there is a fine line between “freedom of speech” about a certain topic / cause / view and being inappropriate. Avoid posts that contain discriminatory or inappropriate content as this will tarnish your online presence.
There are many other social platforms which can contribute to your digital footprint such as Google +, Instagram and Pinterest etc. Social Media was created as a platform to connect and share information, but once this information is out there in the scary World Wide Web it is free for all to see. A negative post that you were tagged in, or have shared could land in front of your employer’s nose and once it has been viewed it cannot be unseen! However, Social Media also has a huge plus side – not only can it enhance your digital footprint but it can become your best friend in finding your dream job.
In a Nutshell
Check your privacy settings (each social media site has their own set of privacy settings which you can adjust and control).
Run a search online utilising your name as a search term and become aware of your digital footprint.
Utilise Social Media as a platform to exhibit and enhance your skills, strengths, talents and qualifications and ultimately to enhance your digital footprint.
Think before you post to ensure that the content that is just a “click of a post button away” is appropriate and will enhance and not tarnish your digital footprint.
Put your thinking caps on and think about your personal brand that you would like to create. A positive brand and a squeaky clean online reputation will not only create a positive personal brand for you as an individual but will entice recruiters, employers and individuals in general to view and “stalk” your online profiles.
Moral of the story: Think before you post!