The reality of today’s online digital landscape is that all of your online profiles (including social media accounts, email accounts and dating profiles) are both a personal and professional extension of yourself.
Roughly 80% of future employers Google a prospective employee’s name before interviewing and hiring them, while 95% percent of all job recruiters use LinkedIn or another professional networking platform to research candidates before engaging them in a professional capacity.
With the job market being especially saturated for recent college graduates and young professionals, the stakes are high when it comes to obtaining a job interview, let alone being hired. That is why it is critical for you to pay close attention to your online presence and digital footprint!
You can use these ten tips and tricks to keep track of your digital footprint and ensure that you are putting your best “digital” foot forward for not only future employers and colleagues, but the whole world.
How to Maintain Your Digital Footprint
- Google yourself
- Delete unprofessional content
- Create a personal or professional website or blog
- Share relevant industry news and articles via social media
- Keep all online posts and comments positive
- Use proper grammar and punctuation
- Review your privacy settings
- Stop and think before you post
- Create a Google Alert for your name
- De-index dead links and outdated content from search results
Below, we walk through in more detail why you should be paying attention to what you post on the Internet, how to establish a positive and professional online presence, and ten tips and tricks to stay on top of your digital footprint.
How to Keep a Positive & Professional Online Presence
For college graduates and young professionals entering the workforce, it is essential that you start giving as much thought to how a future employer may view your online profiles and posts as you do to how your friends (and random internet strangers) view them. But when beginning to clean up and refine your online presence, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start.
For starters, if you have not done so already, create an account on a professional networking website such as LinkedIn, AngelList, or even Meetup. According to a 2015 Talent Solutions report on global hiring statistics, 70% of the global workforce is comprised of talent and professionals who are not actively job searching. Setting up a professional networking profile is step number one towards being recognized by an employer. It is highly unlikely an employer or recruiter will reach out to you, if you are nowhere to be found on the Internet.
But do not worry, LinkedIn is not the only professional networking platform to leverage (and sell) your talents to others. Creating a professional Twitter or Instagram account can also be extremely useful for increasing your online visibility and perceived professionalism. For all of your online profiles and accounts (including social media), use a professional headshot or other work-appropriate photograph that says, “This is someone who takes pride in how they present themselves to the world.”
A professional head-shot or other work-appropriate photograph does NOT need to be taken by a professional photographer, but should at the very least:
- Portray you in a positive light, and
- Include professional attire.
Bathing suits and revealing or torn clothes are not work appropriate attire.
Eliminating Red Flags From Your Social Media Profiles is Paramount
Some of the most overlooked red flags that should be eliminated from all social media profiles are right in front of you and sometimes you do not even notice them.
A seemingly innocuous political argument including profanity with a distant relative on your Facebook wall could lead to a recruiter or employer assuming that you are crass or have harmful biases towards particular groups. Or a photograph of a young, inebriated you during your college partying days could signal to an employer that you have a substance abuse problem or are unreliable.
If you are not comfortable sharing a picture, post or content with a prospective employer, either (1) overhaul your online account’s privacy settings to hide specific content or (2) remove the content altogether.
Finally, remove any negative online posts or comments bad-mouthing your past employer(s) or colleagues, along with any information implying that you have lied about your professional qualifications and accomplishments. The average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. Employers and recruiters want to make sure that they are investing in the right person and not in a high risk individual who will squander that investment.
Reputation & Brand Management Tip: If you own a business with an online presence, consider establishing a brand and reputation monitoring budget. Doing so is an effective way to gauge how the general public views your business and identify intellectual property infringers!
10 Tips & Tricks to Keep Track of Your Digital Footprint
1. Google Yourself
Googling yourself is an effective way to see what content Google has prioritized in its search results about you and what others see when they search your name. When Googling yourself, make sure to Google your full name. Trying to clean up online profiles, accounts and content is going to be far more difficult if you are unsure what types of content about you are most visible to the general public.
Include your first and last name, middle initial, and any geographic or other descriptors in your online search. This includes any professional titles or suffixes you may use, such as “Dr.” “Esq.” or “DDS,” as well as any nicknames you are known by, a maiden name (for females), or any online monikers or handles.
For example, if you are a local dentist and have achieved moderate “fame” from chronicling your professional adventures on YouTube under the nickname “The Dental King,” consider searching “Your full name + The Dental King + Location.” It is important to try searching several variations of your name to locate all potential harmful internet search results.
Countless online shaming websites enable posters to include a victim’s telephone number in their “shaming report,” so do not forget to Google both your home and telephone number in conjunction with your name.
2. Delete Unprofessional Online Content
A rule of thumb to live by when deciding whether to remove content, photographs, or other media from your online profile or account is to delete all material that you would not be comfortable sharing with your grandmother.
3. Create a Personal or Professional Website or Blog
Google’s search algorithm prioritizes constructive, positive, and relevant content to best match a user’s inputted search query. Setting up a personal or professional website, blog, or bulletin board to showcase your knowledge, accomplishments, and talent can be an effective method to:
- Control your online narrative,
- Grow personal branding, and
- Increase your online visibility.
This way, instead of internet search users being presented with information about you that was created and curated by others, you now have a direct hand in crafting your online message and what the world sees.
Write blog posts about what is going on in your daily life, important professional achievements, and new developments in your career field. The greater your positive online presence and visibility, the greater the likelihood you will receive a response to your resume from an employer or recruiter.
Buying your own domain can cost as little as USD $10 per year. Even if you lack the resources, know-how, or time to design and fill out a website, you can still use your newly purchased domain to link to other professional accounts – such as your LinkedIn, Twitter, or industry-specific professional profile – and advance your job seeking process.
4. Share Relevant Industry News & Articles via Social Media
If setting up a professional blog or website is too time-consuming or just not up your alley, consider proactively sharing relevant professional industry news articles, blog posts, and other media on your social media profiles.
For example, LinkedIn profiles broadcast a user’s recent activity to either public or private connections, based on your privacy settings. A user’s recent activity will show any authored posts, ‘liked’ and shared content, and post comments. Sharing relevant industry news and articles via your social media accounts shows employers that you are an active learner, engaged in your industry, and up-to-date with industry trends.
5. Keep All Online Posts & Comments Positive
There is no shortage of negative, defamatory, and malicious content on the Internet, so why would you want to contribute to this further?
When job hunting, you should strive to be judged upon your professional merits and accomplishments rather than what you said in an emotion-filled rant on your Facebook or Instagram account.
Refrain from attacking or cyberbullying any person or entity online, using foul or discriminatory language, bad-mouthing past employers or colleagues, engaging in public arguments, and using an overly negative tone in your writing. Negative and malicious online posts can show an employer that you are not a team-player and not a right fit for their company culture.
After all, no one wants to work with a “Debbie Downer.”
6. Use Proper Grammar & Punctuation
Use proper grammar and punctuation in all online content you produce and publish! Once again, you never know who is watching. Improper grammar and frequent misspellings indicate to an employer that you may be careless, uneducated or unprofessional.
Refrain from “abbrevi8ing wrds the way u might whn txting” and using other SMS shorthand abbreviations and acronyms.
It would not look great to potential employers if you are a professional writer and all of your online posts, comments, and write-ups are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. An employer might interpret this to mean that you simply do not care about or double-check the content you create.
Online Defamation Removal Fact: To effectively remove online defamation, it is important that you preserve all evidence. This includes screenshotting defamatory posts and comments, URLs, and communications with online defamers and trolls.
7. Review Your Privacy Settings
Take several minutes to review your privacy settings for all online accounts and social media profiles. Make sure that you are only sharing information and content with people that you are comfortable with viewing it. For any information that you are not comfortable with the general public (including potential employers) viewing, you should either protect (and hide) it by adjusting your privacy settings or delete it immediately.
For example, to review your privacy settings on Facebook:
- Log-in to Facebook
- Head to ‘Settings’
- Click ‘Privacy’
- Review your activity
- Implement privacy controls, such as authorizing “Who can see your future posts” and the ability to review all posts and things you are tagged in before they “go live” on your Facebook profile.
It is extremely important that you ensure your public online profile shows a positive snippet and image of you to all potential parties that may deliberately or accidentally find you.
8. Stop & Think Before You Post
Step back, take a deep breath, and hold off from posting that angry Instagram or Twitter reply for just one second longer. Once a post, comment or other piece of content has “gone live” on the Internet and is viewable by others, you never know who is watching (ex., future employers), what they will do with that information, and if it will stay up forever.
Avoiding impulsive and emotional online posting prevents having to implement “damage control” measures at a later date to clean up embarrassing or regretful online content. Simply put, the less negative content you put out on the Internet, the less there is to clean up.
9. Create a Google Alert For Your Name
Google Alerts is a free and easy-to-use internet keyword tracking tool that enables users to “create alerts” and receive daily or weekly notifications anytime your inserted keywords appear anywhere in Google Search.
For example, to create a Google Alert for your name:
- Go to Google Alerts
- Enter the keywords you want to track (such as your name or business)
- Press ‘Create Alert’
Google Alerts enables you to dictate how often you want to receive notifications, the types of websites you will see, your preferred language, and the part of the world you want information from.
10. De-Index Dead Links & Outdated Web-Pages From Search Results
Submitting a de-indexing request to Google can be an effective way to remove dead links and outdated web-pages from Google’s search index.
A successful de-indexing request will remove a cached search result or Google snippet from Google Search, meaning Google users will no longer be able to access the removed content.
Keep in mind that submitting a de-indexing request to Google only works for pages, images, or other content that has already been modified or removed from the web.
Sticking to these ten tips and implementing a comprehensive digital footprint game-plan to keep track of what you put out on the Internet will help ensure that you are not frantically scrambling to clean up your online presence when it comes time for your job hunt!
For job seekers and professionals that have any online content, photographs, or other media that you are worried about, cannot control, or are having trouble removing from the Internet, contact the experienced internet attorneys of Minc Law today.
At Minc Law, we can help clean up your online presence and digital footprint to better prepare you for a new and successful job seeking journey.