With graduation vastly approaching, now is the best time to tighten up your online presence AKA your digital footprint. Everything you’ve ever done on the internet is probably still there and might not paint you in the best light. So before you send in those applications, spruce up those cover letters, and schedule interviews, make sure you are aware of how your online presence presents you.
What’s a digital footprint anyway?
A digital footprint encompasses all of your online activity. Everything from likes, comments, online purchases, and social media posts are all connected to your name on the internet. Every time you post something online, websites collect all of your information by installing cookies on whatever device you’re using. They can gather your login credentials, IP address, and any other personal information about you available online. All of these tidbits of information add up to your digital footprint. Whether it’s good or bad is up to you…
How do I clean up my digital footprint?
There are several ways to change and edit your digital footprint. As long as you take the time to be tedious and do your research, your footprint will look a lot cleaner and hopefully represent you in a more professional way. Get started with some of these tips:
Make strong & secure passwords:
It’s important to make strong and secure passwords to keep your digital footprint in check. These strong passwords can also enhance your online privacy. Create complex passwords that don’t include any personal information about you that people already know or could publicly see online. For example, any birthdays, birth years or even nicknames could easily be guessed by someone who has seen your information online. Try to use symbols and numbers to mix up your passwords, making them harder to guess. This includes using caps, @ signs, 0 instead of O, and so on. Don’t forget to change your passwords every couple months to ensure you are keeping your information secure from hackers.
This may feel cliche or unnecessary, but don’t worry, it’s not. Google yourself using your full name and the shortened version of your name, if you have one. For example, try searching “Michael Owens” and “Mike Owens” to make sure you don’t miss anything that might be listed under your name. Pay attention to any questionable written content you wrote maybe in college or even earlier in your career that might get brought up during the job hunt. This can also include any of your social media posts. Check the first couple pages of Google to make sure everything you see is positive and professional. Don’t be afraid to try other search engines as well (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) so you can be sure all the information about you matches up.
Now that you’ve done all the preliminary work to enhance and update your digital footprint, it’s time to start making the necessary changes. Assess your social media accounts first, since those will be the first area your future employers will most likely look into. A recent study showed that 54% of employers found content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate. Make sure your usernames are appropriate and professional; “@sarahlovesbeer” should not be something a future employer sees when searching your name.
Browse through any old photos of you to see if any need to be removed from your profile or hidden from public view. Read through tweets and any status updates or location check-ins that you might not want future employers to see. Now is the perfect time to adjust your privacy settings if you haven’t in a while. There is always the option to make your social profiles private which means your personal information will be hidden from the public, except for a small profile picture and your name.
Taking the time to clean up your digital footprint should be just as much a priority as updating your resume. It’s essential to show the best version of yourself, and that starts with your online persona. Follow these steps to enter the job hunt ready and prepared for a successful future!