Cleaning up your digital footprint

digital footprint

Navigating the job market is a bit like online dating: It’s important to put your best foot forward—along with your best digital footprint. Even if you’re content in your current position, a filthy footprint can stop your career in its tracks. It’s wise to examine it once a year and clean it up if it’s getting muddy. Here are four steps to get you going.

online reputation management
Moira Kelley: Examine your online presence once a year.

1. Google yourself.

Many employers—between 45 and 60 percent—look at job candidates’ social media profiles, and they often start by googling. Search for variations of your name, as well as your email addresses and handles for Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Have a few friends do the same. As you move through the results, flag anything that might make an employer doubt your judgment or your ability to thrive in the workplace. Review photos, videos, and tweets. Assess comments you’ve left on articles, blog posts, and product pages. Explore public records databases. Check your credit, too.

2. Check your privacy settings on Facebook and beyond.

It’s hard for employers to see your Facebook photos and conversations if you limit access to a small group of people. But selecting Facebook’s “friends only” setting is no guarantee of privacy: The person reading your resume could also read your Facebook comments if she’s friends with someone you know. If in doubt, delete.

3. Upgrade your LinkedIn photo.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile photo is up to snuff, and consider doing the same for Twitter. If possible, hire a professional photographer. Choose a well-lit headshot, not a group selfie or a vacation photo. Wear office attire. Smile at the camera. Do not include pets or children, even if they are extraordinarily cute.

4. Remove or bury digital dirt.

Remove anything that might jeopardize your professional reputation. When you can’t remove digital dirt yourself, ask the website’s owner to do it.  If that doesn’t work, move the smudge toward the bottom of your search-results list by creating positive content about yourself. LinkedIn author Sargum Singh suggests launching your own website or answering questions in a professional forum that Google indexes.

It’s also smart to monitor your online presence with tools such as Google alerts. But the best policy is thinking carefully before posting. There’s no reason to suppress your personality, but ask yourself if another person might take your message the wrong way. After all, a misunderstanding shouldn’t stand in the way of a great job.

Moira Kelley is a senior career counselor in UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. Contact her at moira.kelley@wisc.edu.

This article originally ran in the Wisconsin State Journal.