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How to create a digital footprint that will always look good on you

The internet is written in pen, not pencil so make sure you are careful with what you put out there

Emily Jardine

Published: Updated:

In an era where internet news travels faster than light, controlling and harnessing your digital footprint is critical for professional success. As the adage goes, the internet is written in pen, not pencil so make sure you are careful with what you put out there, and you take the time to harness its potential.

What it is and why it matters

For the unversed, your digital footprint is the data that is out there about you, including but not limited to: photos, information posted to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. sites you have visited, things you post online, and invisible things like data collected about you, often by companies for marketing.

According to the PEW Foundation, “Fully 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online,” and that furthermore, less than half of internet users “(47%) have searched for information about themselves online.” This is not smart in this digital age and could potentially be professional suicide.

Most companies are required to google search potential candidates and what’s available about you online can make or break your professional aspirations before you even get your foot in the door. “63% of hiring managers admitted that what they found about applicants on social networks, to use one media type, caused them to not make an offer to applicants.” according to the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University.

In this day and age, if you are an internet user, you must take responsibility for the information that’s out there about you. The good news is that you’re not a slave to your footprint; you can use the information to curate a digital presence that reflects the success that you want and the reputation you want to build.

As the well-known marketing expert and blogger Seth Godin has stated, “Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are.”

Starting line

Before you begin curating your digital footprint, you need to know what’s already out there. Everyone knows that you should google yourself but what’s the most effective way to find out what out there on the internet about you?

First, google your name, making sure to put your name in quotes. Go a few pages deep into the results to make sure that you’ve covered what potential employers and other people might find. Next, make sure you look through all images in a google search as well. If you find an image or link that doesn’t promote your personal brand in the way you want, make sure to contact the organization.

For the UAE, it is illegal to invade someone’s privacy by “photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos [in addition to] publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information” without permission. Knowledge of this law can be helpful in getting outside content removed.

Tips

So how do you create this amazing online presence - a digital footprint that helps you achieve professional goals?

According to Matt Backus, IT Manager for a Dubai-based educational conglomerate, “In the same way that a neat appearance, clean clothes, and combed hair shape the impression people have of you in person, your online footprint does the same in the digital world. Always put your best foot forward in person and online and remember that you only have one chance to make a first impression. And lastly, don't forget the grandmother rule, don't act in person nor put anything online that you would be embarrassed for her to see.”

One way to do this it through utilizing the open social/professional platforms that you’re already a part of like LinkedIn, to get your name properly. It’s also good to create an about.me page.

Be an active online user on open platforms - post articles, engage thoughtfully in online communities and discussions, develop your brand with care. For other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, make sure that you’ve gone privacy settings carefully, locking down your photos, friend-lists, and timelines. It only takes one poorly thought post to destroy your digital footprint.

As best summed up by Dr. Jilene Murray, and Innovation Coordinator and tech-integration specialist, “Digital footprints last forever. Protect your legacy.”