You hear a lot these days about the dangers of hackers, cloners and spyware, and the risks they pose to your identity. But how much thought do you give to the information you voluntarily share online? Your digital footprint could pose more of a threat than you think.
We’re constantly being encouraged to be digital, to share our opinions on discussion boards, to post our photos on social media sites – but this freedom of speech can be very damaging to your personal and professional reputation. The state of California has recently introduced a law allowing teenagers to delete certain elements of their digital footprints, in the hopes of giving them a better chance of employment. But, with over a third of employers checking candidates’ social media sites during the interview process, surely it would just be better to prevent the need for damage control in the first place?
Keep track of your footprint
Search for yourself regularly online and browse the results. A lot of sites aren’t exactly forthcoming about their privacy policies – you’ll usually need to change your settings from the defaults in order to ensure your information is not searchable by anyone else. Keep on top of policy updates too, because more often than not you’ll have to opt out of new policies in order to protect your privacy.
Go through search results and remove yourself from directories and mailing lists that you may have inadvertently signed up to, as they could be storing personal information that is publicly accessible.
Use it to your advantage
Of course, the internet can be used to your advantage. You can create a positive online name for yourself that can enhance your chances of progression. Showcase your creativity by posting engaging content or interesting blog posts, so when employers search for you online, what they find are the musings of a knowledgeable and passionate employee.
Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are the perfect place to do some professional networking. You can connect with colleagues and industry peers, contribute to online discussions, and create a strong profile that will stand out from the crowd. It’s a good idea to create separate accounts for personal and business use, so the pictures from your wild night out are kept hidden.
Don’t forget about it
Privacy policies are continually changing, and new ways of sharing information online are being developed all the time. Every time you sign up for a new site, or agree to be added to a mailing list, you are adding to your digital footprint. Every few months revisit your settings, and delete anything that you wouldn’t want your employer to see.
Ultimately, digital footprints are unavoidable; most people these days have one before they’re even born. But they’re not going anywhere, and they’re not something to be feared if you keep on top of them. Capitalise on yours and turn into your own unique selling point – it could become a unique tool for career progression.
Author: Cassie Holmes, Buddy Backup