Your Virtual Footprint

February 20, 2011 at 12:00 am 2 comments

Introduction

Open up your favorite search engine, and type in your name. What is on the first page of results? Assuming you do not share a name with a celebrity, many of the top results are likely links to your social networking pages, blog posts, web pages, and any other web content including your name. I just completed this simply task and six of the ten first results were something related to content I created or was included in.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a future employer, with hundreds maybe thousands of application in front of them. Your choices are interview every candidate or simply go on Google to learn a little bit more about these candidates. I know personally I would choose the latter. In fact in a 2009 survey completed by CareerBuilder.com, 45% of employers acknowledged that they used social networking sites for screening candidates and the trend will only continue to grow. Even more alarming, out of the employers that used the internet and social media resources to research candidates 35% said they did not hire the candidate because of the information they found.

Now, I understand that many of those who are reading this post have not even decided on a major yet, much less where you will be working someday. Contrary to what you may believe, this is actually what makes this post even more relevant to you. The amount of information individuals can find about you online, is also referring to as your virtual footprint. Appropriately named for the “paper trail” you have created. Personally, I have signed up for way too many different social networking sites and now as I am in the job search managing my virtual footprint is much more difficult than it should be.

By actively managing your virtual footprint now, you will thank yourself when you are applying for job opportunities in just a very short amount of time. Especially because a properly managed footprint, can actually help you receive a job instead of being the reason you received the denial letter.

Where to Start

If you are anything like me, you may be asking where do I start? This is a valid question, and today I have supplied several great resources for you.

Socioclean – http://www.socioclean.com/
I used this resource just earlier today, and was surprised how thorough it was in searching through my social networks. After signing up for Socioclean, I connected it with a Facebook profile and allowed it to search for all comments I have ever made or comments anyone has ever made on my wall. It then allows you to view every comment that it identifies as questionable. Simply by running this simple search, you may be surprised with how many potentially career endangering comments are located in the public eye. Depending on how many problems it identified, you may want to consider implementing some virtual footprint techniques immediately. Also the application brings up an important point that needs to be considered in virtual footprint management. While your profile may be private, consider comments you made on friend’s walls or friend’s pictures that are public. Socioclean is a good and free resource to identify problems that already exist in your virtual footprint, but what about new problems that are nearly guaranteed to emerge?

Google Alerts – http://www.google.com/alerts
I believe Google Alerts is a great solution to this problem. I have a Google Alert currently set for my name, and if any new content enters the Google search engine containing my name I am immediately alerted of its location. Having Google Alerts, gives me the assurance that if any untrue or misleading information was posted about me anywhere, I will immediately be notified and can properly manage this aspect of my virtual footprint.

Prevention
The two above solutions are great for damage control scenarios, but generally it is more effective to prevent the damage before it event occurs in first place. Here are some techniques to prevent having to utilize resources such as Socioclean and Google Alerts.

Ask yourself, “Do I need to sign up for this?”
I am faced with signing up for new forms of social media or other web applications every day. I must ask myself, is signing up for this really necessary and will it be something that may potentially harm my image in the future?  For those who claim they only use Facebook, you still actively sign up for many networks inside of Facebook. For example if you decide to “Like Beer,” this may be something that would lead a future employer to eliminate your application. This leads me to my second prevention technique.

Ask yourself, “Would my grandmother be happy to see this?”
This cliché phrase is very crucial for creating a successful virtual footprint.  Before making any post or joining any network, think about how it would look to those who do not actually know you. If someone who did not anything about you, only learned about you through you virtual footprint what would they think of you?

I have only listed a small amount of the potential ways to control and prevent your virtual footprint from representing you unfavorably. Numerous resources are available, and the number one resource is your awareness of the issue.

A Lasting Thought

While 53% if employers said that disregarded a candidate because of posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. Employers also said they hired a candidate based on their virtual footprint. Some example reasons are the candidates profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality or the candidate was well-rounded. So a lasting thought to leave readers, is this is not meant to say remove yourself from social networks and internet media. These will provide useful resources when connecting with a professional network someday, as long as they reflect you and what you have to offer.

To learn more about the CareerBuilder study follow this link

– Paul

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. comix79  |  February 20, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Tried out socioclean.com – damn!!! I have some crazy stuff from my HS days. Its scary whats out there about me. Great article and thanks for the tips!

    Reply
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