Kill Partying Pics, Build Your Professional Digital Footprint

So here’s the thing: When you apply for a job, the company is going to check you out. And not just by calling your references. They’re going on the web. What will they find?

If they see that you’re qualified for the position, they’re going to want to know what type of person you are behind all that sucking up you did in your cover letter.

They want to make sure you aren’t a party animal, which might make you potentially unreliable on Mondays. They want to see that you can be professional, someone who doesn’t treat their Facebook as a book of grievances.

Most of all, they want to see that you’re well-rounded. That you don’t just have a Facebook, but that you have a Twitter, a LinkedIn, a blog, etc., and that you actually use them on a regular basis in a professional fashion

So, your job status can be a direct result of your social media presence, or lack thereof. Hey, it will probably even be a bit of both.

So, here’s how to make sure your “digital footprint” works for you, not against you.

First, if you want to see yourself how others will see you, do a Google search of yourself. But don’t stop there. Do a Bing search, too. Try, and You may think your online presence is pretty good, but when it comes to the job search, you want to make sure it is squeaky-clean.

Are the first few links good ones? Your LinkedIn profile should be right up there, and perhaps a blog you have or that you write for, maybe a newspaper clipping of an accomplishment? If they are, good start.

Or, are there pictures of you at parties or do insulting comments or posts show up? If so, get rid of them NOW! If they’re your pictures on Facebook or Flickr, for example, take them down or make them private. If you’ve been tagged in pictures you don’t own, write the owner and asked to be untagged.

Your next stop on your digital footprint clean-up journey should be the sites out there that  help you gain control of your digital footprint. Reppler, for instance, will scan your Facebook profile for inappropriate content and gives you a “Reppler Image Score”.

The more you clean up your profile, the better your score will be. Pipl finds mentions of you everywhere, so you can choose which ones will help you professionally, and which ones can hurt you. And perhaps one of the best out there, BrandYourself, helps you make sure the results for a search of your name are good results. You can choose which ones are best, or even about you in general. The more you look into your social media, the cleaner and more professional it will become, so check these out too. SocialMention, BackTweets, and MyPermissions.

After you’re satisfied that you have a digital footprint your grandmother would bless, monitor your social media VERY carefully regularly. Think twice before you trash talk your boss on Twitter, and don’t let your friends tag pictures of you passed out drunk for their Facebook album. I

Now that your digital footprint is clean, let’s take the next step and make sure it’s also strong. Go back to your Google search. Does your search come up with old high school sports achievements or things so ancient that even you barely remember them?

Or what if you don’t show up in a Google search at all? What if you have NO digital footprint?!

If that’s the case, your problem isn’t cleaning up your online reputation; it’s actually getting one!

Trust me, you don’t want to be the person with a Facebook site, a few tweets on your Twitter, and half of a LinkedIn profile competing with someone who has a professional blog, a full list of Twitter followers, a complete LinkedIn profile WITH recommendations, a Pinterest account and lots of folllowers, and much more.

Get involved in everything and anything you can find on the Internet. It’s a long list, and you may think it’s too much, but the real work is called for in the beginning, when you sign up and create your profiles. After that, it takes only a few minutes of your day to do an update or two.

So, if you don’t have them already, set up accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest, Google+, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Flickr, and Tumblr, to name a few. Also, check out social media that specializes in your interests (i.e. if you are into books, take a look at Goodreads and LibraryThing). You don’t have to be involved in EVERYTHING, but the more visible you are online, the better your chances are of getting noticed.

But if you really, really want to make a splash, create a blog.

Blogger is a great blogging platform for beginners to get out there and build a professional online reputation. WordPress is the gold standard, but not as easy as Blogger or Tumblr, but, on the other hand, much more powerful.

After choosing your blogging platform, choose a topic you are passionate and knowledgeable about AND, this is important, will force you to interview key players in your field. That last part, the interviews with influential people, is the most important criteria for choosing your blog topic. Otherwise, it’s just a vanity project — fun, but largely irrelevant to potential employers. Yes, they can see you can write or shoot photos or videos, but they really want to know what do you know about their industry and how well do you execute the skills they require.

Plus, if you’re interviewing the key players in your field, you’re building a professional network of folks to whom you can return when it’s time to start job searching and ask them what they hear about openings in your field. In this way, you’ll be plugging into the “hidden jobs network” where 90% of open jobs are filled (yes, only about 10% of all open jobs make it to Monster or Indeed or Craigslist!).

Once you get started on your blog, try to write regularly, and advertise it across the rest of your social media. If you do this, you’ll be sure to get noticed by the people who can make a difference in your life.

Once you get started, you’ll be showing employers your passion and knowledge of the field as well as writing, technological and analytical skills. But don’t just take my word for it; check out what author and Global Spokesperson for LinkedIn, Lindsey Pollak, has to say about the power of a blog in a job search.

So, to recap: Step number one in your job search checklist is to make sure your digital footprint is not only clean, but also ompelling.. And step number two is to be everywhere and launch a blog about a topic within your field and interview key players for your blog posts.

You were told over and over that the way to be successful in life was to get a college education and your dream job would be yours. Now that you’ve graduated, that dream job you were promised turns out to be a lot harder to get. Nobody is going to hand it to you. You have to go out and take it by taking the initiative and proving yourself.

Social media is your friend in this campaign. Use it.


About Me

Hi, I’m Catherine Weagle, and I am the E-Newsletter Manager of Degrees2Dreams. I graduated from Salem State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. As a former copy editor of my alma mater’s newspaper, I hope to get into publishing to use my knowledge of grammar and spread my love of editing. I am from the North Shore coastal town of Ipswich, Massachusetts where I love to go out on my boat in the summer. I also enjoy writing and painting, and am an avid reader, a music enthusiast, and dog-lover. You can find me at and @catherineweagle, or email me at .

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