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One of the first things graduates are told as they head into the working world is to audit and clean up their digital footprints.
In 2019, a young woman was rejected from a marketing internship because the company found bikini pictures on her Instagram account. Even though the idea of posting swimsuit photos of you on social media seems as likely as being elected the next president, many professionals internalize the idea that any kind of digital footprint can only be a bad thing.
While there are undoubtedly privacy concerns, especially for mature professionals who haven’t grown up with social media, a strong digital footprint can actually be an important tool in your arsenal when looking for a job. job. Here’s why you need to stop thinking of your online self as something to hide and start thinking of it as an opportunity to market yourself.
Related: Personal Branding: The Key to Success in the Digital Age
You are the product – so market yourself
Ultimately, the relationship between a hiring company and a job candidate is transactional. They hire you because of what you can do for them (job responsibilities) and you want them to hire you because of what they can do for you (pay you). There may be other patterns mixed in, but you get the gist.
And what do you do before buying a product? If it’s a major purchase, you should probably do some research. The same applies to hiring managers. About 77% of employers consult Google when considering a candidate. If you’ve ever climbed the corporate ladder as a director, vice president, or senior executive, you’re probably well aware of this fact and hid the photos of you partying during your college years from your Facebook profile.
But your digital footprint isn’t just about hiding the bad stuff.
Getting back to comparing companies and products, searching online for a potential purchase isn’t always about avoiding red flags. Sure, employers may be looking for negative reviews, but most of the time management is hoping to find something positive and informative.
Think about how organizations research other companies they buy items from to make sure it’s not a scam. They might look for a product demo on YouTube or a blog post explaining all about the product. There’s no reason you can’t do the same for your own online presence.
Use company tools
Now that you’ve started thinking like a business, it’s time to put it into action using the same digital channels and tools as businesses for your own marketing efforts.
Concepts like SEO and digital marketing aren’t just for business – use them to set yourself apart in the job market. If a recruiter Googles your name and finds your blog focused on marketing or professional development, that sounds a lot better than a few private social media profiles.
You can also use SEO and marketing to make your profile more visible on LinkedIn to people who weren’t initially looking for you. Posting engaging content can mean business decision makers will stumble upon your profile, and using the right keywords in your profile summary will help recruiters find you.
Related: How AI is changing the future of personal branding
You can’t please everyone
If your digital presence is nothing more or less than a business photo and a preview of your CV and accolades in gender-neutral language, no one is going to hate what they see so much that they rule out the possibility of hire you. But they’re also unlikely to hire you based solely on that kind of basic information.
Companies know this, and that’s why they target their product to a specific market segment. You can do the same. You don’t have to approach all potential employers, just those you want to work for.
For example, if you publish a blog post destroying companies that practice environmentally unsustainable practices, you risk being unpopular with the companies you criticize. But if you want to work for a company that’s a leader in this field, they may appreciate the fact that you’re outspoken.
However, if you want to toe the line and stay somewhat neutral, that’s fine too. It’s natural to be careful with what you post online, especially if you’re worried about saying something inappropriate. A great way to alleviate this fear is to focus on creating content that energizes others or helps advance their careers. It’s best to avoid posts that may reflect badly on others or damage the reputation of their business.
A quick caveat
As with everything, there is some nuance here. Although a digital fingerprint can be a useful tool, you should always be aware of your security when posting online. Check your social media privacy settings so people can’t see sensitive information like your date of birth or photos of your children, and try to avoid including too much personal data in any content you post .
It’s also not a good idea to start swearing or posting anything offensive. But you already knew that, right?
Finally, if there’s something you don’t like about yourself online, submit a personal information removal request form to Google to have it removed.
Related: Why Personal Branding Matters for Every Working Adult
It’s time to put you out there
While most job seekers in the market focus on creating a clean digital footprint and minimizing their online presence, going in the opposite direction can be a great way to start. As long as you protect your safety, stay positive, and think about your content, you should be good to go.