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What Does Your Digital Footprint Say About You?

By Denise Seguin

With the holiday season in full swing, people are socializing more with friends and colleagues and sharing stories, videos, and photos on social media. At this festive time of year, everyone should have some fun and enjoy the respite from work and school. But, let’s also take a moment to educate students about how the content they decide to put on the Internet leaves a trail.

The Internet is full of stories of people who have been fired from jobs for online activity that was inappropriate. Other stories tell of students who have lost a scholarship or an admission offer to their school of choice. Make sure students understand the concept of a digital footprint. A person’s digital footprint is the accumulation of all his or her online activities that includes social media posts, shares, comments, photos, videos, blogs, tweets, and online shopping activity. Consider this information from an article at Forbes.com about using social media to help you in your job search:

  • Many employers browse your social media accounts as part of the hiring process to help them determine your fit within their culture.
  • Approximately one-third of 2,300 employers who participated in a survey by CareerBuilder.com said they found content on social media that resulted in a candidate not being given a job offer. Reasons given for not hiring included finding provocative or inappropriate photos, evidence of alcohol or drug use, poor writing skills, disparaging remarks about current or previous employers, racist comments, and lying about one’s qualifications.
  • Not having a presence online can also put you at a disadvantage. Employers look to the Internet to corroborate the skills and qualifications on your resume. The lack of an online identity may cause the employer to disqualify you.

Tell students to start by using Google or another search engine to search for themselves as a potential employer would and see what comes up in the search results list. Make sure the content the employer finds is only what the student wants them to see and that the content presents the student in a professional manner, positively confirming his or her qualifications and accomplishments. If necessary, show students how to adjust their privacy settings in each social network account and advise students to remove unprofessional or controversial content.

Enjoy the break from work and school but be mindful what you share online.

Note for Instructors: A blog activity that has students consider their own digital footprint is included in Chapter 7 (Using Social Media to Connect and Communicate) of Seguin’s COMPUTER Concepts, second edition (see page 161).

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