How can your online footprint impact your career?

Everyone has online results that create a footprint when someone searches for them online. This online footprint can shape your reputation—and your career—in ways you might not anticipate (until it’s too late).

Your footprint includes:

  • Every social media profile you’ve ever created (even if you think it’s private)
  • Every comment or picture you’ve posted or been mentioned in
  • Every other person’s posts who might share your name
  • Online discussions you’ve participated in/online groups you’ve joined
  • Posts from other people who have a similar name to yours
  • Your online footprint exists even if you’re not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
  • You can find your online footprint by searching for your name on Google and going through the first 5 pages of your results

This blog post is brought to you by Josh Ochs' new book, Light, Bright & Polite for Professionals which helps companies create a healthy culture around employee social media engagement and develop a social media policy. In order to create a solid social media policy for your business, it’s important to understand how your digital footprint and social media mistakes can hurt your brand.

Social media mistakes in the news

It's not that you shouldn't have a social presence. In fact, if you don't, employers will wonder why — and may even assume you're not personable or up-to-date with the tools used for many business campaigns. The key to using social media is to express yourself responsibly. –Business Insider

As important as it is to be on top of the latest new social media trends, it’s also equally important to be constantly cleansing your social media strategy from consistent mistakes. –Forbes

How you present yourself both in person and online matters big time. –Fast Company

The social media mistakes that most people make aren't as extreme, but the results can be just as disastrous. –CNBC

Failure to understand just how influential and damaging social media mistakes can be will result in long-term damage and issues that inhibit growth. –Entrepreneur

Why should you care?

  • Everything you do online lives on in the public sphere, from your LinkedIn bio to your comments on Facebook
  • Future employers—as well as current ones—will usually search for you online
  • People rarely will tell you online if your post offends them or raises eyebrows—but it will change their actions towards you in the future
  • People rarely will forget your stance on a certain hot-button issue

Common myths about social media and how it could impact your career:

  • Employers have access to my resume, education, experience, and talent—not what I do in my free time
  • My social media friends and I tend to have the same views on politics and other hot-button topics, so it’s unlikely I’m going to offend anyone. Also, I have the right to share this info!
  • My boss/potential boss and I aren’t friends on Facebook, so she has no access to what I post (and no right to see it)
  • If I have a valid complaint about my company, it would be fake for me to hide it. I want to express my feelings online
  • I would never post anything about my employer, so my online activities don’t affect my career
  • No one’s complained about anything I’ve posted online, so I must be doing okay
  • I’m not into social media at all, so none of this really applies to me

What can you do?

  • Assume that everything you share online could eventually be discovered by your colleagues, clients, and employer
  • Ask yourself if what you're about to post has a little positivity or gratitude
  • Audit your online image to find out what others might find
  • Use to monitor your online Google results each week to see what clients/others see
  • If your post could offend someone out there, assume it will, and do not post it
  • Use a healthy amount of caution when it comes to what you put out there for the world to see
  • It’s perfectly valid to vent (and you should have fun online). Vent via SMS/Text, call a friend on the phone or take them to coffee
  • It’s also OK to make fun of people, as long as it’s yourself. Self-deprecating humor can be fun, and employer-friendly