The Internet has become an integral part our lives: from streaming movies and entertainment to online education, most of us use it every day. And for students and college graduates, the Internet can provide the tools you need to build professional networks, search for careers, and contact potential employers.
If not managed properly, however, the Internet can lead to problems. Racy photos on a social media site, a heated exchange on an online message board, or a half-empty networking profile are all things that could damage your online reputation. Learning to use the Internet as a tool—and how to keep that tool sharp and solid—is essential for your career search and beyond.
A digital footprint is the size of your online presence. Most people aren’t aware that the majority of online interactions can be tracked—and since even defunct websites and online activities can be archived, you need to understand how your online exchanges may affect you. The ‘delete’ button can no longer erase what you do online—Internet archives last indefinitely.
Your digital footprint can influence both your personal and professional life—you might not be aware that some of your online activities can be viewed by others. If your LinkedIn profile presents you as a hard-working, conscientious student—but your Facebook profile is full of off-color jokes—an employer might reconsider contacting you for an interview. It’s important to remember that the Internet has become the world’s public square—and you should conduct yourself online the same way you would in public.
The result of your online activities and digital footprint is your online reputation—people can come to conclusions about you based on your name’s Google search results. And while there’s little you can do about what someone else might write about you online, there’s still plenty you can do to shape your own online reputation. In addition to regular digital housecleaning, you can also use your online reputation to build your personal brand.
Start with your interactions on various social media networks by doing a little housecleaning. If there are embarrassing or otherwise awkward photos or blog posts, delete them and use Google to manage your online identity. The first ten results for you on Google’s search engine should be positive—and if there are any neutral or negative results on the first page of your search, do what you can to change them. Managing your online reputation may take a lot of time—and it should be performed on a regular basis—but it can make a real difference in how you’re viewed online.
Where to hang out online
Social media isn’t what it used to be. In less than a decade, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have taken over the Internet and changed the way we communicate with each other. Although those sites can be great for personal social sharing, sites like LinkedIn and Monster’s BeKnown are tailored for professional networking.
You don’t have to abandon Facebook or Twitter to reach out to people professionally: instead, find a balance of sharing your personal life that doesn’t taint your professional image. Social media and the Internet continue to evolve, and our online relationships will continue to evolve with them. Taking the time to understand how your online identity and reputation affect you can make a positive difference in your life offline.