Your digital footprint – Part 1: Digital dirt

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Over the coming days, Jobhatch will feature a series intended to dissect your digital footprint—that trail everyone leaves online. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and we hope you’ll benefit. But first, let’s start with the basics.


Have you ever heard of Amos Yee?

If you happen to live in Singapore, it’s a name you may have heard frequently over the last year. If you’re unaware who he is, here is a quick run-through.

Amos Yee is a 16-year-old Singaporean who faced some serious criminal charges. Now before it strikes your mind, no: he didn’t kill, burgle, or engage in drug trafficking. He was charged for uploading a video.

On March 23, 2015, Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore and a man widely regarded as the country’s founding father, passed away. A few days afterward, Yee uploaded a video with title “Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!” in which he compared Lee to Jesus, and also castigated Christians. In addition, he also posted a lewd cartoon that portrayed Lee and Margaret Thatcher in an inappropriate light. Singapore is a country with a zero-tolerance policy toward the disgrace of race and religion, and with the severity of his outburst, formal complaints were made. Yee was arrested and charged quickly.

There have been mixed responses to Yee’s actions: many have offered support and have praised him for his courage; many have felt that the severity of authorities’ response was justified. Whatever the case, the video has become a defining moment in Yee’s life: “digital dirt” that will haunt, for better or for worse, for the rest of his life.

Digital dirt doesn’t refer only to videos like Yee’s. Any type of questionable content can cost a person their liberties, and this especially applies his or her career. Whether you are looking for a job or already have one, being aware of your digital footprint is crucial.


What exactly is a digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is essentially the trail of data you leave behind on digital and social media, both actively and passively. Anyone can simply search for your name on Google and find content related to you from the entries that pop up. With social media platforms like as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook among the first to crop up in search results, digital footprint makes it easy for recruiters to search for and know about you, even before your first interview or meeting. Even if you have an excellent academic record and a sound CV, a single speck of digital dirt can greatly limit your chances of scoring an interview.

Fortunately, there are ways you can develop a positive and effective digital presence. We’ll be fully exploring the concept of a digital footprint as a six-part series over the coming weeks, but for now, here are some quick tips on controlling and protecting your online reputation.


Self-search online

The very first step in controlling your digital footprint is to perform a self-search and become aware of your online presence. Use your name as a search term and run a search on social media platforms and different search engines. If your name happens to be a common one, include the various topics you know you have previously discussed online. Make sure that at least one of the top five or ten search results linked to your name are pertinent to your professional interests. One of the highly visible social sites is LinkedIn: maintaining a professional, up-to-date, and comprehensive LinkedIn profile is a great first step.


Reduce Negative Content – Review Your Social Media Footprint

It’s common for social media sites to change their privacy settings constantly. Therefore, don’t take a chance with what your social media profiles contain. Review all your social media profiles and make sure that the information on there is something you wouldn’t mind sharing with a potential employer. Using tools to review content is also a wise choice, but when in doubt, refrain from posting anything that is unprofessional, be it a comment, a status, or a picture.


Start developing your digital footprint, again

Deleting negative footprints online obviously helps, but what’s better is being proactive in creating a new, positive digital footprint. Think about the kind of public reputation that will help attract employers to your profile, and start creating it. Let your idea reflect in every social media profile, and also on your website and blog, if there is one. This is basically about designing your own digital footprint, rather than bequeathing one.


Exhibit your strength

Social media profiles are excellent sources to exhibit your strengths. Use them to show potential employers that you are the best fit for the job. Highlight your unique interests on your profiles, and don’t hesitate to post about your efforts and achievements, such as volunteering in charity work or running in a marathon. When an employer happens upon your social media profile, or even searches for you online, these exhibitions can be a compelling addition to your other credentials.

With employers deliberating the online presence of candidates, it is indispensable to maintain a positive digital footprint. These profiles are now an extension of your CV and should help you snag that next big job opportunity.

Stay tuned: we’ve only just started digging into the world of the digital footprint. Over the coming days, we will be featuring more segments aimed at polishing your presence online.

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Amos Tay

Amos Tay

Amos Tay is the Senior Partner of Hatch Asia. He is a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrength Coach and lead our executive search, coaching and expand our partnership development across the region.

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