Your digital footprint is what, as an online user, you leave behind in the digital world. Proactive posts you’ve written yourself, what others post about you and what is out of your control all make up your digital footprint and reputation.

Your online reputation doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, managed sensibly, it can be an advantage.

Your digital reputation and employment

Regardless of the job you are applying for, many employers will conduct some sort of online search about you when reviewing your application. Anything offensive would be instantly a red flag but other behaviours they see (or don’t see), that isn’t in line with their values, may also cause problems. For example, someone applying to become a social media manager but has no personal social media presence could be a concern for the prospective employer. After all, how can you expect someone to successfully manage an organisation’s social channels if they don’t have their own?

How deep they dig will also depend on the job role and organisation too, for example, applications to the police force. Some roles will even ask the candidate to look into selected individuals’ public information as part of the recruitment process. However, this will typically be for roles that would include that sort of task, such as digital forensic experts. 

While having no digital presence can sometimes be seen as suspicious, there are exceptions where anonymity can be positive, such as protecting whistle-blowers or investigative journalism where something is uncovered that could be a threat to public health or safety.

Treat it as an opportunity rather than a threat

Your online reputation isn’t just about making sure you’re not posting anything that could be viewed as offensive or contentious. It’s also an opportunity to position yourself as a positive and professional person. Used sensibly and correctly, the internet can work for you, rather than against you. Many people who have been headhunted have been identified through their positive online reputations, including tech giants and industry leading businesses.

LinkedIn is the world's largest online professional network and is a great tool for any job in any industry. Using it the right way can help connect you with opportunities, create and strengthen professional relationships and showcase your experience, skills and education.

Assume nothing is private

Whatever you post online, regardless of what apps and devices you use, always assume that content can be found, even when deleted. Even if it has disappearing content or encryptions promising privacy, always assume nothing is ever private and if someone wanted to find it, they could.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if you would never say it in public or wouldn’t want it on the front page of a newspaper, then don’t post it. There are always pieces coming out about celebrities who have posted hurtful or offensive things in the past before they found fame. In most cases it has caused lasting damage to their reputation, and, in turn, their careers.

You need to trust the people around you

It’s important to make sure you’re around people you trust as their actions could affect your online reputation, the same as yours could hurt them.

This isn’t just related to embarrassing tagged photos, but personal and sensitive information as well. Sharing too much information could lead you to be being at risk of cyber bullying, fraud, stalking, or someone leading others to believe something untrue about you.

By protecting yourself online, you also help to protect others as well. One way to do this is to make sure your friends and family know what platforms you’re on and not on, and vice versa. For example, you may not be on Facebook, but someone pretending to be you could ask a family member to borrow some money through Facebook Messenger. If that person knows you’re not on Facebook, they’re far less likely to fall for it.


Richard Wall and Elaina Brutto, Careers Wales

Richard Wall is a Systems Engineer with more than 15 years of industry experience and has worked at Careers Wales for 12 years. He specialises in ICT security, cloud computing and system architecture. At Careers Wales, his responsibilities include data integrity, system security, staff training and awareness, risk management and the design and implementation of technical products.

Elaina Brutto, a careers adviser for the Working Wales service, has also contributed to this article. Elaina has been a careers adviser for over eight years supporting people to fulfil their employability needs, as well as liaising with employers from a variety of sectors who are looking to fill vacancies.

Careers Wales provides an all-age, inclusive and impartial careers guidance and coaching service to the people of Wales. With a team of more than 570 careers advisers, business engagement advisers and employability coaches, the service starts with supporting young people with important choices and transition points during school years as well as providing high-quality work-related experiences. The Welsh Government funded Working Wales service provides tailored support to young people aged over 16 and adults with their employability needs including paid employment, training opportunities and redundancy support.