What is a digital footprint? No, it’s not a new emoji for your iPhone – it’s far more valuable and insightful, particularly for your future boss.
“A digital footprint is what you leave behind when you surf the internet, and it can be seen by others, including potential employers,” warns Simon Quance, creative director of Digital Visitor, a social media and digital marketing agency.
Speaking at an event organised by travel marketing agency Be Distinctly Different, at the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc HQ in London last month, Quance explains that we all leave a data trail when we use the internet.
60% of employers now use social media to research job applicants. Most aren’t using it to catch employees out or dig up dirt. Rather, it’s a way to find out information that supports a candidate’s job qualifications.
Our digital footprints can be made up of emails or comments on a Facebook user’s timeline, WhatsApp chats, Skype video calls and LinkedIn messages about jobs. This may sound unnerving, but Quance says harnessing the power of a digital footprint and using it positively and consciously can lead to better employment prospects.
According to Quance, 60% of employers now use social media to research job applicants. Most aren’t using it to catch employees out or dig up dirt. Rather, it’s a way to find out information that supports a candidate’s job qualifications.
Creating a positive personal brand
So how do we go about making a positive digital footprint? “Google yourself,” urges Quance. “Dig deep and see how other people see you first.”
If there are aspects of the overall picture you don’t like, Quance suggests changing it by posting fresh, positive and relevant content, which will eventually have an impact on Google’s search results. “It’s all about projecting yourself better online. Create a positive personal brand, much like a business brand,” advises Quance.
“It gives you an identity people can connect with.” He adds that a personal brand becomes a platform for projecting your USPs and publicising them for future employers to see. If you’re applying for a job in travel, and your Facebook and Instagram feed backs up your passion by charting your prolific jet-setting, it proves you are who you say you are, Quance explains.
“Set up an evidence trail of your love of travel. It’s a way of supporting what you say about yourself and showing that you are ‘walking the talk’,” he says.
Coming up with a personal value proposition is a handy tool for showcasing your uniqueness to employers, and highlighting how you can add value in your future dream job, Quance explains. “Think of your personal value proposition (PVP) as a personal statement, like the one students have to write when applying for university,” says Quance.
“It’s a persuasive tool that encourages people to notice you.” When writing your PVP, set a clear target, highlighting what direction you want to take and acknowledging where job skills are needed, Quance says. “Then identify your strengths and tie them directly to your target job position.” Finally, provide evidence and success to strengthen your case. Getting your PVP up on social media is the next step, with LinkedIn the most effective channel for going into great depth.
“It can also create an editorial direction for you, highlighting themes to cover on Twitter, for example, or become a guide that will help you tick off your goals,” Quance adds. Playing to your strengths is key, as it will help you to create exciting, relevant content that people will want to read.
“Also acknowledge what you want to be better at, then train and practise to set about acquiring those new skills that will make you even more employable.” While you’re honing your new skills, also make sure you’re broadcasting your message frequently: using a tool such as Hootsuite can help you with scheduling social posts regularly and ensuring you have a strong online media presence. It’s also vital to listen and learn from others, to ensure your digital footprint is always improving, concludes Quance.
So spruce up your Instagram feed, update your LinkedIn profile and get tweeting. You never know – your dream boss might be watching.