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February 13, 2013
Should You Clean Up Your Digital Footprint?
 
A war is being raged online right now where there aren’t any clear winners. But there are a lot of losers. Or least losers…as employers see them.
 
This war is centered right smack dab in the middle of the content that we post online, either in the form of posts, status updates, comments, tags, likes, or any other way that provides a clear trail of where you’ve been, what you’ve been up to, and what kinds of activities in which you are engaged. And even what your friends are like.
 
What you choose to put online can clue in employers to things that convey something about your character, personality, preferences, choices, decision making, and ultimately, critical thought.
 
In many states, there are specific laws the protect individuals from being not offered a job because of what an employer read online from a specific website.
 
But in some cases, if the aggregate from multiple sources demonstrates a lack of a fit, candidates are being shown the door.
 
For recent graduates who have let their hair down in their student years and are now entering the workforce, this could spell disaster.
 
Enter in “FaceWash.” This new app that PC Magazine reviews is described as exactly that: it washes your Facebook statuses clean to remove embarrassing comments or unseemly posts. It doesn’t, however, get rid of those photos you wish you’d never taken.
 
Privacy advocates are growing increasingly concerned about exactly how nosy employers are getting.  The best practice: lock down your profile so only you can control what is being posted. This includes how and when people might tag you; your personal privacy settings might be airtight, but if someone else posts something and tags you in that post, everyone in their network can see it.
 
At this point, you can’t be too careful.
 
Many people resent having to take these measures to protect what they see as personal time and interests from prying employer eyes. Social networks are a place for expression, and if you can’t even express yourself in a way you feel comfortable, then what kind of society have we become? Snoopy employers don’t really care about that perspective.
 
Their job is to find out about you and how you may or may not fit into their culture.
 
Generally, the conventional wisdom is that if you would be embarrassed for an employer to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it.
 
Have you ever had to “sanitize” a profile? What steps did you take?

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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