For the women who need us most

For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

Your digital footprint matters: It’s time to ditch your boozy pictures and late-to-work posts
By Lucy Hainsworth
Image: Digital footprint graphic

With employment, comes responsibilities. Whilst creating your CV and interview prep may be at the top of your list, you should probably think about clearing up your digital footprint. But, where do you start? Join Lucy Hainsworth and two cyber experts, in a guide to perfecting her online image and clearing up her own social profiles.

Being a twenty year old girl still living in the bubble of student life, my digital footprint is never something that had crossed my mind, because EVERYONE is posting all their camera roll after one too many pints… right. But one day, with the start of my career lurking in the near future, I began to think it’s time to tidy my cyber space up a little. 

Social media presence is a conscious choice most people debate about through their lives. To post or not to post, that is the question. For me, social media has become a part of my daily ritual. Posting TikTok’s before a night out, exchanging profiles in the club toilets with the girl I met about five seconds ago and documenting all of the places I’ve travelled, so everyone knows how worldly I am, are a very important part of my identity. However, now time is ticking and my life at University is ending I’m on a mission to find my first ‘big girl’ job, and it’s time to think about my digital footprint. 

This epiphany of mine came after I realised the power of the web. One day, whilst hungover after a birthday party that went a little too far (we’ll leave the details in my drafts…), I thought I’d post a funny video on the way to my final exam of the term with the comment: “Smashed (in) the exams”. In the hopes of going Tiktok viral for my hungover humour I also decided it was wise to turn my account settings off private. However, instead of thousands of views, I just got one from my tutor of the exam, as it seems I had appeared on her ‘For you Page’. It definitely was not for her, and after re-evaluating my decisions, I felt this post probably wasn’t for anyone, other than ‘User5938’ who commented a single laughing emoji. Thanks ‘User5938’. 


niche academic cross party girl meets an end of may birthday (i am not a smooth operator)

♬ OUT NOW Enzo Smooth Operator – Enzo is Burning

In the midst of panic deleting outside the exam hall, it made me question what other posts of mine I’d lacked better judgement on, and what else future employers would find, or even care about. The myth of digital footprints had suddenly come real to me, but I didn’t even know where to start ‘clearing’. So, it was time to ask the experts. 

Anna Brading, 40, who runs content creation at Malwarebytes, a data protection company that runs digital footprint scans, spoke to me about the importance of keeping your digital footprint in top shape. 

She said: “We always say don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, or in this case your employer to see. So if you were in an interview with an employer would you be ok saying whatever you’ve said online to them.

“I think anything controversial, anything racist or that can be seen against a marginalised group, you want nothing like that online but also things like attitude to work. If there is lots of photos of you partying they could read into that. Anything where you’re not taking things seriously such as sacking off work or not being interested in working, I would be worried about that.”

With this in mind, I unlocked my phone and began to scroll through my posts, and delete anything that might seem unsavoury to my employer. With the thought of ‘what wouldn’t I want my grandma to see’, the public images of me sunbathing on a girls trip and videos of me partying midday on a Wednesday were deleted. Even though I had posted nothing controversial, or illegal, the thought of my employers first impressions would be me dressed as a bunny for Halloween haunted me. 

Join Lucy in clearing her digital footprint

Although I was sad at the emptiness of my feed, I breathed a sigh of relief for the awkward conversations I was saving myself in future interviews. However, after my conversations with the digital footprint experts, I realised I had to consider a lot more than just what I posted.

Andrea Csuri, 36, a security analyst at Stripe OLT, said: “There’s more to your social media presence than just the posts you create. Your interactions, like the posts you like, the comments you leave, and who you choose to follow all add to your digital footprint. You won’t have a chance to explain you follow someone for a laugh, and not because you like them. 

“These actions can be seen by others and can contribute to their impression of you. Additionally, the photos you’re tagged in by others also play a role. It’s important to regularly check and manage these to maintain the image you want to project.” 

Anna added to this: “Be careful about the things you’ve liked, commented on and the people you are following too. It’s unlikely employers will do a deep dive on you but equally they could, so if you’re following something that is a bit controversial, consider unfollowing it because they could read into something you don’t want them to read into.”

Although I didn’t think any of my followers have suddenly become want to be politicians, I couldn’t be sure who I hadn’t followed on a whim. With thousands of followers across multiple platforms to sift through, I thought this would become more than a days work. 

I began to realise that my task had become overwhelming. Between TikTok reposts, old Instagram followers and a list of re-tweets, I didn’t know what could be out there over the years. My biggest concern being what my friends had tagged me in online, whether that was a post they found funny or just a photograph of me I didn’t like online. My digital footprint was too big, and it was time to make my life a little more private.

Andrea suggested: “There’s steps you can take to reduce what employers see. Begin with the basics – your email address. It’s common to use the same email for various purposes, from social media to job applications, but this single point can reveal more than you’d expect. For instance, during my routine checks for email addresses in historical data breaches, I’ve discovered instances of people linked to sites they’d likely prefer to keep private.

“Next, Google yourself. Are you satisfied with what you see? Try your name with different combinations such as your university, previous employers, your city. If something unfavourable shows up, you can request it’s removal from Google search results. Remember though, the content still exists at the source, so go back and try to delete where it was posted from.

“Finally, you can consider removing your full name where possible and setting your profiles to private. This can greatly reduce the visibility of your personal activities to prospective employers.” 

With these three top tips in hand, I began to feel a lot more confident about my online presence, and my first impressions to my prospective employers. From nicknames, to private accounts, I felt almost invisible, and my journey to a successful social media was almost over. But, there was just one last thing to do. 

Anna suggested: “There are also positive things you can to impress employers online, and perhaps counterbalance some bad things that might crop up. Having a LinkedIn profile is really good way of showing the jobs that you’ve worked and also a mindset towards careers. A comprehensive list of jobs that you’ve worked, any voluntary stuff you’ve done I’d be looking at that positively.”

Andrea added that she believes showing an interest in wholesome hobbies may also impress your employer. 

She said: “When it comes to hobbies, they are a great way to display aspects of your personality. Active hobbies can suggest discipline, arts and crafts can suggest creativity. It’s less about the specific hobbies themselves and more about the passion they reveal. 

“People who are enthusiastic about their interests often bring that same energy to their professional life.”

So, I swapped images of pint glasses to paint brushes, and tried to show who I was as a person, rather than what I chose to do. The crazy nights and funny memoirs stuck to the private accounts, but I still had a social presence under my new public account, with content for public eyes only. Business in the front, party in the back. 

I also began posting other achievements, other than what’s the latest lie in I could have, on profiles such as LinkedIn and Twitter. It turns out more than my mother are interested in how my work experiences have gone, and it shows to employers that I have put time into my line of work. 

So before you post all your thoughts and feelings online, think about your digital footprint. If like me, you already have, it’s time to take the steps into adulthood, and delete, delete, delete. You’ll thank me later before you’re stood in a meeting room full of suits and they’re flicking through your feeds on the big screen. No one wants to see images of themselves posing with a stolen road closed sign on the projector. (Take it from me.) 

Just remember, what would you want your grandma to see.