Have you seen a sonogram of a pregnancy in a friend’s announcement online? That sonogram is the beginning of a particular child’s digital footprint, before they are born. Similarly, every time someone posts a cute picture, mentions their name, and shares a funny video of the child, their digital footprint expands. This is the beginning of their online brand — their digital birthday.
That child does not have control over what other people are posting about them now. But someday, they will ask a search engine to compile every bit of information that has been posted with their name online and the digital version of naked-baby-on-a-rug will not seem so cute. At that point, online branding and profile development coaching start looking like a good idea.
You have more control over your digital footprint than a child does, but it takes work. If you are not proactively curating everything that can be connected to you, then it will accumulate without your control. Even not tagging your photos and using privacy settings will not prevent a facial recognition program identifying you or a security breach. Mistakes can be made, too, and your identity might be confused with someone else to your detriment. Once stuff goes viral, there isn’t anything you can do but damage control.
Because employers are increasingly using search engines to find candidates, your information might not even show up in the first few pages of “qualified potential candidates” when they start looking. If the computer doesn’t select you as suitable, there’s no chance to make an appeal. If you are not active online, monitoring all your information and adding value to your digital presence with LinkedIn activity, professional posts, and making sure your brand is what you want it to be…
then you will be as helpless as the infant in the sonogram, subject to whatever someone else says about you and unaware of what is going on.