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Your online reputation is as important as your offline reputation because your online posts tell the world who you are!
You may not realize it, but every time you use the internet you leave a trail of your digital footprints. Whatever you post online, the websites that you visit the videos/music that you download and any content that you browse or download contributes to your digital footprint. You may question - why or how does it matter? You may think that it’s like going to the beach to have fun and leaving your footprints on the sand…. soon the waves come and wash away everything. That’s where the difference lies – your digital footprint never gets washed away; it remains in cyberspace FOREVER!
To complicate the issue further, it is not just what you post about yourself that matters; what others post about you also contributes to your digital footprint and all of this creates your online reputation. It tells the world ‘who you are and what are you stand for’. The digital decisions that you make today remain with you…. forever. With more and more colleges & universities conducting digital background checks on applicants before granting admission, maintaining a ‘clean online image’ is becoming increasingly important.
Emphasizing the need to conduct such ‘background checks’, Colonel Sanjay Chawla says, “The online reputation of an applicant can offer valuable insights about a person’s character, beliefs, value system…much more than what meets the eye. It’s always better to know as much as possible about the candidate beforehand than entrusting them with jobs and realizing your mistake later.”
Ohio University has launched a campaign encouraging its students to “Be Smart, Be Civil, Be safe, Be employed.” The idea was to remind students that an inappropriate online image could hamper their chances of getting their ‘dream job’. “We talk to students about creating a professional online presence, such as keeping status updates clean and their tweets professional. An employer will think twice about hiring a student whose first link on ‘Google search’ is an article discussing their pending court case due to rioting or a quote about partying till 5 a.m.”, says Erin Nunn, Assistant Director, Office of career services, Ohio University.
“In today’s world of cut-throat competition, the emphasis is more on looking for reasons to reject an application rather than accept it… and a tarnished online reputation is a good reason to reject the applicant at the preliminary level itself,” reiterates Sanjana Sachdev, an evaluator, who screens applications for university admissions abroad. In his book Managing Your Digital Footprint, Kevin Trowbridge advocates, “Your resume is just the preface. Your online image tells the whole story.”
MANAGING IT EFFECTIVELY
In order to effectively manage your digital footprint it is important not to confuse things with being hidden in digital space. The idea is to portray who you are and what you do, stand by your beliefs and paint your own picture as someone you are proud to be.
While interacting with people face-to-face we are very careful in the way we conduct ourselves; trying our best to be seen in positive light. It is the same attitude that you must carry even in cyberspace. Being hidden behind a computer screen does not mean that people in the virtual world do not create an image of you. On the contrary, being online means that you are being seen by a much wider audience! So instead of posting a photograph that later makes you cringe, it would be wiser to post your accomplishments and achievements. You should even consider replacing an immature or inappropriate e-mail address with something more serious or professional. This slight shift in managing your online reputation could go a long way in ensuring that you become a part of the college/university/company that you aspire to be in.
“Managing our reputation has always been a challenge for all of us and the same holds true even in digital space”, says Avneet Kaur, NASCOM. “Your online image gets interlinked to your offline image when you go out and apply in foreign universities or when you step into the corporate world. Companies in India are also now relying on digital data before recruiting professionals. In fact, hiring decisions finally boil down to face-to-face interactions, but it is important to maintain a clean online image to pass the initial tests that lead to a face-to-face interview,” she adds.
CREATING AN IMPRESSION
Online posts mentioning negative statements about your institution/teachers/employers, references to drugs or alcohol and use of abusive language on social networking sites are potentially hazardous to your online reputation. It is thus advisable to check your digital footprints and delete such posts to ‘spring clean’ your digital image.
In fact prevention is better than cure – so it would be better to develop a ‘pause before you post’ approach whenever you are online and always ensure that you’re proud of what you are posting. Wouldn’t be wise to use the Internet to your advantage and create a positive digital impression? Isn’t it equally likely that your future professor/employer will come across it!