Protect your digital footprint, protect your future

A student urges her peers to create a positive online presence to better their employment opportunities.


As commencement approaches, graduates are preparing or searching for employment opportunities. While many students focus on perfecting their resumes and cover letters, the image created by their digital footprint likely isn’t their top concern when looking for a job.

A digital footprint is a record of a person’s online activity, and it’s becoming more common for companies to perform social media checks before hiring people, Business News Daily reported

Sometimes students post reckless content, like underage drinking and explicit language, to their social media profiles without considering the potential consequences: they could be creating a damaging digital footprint that may prevent them from getting hired.

As many students have learned throughout their lives, it’s nearly impossible to erase something from social media once it’s been posted. Students should ensure a search for their name doesn’t surface inappropriate content because even one unprofessional post could potentially ruin job opportunities. They should delete and refrain from posting content that contributes to a negative image.

“Something that you post today could be something that an employer two years from now see, and it might present you in a way that the person that you are today, two years later, might not want to share that information, but it’s already out there,” said Sherri Hope Culver, a media studies and production associate professor and the director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy.

Before determining who to hire, 70 percent of companies screen potential applicants and look at their social media, with 18 percent of employees losing their job due to their social media posts, according to a September 2022 study by CareerBuilder, a company that helps employers hire in the United States. 

“Sometimes some people’s social media tell a lot more about somebody than an interview,” said Rithika Mothukuri, a senior media studies and production major.

A 17-year-old lost out on a job opportunity after the company performed a background check and saw her videos on TikTok, Buzzfeed reported. Many of the videos shared overly personal stories, which was enough to cost her a job.

“I never had anything controversial or something that could get me fired from a workplace or school or something, but there are many cases of that happening and we should be learning from their mistakes,” said Kieran McCarney, a junior social work major.

Posting pictures that show students engaging in reckless behavior can impact someone’s chances of getting hired. Drug and alcohol use, and using explicit language are some of the top social media activities that could deter an employer from hiring someone, according to a 2021 study by The HR Director, a human resources magazine.

Additionally, complaining about previous employers, discussing sexual topics, debating with other users about politics and posting with incorrect grammar and spelling can also discourage employers from hiring.

Social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, are outlets for students to express who they are and share their activities. When posting, some students don’t think enough about how it could affect them in the future. 

“Many people have a desire to present their full selves on social media, the danger is that there are people out there who might have an influence on your life who you might not want to see everything, like your employers,” Culver said.

While students shouldn’t stop posting entirely on social media, they could think more critically about what they’d be putting out there and who would see it. 

“It’s important to have a clean digital footprint because it could look bad on you, it could look bad on your friends, and social media can be edited and changed and screenshotted and screen recorded and taken out of context, so I could post something and not have mal intent, but it could be switched to that,” McCarney said.

As students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce they should be mindful of their internet presence as unprofessional content can get in the way of their careers. 

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