December Grads: Here’s How to Clean Up Your Digital Footprint

December Grads: Here’s How to Clean Up Your Digital Footprint

“If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”-Meredith Stuart, History Teacher & Department Chair, Duke Law & Divinity School Grad.

New graduates, this one is for you.

You may have forgotten that unflattering picture you posted on Facebook a few years ago at a party, an inappropriate Twitter chat, or a negative comment made on a blog. However, the Internet has not forgotten anything about you or the trails of comments you have left in the past. Therefore, it is time to clean up your digital profile, present yourself in a professional way and be sure to take control of how others perceive you online.

If you don’t create your online reputation, someone else will do it for you.

We have three generations in the workforce today-and each person holds a subjective outlook on how you behave online.

Here are some tips to help you clean up your digital footprint:

Make a List of all Social Media Accounts: Create a list of all the social networks sites, websites and blogs you have used and/or signed up for in the past. Be sure to include sites in which you have not been active. Brainstorm all possible names you have used (married, maiden, nicknames, aliases-and your full name that may contain different spellings). Include all of these potential names in your research.

Begin searching: Before you can start reducing and cleaning up your digital footprint, you need to know what is currently out there for public view. Start your research with a Google, Bing and Yahoo search using all the names written on your list. You can also do a search using your email account name (as this tends to trail on my many blogs). Ask your friends to run a search on your name as well, as they may find or remember other sites. Run your name on sites like, and If you find someone has the same name as you, if possible, make an effort to add your middle initial to your social profiles for distinction. Make sure all of your personal information is accurate. Bookmark all sites that you would like to return to in the very near future.

Clean it Up: Now that you have found your digital footprint, go back to all questionable concerns and start to remove any material that may seem offensive (if you wouldn’t say it to or in front of your parents, remove it). Discard of any inappropriate photos, content or offensive comments. Manage all former interactions that may be concerning. If the conversations or comments are inappropriate, be sure to remove all of the content. Remember, it only takes one wrong statement to jeopardize your career. Check out this article: 1o People Who Lost Jobs Over Social Media Mistakes (don’t be one of them). Be cautious and choose your words clearly. If you cannot remove past comments, try to reach out to the owner of the website or blog and request the removal of your comments. Each time you delete something, clear your cookies and cache on your browser to make sure everything is truly gone. Gone, gone, gone…

Check Social Media Passwords and Privacy Settings: Make sure all of your social media passwords are strong and all visible settings are always set to private mode. Check your social media accounts from a friend’s home or a library’s computer to see things objectively without signing in. Ask your friends to check if they tagged you in any of their photos, comments, updates, etc., and request removal if necessary. It is very easy for others to have control over your online presence-don’t let anyone control your online reputation. If you don’t control it-someone else will do so. Finally, do a search and delete any old social media accounts you do not use anymore.

Create Google alerts: Google Alerts are a great way to keep track of your personal presence in real-time, and it is easy to set up.

  • Go to
  • Put in the keywords you would like to track (i.e., your name, teacher, university, current employer, social media accounts, etc.)
  • Choose the type of content you would like to receive, how often and how you would like to receive the information
  • Manage your alerts by signing up for delivery through your email or even an RSS feed

Take Control of your New Online Presence: Present yourself in a positive manner by setting up a knowledgeable image of yourself in the digital world. Create a profile with simple details about yourself, your professional goals, and be sure to highlight all of your successful work. Create a digital portfolio and share your work online in the appropriate places. If you are not on LinkedIn, I highly suggest you begin building a reputation there immediately. If you do choose to take part in conversations, showcase your expertise in an accurate, friendly and knowledgeable way. Keep it simple and professional. Always remember to question and think about anything you choose to post. Pause before you post.

Continuously Manage your Presence: Remember, it is not only potential employers who are viewing you. Today, our tech savvy world has left a place for open discussions, comments and reviews about anything or anyone.  Stay on top of things to protect yourself online, be active, and always present yourself in the best possible light.

Remember, everything is subjective.

By following these tips, a great beginning awaits you toward your new career. Managing your personal and digital life can be challenging. However, it is the reality we all face today. Done right, you can have an amazing online presence and the start of a new career without any issues.




This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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