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Your digital footprint and your future — Creating your personal brand

Now, more than ever before, consideration must be given to how you represent yourself through different digital platforms online, thanks to social media. In creating online profiles, you are sculpting your own personal brand. This brand could work in your favor; however, if you are careless, it can work against you.

With the free forum nature of social media, you have to keep in mind the permanence of everything that is put online. In the movie The Social Network, there is a quote that rings true to this day, "The Internet is not written in pencil Mark; it's written in ink."

Every interaction you have online by way of posting, tagging, and commenting becomes your digital brand. Before employers meet with potential employees, they may already have a concept of who you are — or, at least how you have represented yourself. The rule of first impressions stands true, and many people are not even there to witness it for themselves. Each day, this digital world may be conducting business on your behalf, sometimes without your knowledge. Students getting ready to enter the job market must be aware of this rapidly evolving landscape.

When shaping your digital footprint, it does not necessarily need to be G-rated. We are human, after all, and a sunshine and unicorns presence is not given much credence. However, posts that are continually negative, indicative of tons of drama, or provide excessive drops of the F bomb may certainly throw a few red flags toward potential employers. Even with high privacy settings, potential employers may still be privy to your information by way of co-workers and acquaintances. Have you ever been surprised to find out how many mutual people you know after meeting someone new? The same rules apply in the workplace.

On the flip-side, why not use your social profiles to showcase what you have to offer? Not everyone is able to pull off a no-interview-required digital footprint, but it sure doesn't hurt to use social platforms to enhance assets that may otherwise be hidden. Do you have a blog about something that you are passionate about? Share it. Do you have a hobby that makes you unique or highlights your creative side? For example, you may enjoy cake decorating and have some photos of some fantastic cakes that you have created. Share those too. You never know what opportunities may arise from your network of friends and beyond.

Students use these forums every day and they are not going away. They may change on the surface, or evolve in their own right, but they will only continue to grow and become more accepted by the general population, including job seekers and employers. Learn to use social media to help achieve your goals in life, rather than as a line full of dirty laundry. These tools can help you pave the way to achieve your goals, or they can become a roadblock if used inappropriately. So think smart, and be social.

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