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Think back over the last 10 years of your life. Think of the most riotous night out/holiday/party in that time. Think of the best/worst stag-do-hen-party you’ve been on. Think of the photos that were taken on them.

How many of those photos do you want your prospective employer to see?

Social media has revolutionized a lot of things. Recruitment and jobseeking is one area that has benefits above more than many, but the risk contained in your digital footprint must be understood.
Digital Footprint

We all remember Prince Harry’s Las Vegas antics a couple of years ago. A reminder that in this age of smartphones, coupled with an overzealous/scandal craving media, there is no hiding place from the public eye. His behaviour was rightly dismissed by most as high-jinx antics from a young man about to enter a lengthy period serving in Afghanistan. You could argue the saga won him far more fans than it lost him and made his family appear just a little more human.

Harry’s antics were only newsworthy because he is royal, and a public figure. What about those who aren’t?

We were going to offer you the job….then we saw THIS

I did a speech last year on this subject to a group of final year university students. I asked for a volunteer, a young lady came forward. She was a Law Undergraduate, expecting a first with the plan to join a top 10 law firm.  I asked her to log on to her facebook account on my laptop connected to the projector, she declined. Smart move.

I asked if anyone in the room knew her name, most did. I then found her on facebook, and found several non-private photos of her. They included pictures from her previous year’s holiday, to Ayia Napa. Several photos of her by the pool in a bikini, which noone would disagree looked great, if perhaps a tiny bit inappropriate.

….then came a couple of photos from a nightclub where she and her friend (whoseSummer Holiday Gary Chaplin birthday it appeared to be) were on stage with the male ‘act’ doing something which shall we say made most of her male students sit up with interest, and envy. She looked horrified.

One of these males suggested it may help her get the Top10 job. Unlikely.  We then googled his name and quickly found his Twitter timeline. Of the half a dozen tweets that were visible on that page all but one were probably inappropriate for a prospective employer to see – and that one was a photo of his breakfast! The others included comments on how drunk he had been, swearing, comments of a sexual nature, some VERY politically incorrect comments about an obese person and a joke about a black footballer player.

Does this matter? Surely ‘kids will be kids’. This is true, but in a highly contested job market, employers need no reasons to exclude you from the process.

Real life example?

I interviewed a young lady last year, very bright, straight-A student, Prize-Winning professional qualifications. She had been targeted for a role I was handling working for a London-based, very conservative Entrepreneur. Knowing his HR team would do background checks, I got one of my researchers to do the same, again merely using Google….

We quickly brought up several beauty pageant wins, including an entry in the Miss United Kingdom. It also brought up a side-line pre-University career in fashion modeling. Following that thread it brought up some glamour modeling, and some soft porn work, and some not so soft….. You get the idea. She wasn’t shortlisted.

Another example was an active tweeter who devoted much of his spare time campaigning against Animal Testing and promoting extreme political views. His application to join a key service provider to AstraZeneca ended quickly.

A highly topical example is the recent hijack of HMVs twitter feed last year, the tweets from recently dismissed members of staff were swiftly deleted, but only after 1,000 of copies had been made and distributed.

Your digital footprint is indelible. Your Facebook/Twitter accounts can be deleted, but the data will remain somewhere. Worse still, the majority of your digital footprint cannot be deleted by you but can be found by anyone.

Easiest way to prevent an adverse footprint is to avoid undertaking any activity that if discovered, might in any way hinder career prospects. But we are all human, and the life of total abstinence can render equal levels of unemployability. …for most it is “too late to shut the gate after the horse has bolted”

Back to Prince Harry.  How did he deal with the situation? No doubt he got a dressing down from his commanding officer, a similar dressing down from his Grannie and huge sarcasm from everyone that knew him. He’ll also make sure that next time, his so-called friends do not have their phones nearby…..

But he took it on the chin and laughed it off. A young man, in the military, about to risk his life for 5 months in Afghanistan had a party..…with girls and alcohol. He’d be more embarrassed if there hadn’t been such a party.

What can commoners do? I have first hand of this. Having been splashed across the media in 2011, I can see the impact of modern digital media. I was lucky, not only was the reported story so exaggerated it became obviously unbelievable, but I work in a profession where being well known is a massive benefit. My tale had a happy ending, many do not.

The lessons are same for everyone though, don’t hide, don’t deny. Take extreme caution in what you do publically but don’t avoid living life because of it. Yes delete those photos from Facebook once you start entering the job market. Be especially careful of what you tweet/blog/etc – assume that everyone sees your comments, your wife/husband, her/his parents, your boss, etc…and use that as your control mechanism. Don’t assume you can hide. The wwworld is watching.

But after the event, remember the saying, “It is not how hard you fall, but how high you bounce-back”.   Address, explain and move on. If others can’t, it was never meant to be.

Above all, be aware of your digital footprint.