The Memory of Snow & Your Digital Footprint

I lead a double life:
I live in Manhattan, but I try to spend at least one month a year in
Northern New England. I was raised in South Carolina, but “GB” (my late
grandmother) instilled a love of New Hampshire summers and a tolerance
for winters. There are few things I enjoy more than a walk in the woods
on a crisp day or cooking with fresh rhubarb in the summer. 

been blessed to spend the last ten days working in the country, and—as
always—I’ve been captivated by the memory that snow holds.

For a week, there were tracks of turkey in the backyard and tracks of
deer in the side yard. On Sunday night, we got enough snow to cover
them up. So I shoveled a path to the front door before another three
inches or so fell. And now I see the memory of a foot path that needs
to be shoveled yet again.

My work with my Big Foot shovel reminds me of my professional life.
For much of the last two years, I’ve been learning—and writing and
speaking—about the importance of monitoring one’s online digital
footprint. According to the latest stats from ExecuNet, 86% of
recruiters conduct background research on candidates as part of the
hiring process and—an estimated 44% have discounted potential hires
based on what they found online.

tracks you make through your online activities are similar to the ones
in the snow—if you make a big imprint or leave a trace of yourself on a
popular site—it’s harder to make it go away.

(Picture the remains of a snowman or an ice sculpture; there’s a lump
that remains sometimes even after everything else has disappeared and
the grass is visible again.)

Last week, my colleague and friend Donna Sweidan (@careerfolk)
came to visit for a few days and we marveled at the snow tracks and the
close parallel between “digital dirt.” She shared with me five of her
favorite tips for reputation clean-up which I pass on to you.

  1. Establish a Google Alert on your own name.
    This way, you will get notified when someone else has tagged or
    mentioned you, and you can clean up what is found. To set-up, visit:
  2. Fix your bio—if you’ve got one already that isn’t known to you.
    aggregates information found about you online and creates an online
    profile. Claim your profile, review it, and fix it if it is wrong.
  3. Find out what people are saying. Visit
    and type in your own name to view search results and see how others
    talk about you. Find something you don’t like? If it’s a friend,
    acquaintance or mis-representation, e-mail the person and ask them to
    take it down.

    Share your name with someone else? Use a middle
    initial or your profession after your name—then use the same name on
    your resume, e-mail signature, and across social media platforms.

  4. Develop
    a strong presence on and customize your own URL to add to
    your e-mail signature (see settings for Public Profile to create URL)
    . LinkedIn has
    a high rank with search engines and will help your professional profile
    stay high in your list of Google search results. Bonus points: Create
    additional profiles on Plaxo or

    Feel like there’s
    more work to do? Comment on websites, articles, and blog postings with
    high traffic—and spell check your responses! A response on high traffic
    sites like the New York Times website or the Huffington Post can go a
    long way in burying other items…

  5. Maintain your privacy. Sites like
    are searchable by the public—and can tell users a great deal about you.
    Want to maintain your privacy? Donna Sweidan suggests creating an
    e-mail account that isn’t associated with your name for personal use
    with private accounts.

If you’re ready
to erase your footprint, or create one that is more in line with your
job search and career goals, these strategies will help you get a
running start towards leaving a positive trail behind you.

Thanks for the tips, Donna! Have any additional suggestions? Please share.
Cross-posted at Career Hub.

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