Managing Your Digital Footprint in the Social Media Age

Posted by Ashley Jones

Long gone are the days when we had a blank slate meeting new people. With the proliferation of social media and online communication tools, our personal brand often arrives before us, forming impressions based off of our digital footprint. While this can bring an added burden, it’s also an opportunity to form new connections, nurture existing relationships, and to set the stage on your terms.

From the dating world to recruiting, social media profiles serve as a tool to find commonalities and potential red flags. With such information readily at our fingertips, most of us are bound to take a look. While some recruiters and hiring managers will not vet candidates on social media, it will serve you best to assume they will at some point in the process. A professional profile can be a great addition to your job search toolkit when utilized effectively. Make sure your profiles help you, not harm you on your journey to job search success.

If as a cleared professional you’re going to maintain an online presence, make sure you consider these vital do’s and don’ts of social media:


  • Realize you’re in a public forum on every social media site. There are privacy controls that are much more robust than in the past, but you’re still connecting with other people whom you don’t control. Operational security is always an essential consideration when communicating online.
  • Think about where individuals in your profession hang out—that’s where you want to be. While LinkedIn is the largest and most professional social network, it may not be the sole or best answer for your particular situation. Your professional association or other social networks may be more fruitful for you. Or you may have built a very broad and strong network on other social sites. You’re not limited to one outlet, so use what works best for you.
  • Consider the content you create, and the items that you like and share, as a reflection of your personal brand. Every action you take online adds to your digital footprint. Be aware of what you are putting out into the world and contemplate the ramifications good or bad – how could this affect your job search prospects?
  • Think about participating in social networks without broadcasting your personal information if that’s your preference due to your clearance level, personal inclination, or both. You can participate while sharing minimal information, but still benefit from learning about potential employers and individuals who may be helpful in your job search and career.
  • To the degree you are comfortable based on your clearance, complete your professional profile on LinkedIn to reflect the savvy professional you are. Share your experience by focusing on accomplishments, work products such as presentations, awards, volunteer activities, and recommendations. You get to create your profile, so share what you’re proud of and sell your best self. This might be the first impression that a potential employer encounters—take the initiative to make it a good one, that you wouldn’t mind preceding you.
  • Maintain good grammar and spelling in your communications on professional platforms like LinkedIn. It’s easy to get in the habit of using texting and Twitter shorthands, but go the extra step on LinkedIn or other professional platforms to use proper spelling and punctuation in your posts and comments.
  • Use social media as a research tool in your job search. Follow companies of interest and join industry groups to gather information. This can help you decide if the organization will be a good fit and help you adjust your level of interest. You might even have a connection to someone who currently or previously worked there. Look for those commonalities to aid your job hunt.
  • Send a personalized message when sending a connection request whenever possible. Maybe you met someone briefly or haven’t seen them in ages and they won’t remember you right away. Or if they don’t know you at all, what’s the reason you’d like to connect? Share your intentions for a meaningful connection rather than sending requests on a whim without purpose.
  • Check your privacy settings on all your social media accounts. Perhaps you want to use LinkedIn and Twitter as your professional public profiles, but want to keep Facebook to just family and friends. Consider making your Facebook profile private in that scenario, but still maintain a level of discretion when posting—you never know who knows who and what might rub someone the wrong way. Make sure to go back regularly to double-check your privacy settings, as new features and updates can bring changes.
  • Search for yourself on Google (do an image search too) to see what immediately pops up and what might be looming from some random account you created in past years that you may have forgotten about. Other people might have posted something about you too—do yourself a favor and be aware of what’s out there about you.


  • get combative in your posts or comments. Even if you delete it later there could still be a screenshot—or you may have already left a negative impression on someone who immediately saw it.
  • post, like, or share content that could be considered offensive. While some such posts might amuse a select few, it’s not worth offending others and jeopardizing connections. Avoid topics spanning religion, politics, sex, substance abuse, discrimination, and talking negatively about your employer or past employer. This is particularly true on LinkedIn or association sites where there is an expectation that you act professionally. Keep in mind that if you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see it, you shouldn’t hit “enter”.
  • accept connection requests on LinkedIn from people you don’t know, unless there is a viable reason for you to connect. You will need to make a judgment call in some cases. Ask yourself if the connection will add quality to your network or job search. There are bots and fake profiles, so use common sense when connecting.
  • put your security clearance on your profiles. While you should include your clearance on your cleared resume on ClearedJobs.Net because it’s a closed site, it does not belong on your LinkedIn profile. Some recruiters and hiring managers will rule you out from the get go if they see your clearance on your profile – and there is no way for you to know who may eliminate you from consideration due to your lack of discretion.
  • contradict your resume on your online profiles or lie about experience and qualifications. While you want to present yourself as a promising candidate, you must represent yourself truthfully. Exaggeration and outright deception can come back to bite you, whether it’s today or years down the line.
  • just passively hit the “like” button. Comment on posts when you have something to add and engage with your network. Ask yourself if your actions are truly building a real connection.
  • solely rely on social media to nurture your professional network. Social media can dilute our relationships, so make sure you make meaningful connections too—give someone a call or go out for coffee once in a while in the real world.

While social media can have a positive effect on our job search and aid our networking efforts, it can also raise doubts about us if we abuse it or blatantly share everything on our mind. Consider perception, intention, discretion, and operational security when using social media and actively think about how your digital actions describe you as a person and professional. You are in control of your online persona and brand to a certain extent, so be sure to cultivate it with care.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

    View all posts
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 13, 2019 12:48 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation