“This Stuff article by Marnie Banger reinforces the fact that our online reputations provide a lot of consideration for potential employers who screen us as potential job candidates. The short but clever video featured in the article also reminds us that the digital footprint is very real and very telling.”
Making mistakes is an inevitable part of being human, but documenting our lives on social media is making them harder to forget.
The Victorian state government has renewed a push make young people aware of the dangers of leaving behind a potentially dangerous digital footprint as they grow older and look for jobs.
It has released a short film created by brother and sister duo Samantha and Shane Asbury, high school teachers who have seen first hand how technology has shifted school dynamics.
“Young people don’t always understand that when they post something online, or when their friends do, it might have consequences down the track,” said Asbury.
“Year 7s have been exposed to a lot of these technologies since they were toddlers, so when they come to school they are already using apps like Instagram and using Facebook messaging instead of text,” she said.
“But young people don’t tend to look five or ten years into the future. The way we are communicating is changing, but we need to raise awareness that what goes online really is for life.”
Minister for Youth Affairs Ryan Smith said he hoped young Victorians would understand the impact their online life could have on future employment.
“We want young Victorians to have the best start, but if you’ve posted something inappropriate online there’s a chance a prospective employer may have found the post and made a judgement before they’ve even met you,” Smith said.
Digital Content Developer at youth-run media outlet SYN, 24-year-old Declan Kelly, said inappropriate posts are inevitable in an internet culture increasingly based on sharing.
“It’s not up to young people to change that, that’s just the way that things are moving. Campaigns aimed at stopping them from posting things traditionally don’t work” said Kelly.
But he believed young people might just need to better choices about where they post certain content, and under what privacy settings.
“Sites like LinkedIn are great in that way because they are both a personal and professional way to be social,” he said.
It isn’t only tech-savvy youngsters whose career might suffer at the hands of a risqué Facebook post or tweet.
Victorian director for recruitment agency Hays, Tim James, said it’s commonplace for employers of all age groups to use social media in recruitment.
James said public profiles could help determine whether a job applicant fits in with the culture of a workplace, which a CV can’t provide.
“Job seekers can be using social media for joining groups, highlighting experience and making connections,” James said.
“The problem is that a lot of people look at it negatively, but it can have a hugely positive side to it.”
Recent Hays research shows one in three jobseekers believe their employer won’t consult their social media profile, while 60 per cent of employers say they do.
Reputation Management Specialist at Melbourne firm Reputation Station, Kelly Fleetwood, said more people were seeking professional help with their online reputation.
“One or two years ago few people knew they could seek out help for their online profile, but now we are seeing a lot more businesses and individuals investing in this area,” she said.
Fleetwood said teens were less likely to seek professional help than those in their twenties and beyond, who have had greater online exposure.
She said clients often make requests for content such as old forum posts to be removed from sites, but are at the mercy of individual website publishers.
Asking Google to remove offending content from the web is also not the way to go.
A spokesperson for the search engine said it indexes information that’s available on the web, “so as a general principle if you want to have something removed, then you should contact the webmaster of the site on which that information is hosted”.
“Upon request, we’ll remove personal information if we believe it could make a user susceptible to specific harm, such as identity theft or financial fraud.”