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Start the year by cleaning up your digital footprint

With the new year there’s a renewed opportunity to work on cleaning your digital footprint. Whether you’re job hunting, building a professional network or simply aiming for a more polished online presence, taking control of your digital footprint is a proactive step towards success. Here are a few things to consider as you perform an annual review of your social media channels and anywhere else you show up online.

Think like an employer. In case you need proof that employers are watching: 71 percent of U.S. hiring decision-makers agree that looking at candidates’ social media profiles is an effective way to screen applicants, according to The Harris Poll. And professional services agency Kavaliro found that 80 percent of employers will Google potential employees before inviting them for an interview. Google yourself and visit your social media channels, evaluating the results through the eyes of an employer. Search your name and various email addresses. Are you seeing the professional image you want to project? In particular, keep your LinkedIn profile clean, clear and updated.

headshot of Moira Kelley
Moira Kelley

Inventory and assess. Make a list of all the social media platforms, forums and websites where your name appears. Which ones do you use regularly? Can you delete some that you use less frequently? This not only streamlines your image but can also protect you from the risk of hackers and identity theft. Check your privacy settings and consider making all but LinkedIn private channels, so you don’t have to share every aspect of your private life with everyone.

Sweep up the dust. Scour your public channels, going back several pages. Remove or update any content that no longer aligns with your current personal or professional image. This step sets the foundation for a more intentional and curated digital footprint as you move forward. In addition to cleaning up images, comments or posts, begin creating positive content that emphasizes your work, outlook and career goals. Especially for LinkedIn and any other public channels, consider writing a statement of purpose for your profile. This could also lead to expanding your network and increasing opportunities.

Plan for regular maintenance. Doing regular checks can help you avoid scrambling to clean up your online presence when you enter a job search. You can schedule time monthly, weekly or daily to review your digital presence. In doing so, you’ll be equipped to adapt to changes in your personal or professional life.

Your online presence is a powerful asset that can either enhance or hinder your professional opportunities. Taking the time to clean up your digital footprint not only demonstrates your commitment to professionalism, but it also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your personal brand and be intentional about shaping it in the new year.

The Lifelong Learner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Moira Kelley, an educational counselor, can be reached at This article first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on January 14, 2024.