LinkedIn is quickly becoming the new resume.

In fact, I believe that in the next 5 years, the humble resume will fade away into the dustbin of history, to join the iPod, Internet chat rooms and (hopefully) the Kardashians.

This means that LinkedIn will become your primary job search tool and mastering the platform should become one of your top priorities. Here are 10 ways you can get a head start on your competition.

1. Fill out your profile completely.

Sounds very basic, doesn’t it? Yet, you’d be surprised how many profiles I see which are missing critical sections.

Pay particular attention to your summary, title and employment history—they’re the first items which a potential employer will look at.

2. Highlight your expertise.

What differentiates you from everybody else on the job market? Who are your ideal customers / employees? Your summary is the perfect place for this information. Back up your claim with examples of concrete achievements.

For example, “I’m a digital marketing manager for startups. I specialize in scaling $100K businesses into $1M territory” is an excellent, succinct way to define what you do and what you don’t.

3. Create a call to action.

Most people will contact you by either sending you an InMail or a connection request.

However, you can guide the right people to find out more about you by providing a link to your website, other social media assets and content you’ve created on 3rd party websites.

4. Include a photo.

It’s no longer the 1990s, when having a photo of yourself online was a reason to be worried about privacy.

As far as today’s employers are concerned, a photo on your LinkedIn profile is not a “nice to have” option—it’s a must. Don’t give recruiters and hiring managers the reason to think “Why is there no photo—does she have something to hide?”

5. Optimize your profile for search.

To improve your profile’s visibility in LinkedIn search results, ensure that your LinkedIn profile contains relevant keywords throughout.

For example, if you’re interested in job opportunities as a corporate lawyer, then your job title is the obvious keyword to include in your main job description, summary, job titles and descriptions of your job history.

However, recruiters won’t always search for you purely by your role. That’s why you need to think outside the box when constructing your LinkedIn profile. For example, if you were the project manager above, you could include keywords such as:

  • litigation
  • financial services law
  • mergers & acquisitions
  • IPO
  • oil & gas industry

6. Post consistently.

LinkedIn is not Facebook, so your updates can’t be photos of your breakfast.

Think carefully before you post and make sure that everything you say is consistent with your personal brand.

I suggest you get into the habit of setting aside some time a few times per week to curate and read interesting content from the Internet. This will allow you to post interesting content as status updates.

Don’t forget to put your own spin on the topic. For example, if you post “check out the latest article about the financial sector New York Times,” you’ll sound just like everybody else.

However, an update such as “The New York Times just predicted that finance industry is dying. What do you believe?” is likely to spark debate and create more exposure for your profile.

7. Create and participate in LinkedIn groups.

Which aspect of your career are you most passionate about? Chances are, there’s a lively discussion happening right now in one of LinkedIn’s groups on that topic.

The best thing is, being part of a group allows you to bypass LinkedIn’s standard requirement to be connected to someone in order to reach out to them. If you and another professional are part of the same group, you can communicate without limitations.

8. Be savvy about who you connect with.

It’s great to have 500+ connections; however, not all connections are created equal.

Engagement with your network is far more important than its size.

Requesting connections with people you don’t know and can’t find common ground with has little benefit—it only robs you of your most precious asset: time.

9. Make your messages personal.

How many times a week do you receive the stock standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message?

Most influencers, heads of departments and business owners receive hundreds of such requests.

To rise above the noise you must personalize your connection requests.

Remember that LinkedIn is primarily a relationship-building platform. Not many great relationships start with sending a cold, pre-formatted template.

10. Dive deep with content trending tools.

It’s no secret that producing original content is one of the best ways to build your personal brand.

However, creating blog posts and videos is just half of the story. The trick to getting the most out of your content is to make it shareable.

How do you know which topics are shared often and which aren’t? LinkedIn’s new Content Marketing & Trending Tools allow you to do just that. There’s no more need to fly blind.

Simply research what content is popular amongst your audience right now, create it, then monitor its performance in real time.

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