TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Build a Million-Dollar Business in 1 Year (Yes, Really)

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You have to think about one thing—and one thing only—from the start

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Some people go their entire lives without earning a million dollars, so it sounds crazy that some businesses might be able to achieve this milestone within their first year. But it is possible. Plenty of businesses have achieved this goal, and you can too!

Pay attention to the following tips and use them to help power up your revenue growth:

1. Find a growing market

One of the easiest ways to build a million-dollar company in such a short period of time is to find a growing trend and ride it to the top. Take the example of Micah Adler, CEO of mobile app developer Fiksu, which grew from less than $1 million to $100 million in just three and a half years — with only $17.6 million in venture capital — following its 2010 launch.

Related: Looking for Stable Business Ideas? Here Are 12 Types of Companies With Healthy Cash Flow.

Certainly, Adler’s success comes in part from building great products, but it also comes from his timing. In 2012, just two years after Fiksu’s launch, mobile-app development represented $19 billion in revenue and was experiencing annual growth of more than 60 percent a year. Finding a growing market of your own like this can put you on the fast track to massive revenue growth.

2. Think monetization from the start

It seems strange to think about objectively, but some startups start without any obvious monetization strategies. Twitter is one example of this phenomenon, but there are countless other companies out there building up their free user bases, hoping that inspiration — and, consequently, financial stability — will strike along the way.

If you want to grow a million-dollar company in your first year, you can’t afford to think that way!

Most profitable companies operate from one of two models: either they sell a lot of inexpensive products to a lot of people or they sell a few big-ticket items to a more limited buyer list. Neither model is easier or inherently better than the other. What’s more important than choosing is having a defined plan for monetization. Knowing how you’ll make money from the start will prevent wasted time spent hoping that something profitable will come together for you.

3. Be the best

There are plenty of mediocre products out there, but the odds are good that these companies aren’t making a million dollars or more during their first years. If you want to hit these big potential profits, you’ve got to bring something to the table that wows customers and generates buzz within your marketplace.

Related: Field a Team of ‘A’ Players at Your Startup

How can you tell if you’ve got a “best in breed” product? Look to your current customers. If you aren’t getting rave reviews online or positive comments sent to your inbox, chances are your clients aren’t as ecstatic about your product as they need to be to hit your target sales. Ask your existing customers what you can do to make your product better and then put their recommendations into place. They’ll appreciate your efforts and will go on to refer further sales to you in the future.

4. Hire all-stars

Hitting $1 million in revenue during your first year is no small feat, and you certainly aren’t going to achieve this goal with a team of underperformers. Yes, hiring these people will be cheaper and easier, but you’ll pay for this convenience when your end-of-the-year sales numbers come up short.

Instead, you need to hire all-stars, and the fastest way to do this is to ask around for referrals. Pay particular attention to the sales hires you make, as these key employees stand to make the biggest difference in your business’s bottom line. Get them on the bus and then encourage them to do whatever is necessary to close deals (pro tip: a good series of incentives won’t hurt!).

5. Consume data

Finally, if you want to shoot for the revenue moon, you need to be absolutely militant about gathering data and acting on it. When I approach a new marketing project, I prefer to work in short sprints of a few weeks or less where we’ll try something new, check the statistics to see how the changes impacted revenue and then either commit the changes or try a new test.

Do the same with your growing company. You have a veritable gold mine of information just hanging out in your Google Analytics account, so put it to good use by identifying your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and running tests designed to push these metrics even higher. If you aren’t able to carry out these tests on your own, bring on a rock-star analyst who can help you make sense of your numbers. When every penny counts towards reaching your $1-million-a-year goal, you’ll find these employees to be worth their weight in gold.

Growing a company to $1 million in revenue in your first year isn’t easy, but it is possible. Stick to the tips above and be ruthless about profitability — even if you don’t hit this particular goal, you’ll earn the strongest sales results possible for your unique company.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Metrics for Business Leaders

MONEY working in retirement

This Is the Toughest Threat to Boomers’ Retirement Plans

Most employers say they support older workers. But boomers don't see it, and age discrimination cases are on the rise.

As the oldest boomers begin to turn 70 in just over a year, an important workplace battleground already has been well defined: how to accommodate aging but productive workers who show few signs of calling it quits.

Millions of older workers want to stay on the job well past 65 or 68. Some are woefully under saved or need to keep their health insurance and must work; others cling to the identity their job gives them or see work as a way to remain vibrant and engaged. At some level, almost all of them worry about being pushed out.

Those worries are rooted in anecdotal evidence of workers past 50 being downsized out of jobs, but also in hard statistics. Age discrimination claims have been on the rise since 1997, when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, 21,396 claims were recorded. Not every lawsuit is valid. But official claims represent only a fraction of incidents where older workers get pushed out, lawyers say.

One in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age, AARP reports. About one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off or denied access to career development because of their age. Even those not held back professionally because of age may experience something called microaggressions, which are brief and frequent indignities launched their direction. Terms like “geezer” and “gramps” in the context of a work function “affect older workers” and erode self-esteem, write researchers at the Sloan Center.

These are serious issues in the context of a workforce where many don’t ever plan to retire. Some 65% of boomers plan to work past age 65, according new research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Some 52% plan to keep working at least part-time after they retire. In a positive sign, 88% of employers say they support those who want to stay on the job past 65.

But talk is cheap, many boomers might say. In the Transamerica survey, just 73% of boomers said their employer supports working past 65. One way this skepticism seems justified: only 48% of employers say they have practices in place to enable older workers to shift from full-time to part-time work, and just 37% say they enable shifting to a new position that may be less stressful. Boomers say the numbers are even more dismal. Only 21% say their employer will enable them to shift to part-time work, and just 12% say their employer will facilitate a move to a position that is less stressful.

These findings seem at odds with employers’ general perceptions about how effective older workers are. According to the survey:

  • 87% believe their older workers are a valuable resource for training and mentoring
  • 86% believe their older workers are an important source of institutional knowledge
  • 82% believe their older workers bring more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience
  • Just 4% believe their older workers are less productive than their younger counterparts

The reality is that most of us will work longer. The Society of Actuaries recently updated its mortality tables and concluded that, for the first time, a newborn is expected to live past 90 and a 65-year-old today should make it to 86 (men) or 88 (women). The longevity revolution is changing everything about the way we approach retirement.

Employers need to embrace an older workforce by creating programs that let them phase into retirement while keeping some income and their healthcare, by offering better financial education and planning services, and by declaring an age-friendly atmosphere as part of their commitment to diversity.

For their part, employees must take steps to remain employable. Most are staying healthy (65%); many are focused on performing well (54%), and a good number are keeping job skills up to date (41%), Transamerica found. But painfully few are keeping up their professional network (16%), staying current on the job market (14%) or going back to school for retraining (5%). Both sides, it seems, could do better.

Read next: How Your Earnings Record Affects Your Social Security

TIME Careers

The Biggest Résumé Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Please don't go for the 'if you can't dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense' approach

Answer by Heather Spruill on Quora.

Here are my main complaints:

Readability: Formatting that doesn’t help me read the content. If my eye doesn’t know where to go, either because you’ve crammed too much onto the page, or haven’t broken up your information into digestible sections, you’re making it hard for me. I have hundreds of resumes to review. If you’re throwing obstacles in my way before I even get to the part where I’m thinking about whether you’re a fit, you’re only hurting yourself. Use formatting to organize the data. Present a polished, readable product.

Organization: Content that is arranged in such a way that I have to work really hard to figure out whether you’re worth contacting. There are many ways to organize information about your experience – there’s a point where I’m going to want to see something chronological, and something that speaks to the relevant experience that qualifies you for the job. It’s fine—and often helpful if it’s thoughtfully done—to organize experience into relevant categories rather than listing individual responsibilities in a strictly chronological account of your life at work. Somewhere, however, you’ll need to list your prior employers, tenure with each, and jobs you had there. I need that part of the story. And I need to be able to easily differentiate your summary of skills from your work history. When you get too far afield with organization, and give me a non-linear, haphazard collection of facts, I begin to wonder if you’re a good fit before I even know what you can do.

Relevance: Content that seems arranged for some other kind of job than the one for which you’re applying. Your best bet is to hand me a document that demonstrates that you’re the most appropriate candidate for the position. If you give me an unedited data dump of everything you’ve ever done or thought, you’re leaving me to analyze you and do that work for you. I’m tired. Give me what I want, and spare me the details about your paper route, big projects that have no relevance to this position (or frame that information so its relevance is immediately apparent), and highlight the experience that makes you a good fit for my open position.

Substance: Content that’s all jargon with no indication of the scope or depth of your experience. In the interview, it’s going to become very clear that you either know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Please don’t go for the “if you can’t dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense” approach. Instead, tell me what I need to know:

  • What did you work on?
  • How responsible were you for the design, execution, and outcome?
  • What was the scope of your responsibility?
  • How much technical skill did you have/need to do that job?
  • How much independent judgment did you exercise?
  • Did you progress to successively more responsible positions/assignments?
  • How well did that prepare you for the level of responsibility involved in the job to which you’re applying? Close match? Stretch? That’s what I’m asking.

When an entry-level applicant includes, “responsible for any and all aspects of…” on their resume, I assume that isn’t the case—they weren’t developing the policy, they didn’t have the authority to act independently…save me having to decipher, and be accurate. “Processed inbound customer requests” is not the same as “responsible for any and all aspects of customer service for the XX department.” Your boss determined the course, and you followed it—there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the main issues with résumés?

MONEY Jobs

Here’s What To Expect From The Job Market in 2015

There should be good news for job seekers in 2015 as the US economy continues to rebound.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Gmail’s New Inbox Will Make Your Email Life Infinitely Better

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You’ll love the “pin” feature

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all love to hate on email. For good reason: It’s time-consuming, dull, and requires constant attention. But while email isn’t going to disappear in the foreseeable future, your worst email woes might.

Last month, Google rolled out Inbox, a new email interface. It’s like Gmail’s younger, hipper sister—clean, sleek, and loaded with lots of productivity-boosting features designed to help make dealing with email, well, suck less.

In other words, if you currently use Google products at work, your professional life is about to be changed. Here are just a few ways Inbox has answers for your biggest complaints about email.

1. If You’re Constantly Forgetting About Important Emails

You’ll love the “pin” feature. Just hover over an email, tap the push-pin icon, and voilà—the message is put front and center in your inbox until you un-pin it. You can even turn on a function that will only display pinned emails.

Put it to Work

Your boss sends you extremely detailed instructions for a project. Instead of having to do a search for the message each and every time you work on the task, just pin the email to your inbox. You’ll have it open in your browser within two seconds.

2. If You Hate Wasting Time Opening Messages Just to See the Attachments

You’ll love the “preview” future. With regular email, attachments are indicated by a little paperclip. But Inbox takes this way, way further by actually showing you what the attachments are and allowing you to open them without opening the email. This includes documents, pictures, Excel spreadsheets, videos—you name it.

Put it to Work

You’ve been waiting for your client to send you a revised contract, and you finally see her name in your inbox. Instead of spending time opening her email, scrolling all the way to the bottom to see if she’s attached it, and then downloading it, you can quickly pull up the contract and get to work.

3. If You Hate How Cluttered Your Inbox Gets

You’ll love the “bundle” feature. Bundling automatically sorts your email into categories—kind of like Gmail’s primary, social, and promotions tabs, but much more sophisticated (and easy to use). The built-in categories include travel, purchases, finance, and updates, and you can also add your own. Emails of the same category will appear together in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’re planning your vacation, and you’re being flooded with ticket confirmations, tour reservations, hotel bookings, and so on. Meanwhile, your mom keeps sending you old pictures she’s found, and your boss has emailed you multiple spreadsheets to review. Instead of having all of those emails appear jumbled together—a one-way ticket to distraction city—they each show up in separate little boxes, making it easy to deal with each task one at a time.

4. If You Hate Clearing Out Your Inbox

You’ll love the “sweep” feature. This allows you to archive whole bundles at once: Just click the checkmark above a bundle, and it’ll be swooped out of sight, saving you the trouble of manually going through and archiving individual messages.

And don’t worry—if you’ve pinned a message, it’ll stick around in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’ve just gone through scads of LinkedIn and Google+ invitations, and now you want to de-clutter your inbox. You scroll down the social bundle and click sweep. The bundle vanishes!

5. If You Hate Having to Remember to Answer Emails

You’ll love the “snooze” feature. If you get an email at an inconvenient time, Inbox lets you schedule it to come back later. Just click the clock icon and pick a time (from an exact day and hour to “someday”). It will disappear from your inbox until then, so you won’t have to keep reminding yourself you still need to answer.

Put it to Work

At 8 AM, your colleague shoots you an email asking for the latest sales numbers, but you won’t have them until the afternoon. You snooze his email to 3 PM so you remember to get back to him once you can.

Loving the sound of Inbox? Send an email to inbox@google.com to request an invitation. I got mine within a week, so yours should arrive shortly. Let me know what you think—and if I missed any cool ways to use it!

More from the Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Things You Seriously Need to Reconsider Emailing

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Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Let’s be real. The fact that Gmail allows you to divide your inbox into five sub-folders can only mean one thing: Most emails we receive are total crap. And when you’re sending a note to a colleague, your boss, or a hiring manager, it’s likely landing somewhere between something critical and Viagra spam or BuzzFeed GIFs.

So, how do you make sure your message gets noticed and—more importantly—read? Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes, and make sure any email you write answers these five questions.

1. Why Should I Open This?

Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored. Make it specific and direct so that your recipient knows exactly what to expect from the message. If you’ll need your co-worker to give you feedback by Tuesday, don’t bury a note in the last line. Title your email “Reply by Tuesday: notes from today’s meeting” instead of “Hey” (which is the email equivalent of hearing “we need to talk”).

If you’re applying for a job, use key words like the name of the position or your experience to stand out. Writing “Community Manager With 4 Years of Experience” is a short and sweet way to offer your credentials up front.

2. Who Are You?

If you’re writing to someone for the first time—for instance, a hiring manager or someone you heard speak at an event but did not meet—you’ll want to establish rapport as quickly as possible. For example, before I wrote a cold email to a company about open freelance positions, I learned that the founder and I both attended the same college. I put “Yale alum” in both my subject and the first sentence of my email; I got a response and scheduled an interview within 48 hours.

Use whatever common ground you can find—schools, mutual friends or interests, professional associations—to let recipients know that you are worth connecting with. Or if you work in a large company and you’re contacting an executive whom you’ve met before, a quick reminder of when and where you last connected will help jog her memory.

3. What Do You Need?

This is why you’re writing in the first place! Now’s the time for the big explanation, right? Not yet. Aim to be clear and compelling in one or two sentences. At work, think of your email as just a brief initial contact that can set up a live conversation by phone or in person if more explanation is necessary.

This is especially true for cold emails when the recipient isn’t anticipating your message. If you are writing to request a coffee meeting, be specific but leave room for intrigue. For instance, write “I would love to share what I’ve learned on content marketing as well as learn how I can contribute to your current projects.” Remember: Busy people don’t want to have their brain “picked,” they want to get smarter by exchanging ideas.

4. What’s in it for Me?

Think of your email as a transaction: What you want from your recipient should benefit her as much as it benefits you. On the job, we are all seeking approval from our colleagues, managers, and customers. How can what you’re requesting help your recipient accomplish this? Be explicit with phrases like, “I can be an asset to your team,” “this may help present your ideas more clearly,” or even “customer feedback shows that they are looking for solutions like these.”

5. Will You Appreciate It?

With so many impersonal emails arriving in our inboxes each day, make yours stand out by showing a little humanity. Whether you’re addressing a colleague or a cold contact, you are requesting that person’s time to follow up thoughtfully to your email. Show that you appreciate the effort by signing off with “thank you” or “sincerely” (seriously, “best” is way too confusing). A little etiquette will go a long way to getting the response you want.

Keep these questions on a Post-it note and check your messages against them before you send. Not only will you master the email craft, you’ll be a damn good communicator in any professional setting.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Should You Work With Family Members?

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How to answer one of the most difficult questions in business

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: Working with family members: yes or no, and why?

No: How You Get Along Personally and Professionally Might Be Different

“My wife has been my business partner at my startup for the past four years. I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful partner in her, both personally and professionally. However, I never advise working with family. It’s too risky. Getting along with a family member personally is no indication of how you work together professionally. Money and business can damage your relationship. It’s not worth it.” — Eric Bahn, Hustle Con Media

Yes: You Can Be Compeletely Honest With Each Other

“My twin brother is my partner in my oldest company, and it’s great because we can be honest with one another, and I trust him significantly more than I’ve trusted partners in the past. It also just so happens that our skill sets are completely opposite and complementary. If you can share a womb, you can share a business!” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Yes: They Are the Most Loyal

“We actually have 10 family members that work with us, and they are very loyal and always watch our backs. Although, I will say it is very important to define roles and boundaries with family immediately. They do tend to push the limits of what is acceptable if rules are not clearly defined.” — Laura Land, Accessory Export, LLC

Yes: It’s Less Expensive Than Using Consultants

“My immediate family members each work in the marketing, entertainment and retail industries, which is the complete opposite of my area of expertise (finance). They were able to give me constructive criticism when I ventured into their major areas of expertise, and their advice and help has allowed me to grow the business without having to pay for an expensive consultant.” — Derek Capo, Next Step China

Maybe: Your Relationship Could Get Stronger, or Get Worse

“It depends. If you put family first and sure you always will (and they do too), then it can create complications and risks. But if you’re willing to accept those complications and risks, it could also enhance your relationship with your family.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Yes: There Are Fewer Trust Issues

“We love hiring family at our companies. The upside is that you know you don’t have to worry about trust issues. Having that out of the way is a huge plus. However, you must make it clear that business is business. This means not taking things personally and accepting criticism just as you would from any other co-worker.” — Peter Awad, GoodBlogs

No: The Risk of Losing The Relationship Is too Great

“While I love my family, starting a business is a risky proposition. While it’s nice to think about the upside of your family getting rich, I prefer to think about hedging risk. The downside of losing money — and possibly a friend if there is contention — is too great to ignore.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Maybe: Only if You Can Separate Personal and Business

“Working with family can be great, and it can be terrible. If you and your potential co-working family members have the ability to completely separate personal and business, it can work well. But if you can’t, which is really difficult, it can be disastrous. If you do indeed take the plunge, it’s important you understand that other workers will view your relationship as if there is special treatment.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

No: People Are Different at Home and at Work

“The people you know and love in the family room can be polar opposites of themselves when they’re sitting in a conference room. People sometimes act differently in the workplace, and you might not like what you see or hear. If you value your family relationships, be prepared to experience another side of your family that you haven’t seen. Depending on the person, this could be a good or bad thing.” — Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Yes: Family Will Stick With You Through Good and Bad

“Family is the strongest bond that you will ever make in your life. Friends may come and go at their own convenience, but family will stick through the good and the bad, which naturally make good business partnerships. However, you need to set clear expectations up front to ensure that each family member involved understands what’s expected of him or her.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Guaranteed Ways to Become the Most Proactive Person You Know

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Use these steps to make your business goals more manageable

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

One of the things I often tell my team is, “Be proactive in your own becoming.” This sounds like a weird phrase at first, but when you break it down, it makes sense — and it will put you on the path of achievement.

In short, being proactive in your own becoming is a mix of hustle and problem-solving. I have broken it down into eight key points. Some of them are based on words of wisdom from mentors, and some of them are based on my own experiences. All together, they create a clear path to success.

It’s All About You

No one else is going to get you where you want to go – it’s up to you. Your family and friends are a support system, but that is all they are supposed to be for you. They cannot succeed for you. Only you can do that. Take ownership of your problems, and realize that nobody else is going to solve them for you.

Be Solution-Focused

One of the greatest traits of effective people is good problem-solving skills. We are all going to run into problems. It’s how you handle them that makes you effective. The most effective way to handle a problem is to focus on finding a solution. Focusing on things that are out of your control is a waste of time, so focus on what you can control with the final outcome. Your team will learn to approach problems and solutions effectively if you lead by example.

Be Accountable

Your level of accountability for completing tasks is really important. One of my favorite books is “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler. Their approach to achieving goals is both simple and effective: set your goal and then work backwards from that goal to establish metrics to track and evaluate it.

It’s important to have a clearly defined goal that is quantifiable so you can determine if you actually reached it or not. For example, a goal to “get in shape” does not make sense. What does that mean? When are you “in shape?” A goal to “run a mile in under 10 minutes” is something you can physically measure and attain.

Use “SMART” Goals

This acronym has been around for a long time and its meaning varies, but the basic concept works across all areas of life. This is the version I use to set goals:

S: Specific (Pick something particular instead of using a broad category.)

M: Measurable (Choose something you can quantify.)

A: Attainable (You should actually be able to reach this, and it may just require the right steps.)

R: Realistic (Be honest – it’s probably unrealistic to say you will go from making $10,000 to being a billionaire in one year.)

T: Timely (Give each goal a timeframe to create a sense of urgency.)

Make Your Own Luck

Being successful is not about having the right kind of luck or expecting the right break to come your way. It is not about the mere expectation that you will succeed. It is about taking steps every day to be better than you were the day before by moving in a positive, forward trajectory. Make a blueprint and set out milestones for yourself in specific timeframes, or you are not going to hit your goal. Things do not come to fruition just because you really, really want them to happen. You have to make them happen.

Be Consistent

Ultimately, success is not about getting everything right. It is about being consistent. Are you consistently and persistently taking steps every day to steadily move toward your goal? Do you stop making progress or do you continue on when you encounter a seemingly insurmountable problem? Be consistent in what you do. And even though the steps may seem small at the time, doing the right things day in and day out will move you further down the path to success.

Find the Right People

Surrounding yourself with driven, effective people is a proven way to help you succeed. Proximity can be an excellent motivator. You get to choose between driven people and people who will drag you down. You cannot have both and expect to succeed. You cannot spend time with lazy people all day and also achieve your daily goals. Lazy people are like quicksand. They bog you down slowly without you knowing it, until you wake up one day and realize you are consumed by laziness.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Be humble and take a hard look at what you are doing and how you are doing it. Be completely honest with yourself about what is not working instead of making excuses. It is easy to stay busy and tell yourself you are taking the right steps, but it is harder to be honest if you are not actually making progress. At the end of the day, if you don’t hit your goals, you are only doing a disservice to yourself. You cannot get better if you tell yourself, “Oh, it’s okay, I’m fine where I am.”

Living by this approach has made all the difference in my success. Did I miss something you think is important? Please comment on what has worked for you.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Resume ‘Tricks’ That Are Sure to Backfire Spectacularly

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Avoid these at all costs

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Bad job search advice. It’s everywhere.

Don’t shoot the messenger (even though she’s also a purveyor of job search advice).

It’s everywhere for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Those delivering it often have a bias that affects the nature of the counsel (e.g., husbands, parents, BFFs).
  2. There are no licenses or certifications that career coaches are required to carry (which results in a mixed bag of talent in the world of “experts”).
  3. Textbook advice—the kind that many of us have the most ready access to during our formative years—can be severely old school (or worse).

Unfortunately, if you don’t use care in choosing trusted sources for job search advice, you may run into resume advice that teaches you how to “trick” the applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring managers. I’m not here to say that there are no effective “resume tricks,” but there are a few that could very well backfire on you.

Here are four of them.

1. “Borrowing” Entire Phrases Right out of the Job Description

Yes, yes, yes: You absolutely should study the job description for each job you plan to pursue, and you should mirror some of the keywords that describe the skills and qualifications on your resume. You should not, however, lift entire sentences or text blocks from that job description. This will put you on the express train from solid on-paper match to shyster who’s trying too hard.

2. Thinking a Functional Resume Will Serve as the Perfect Disguise

It’s so common for job seekers with career gaps to use the old “hide the gaps with a functional resume” trick that, every time I see one, I just assume there’s going to be a gap. And then I set out to find it. Functional resumes are almost never the right solution. Not only can it be difficult for an ATS to read and parse a functional resume into the electronic database, it also screams “I am hiding something!” Better to use a hybrid resume with a strong summary at the top of the page followed by career history (with details) in reverse chronological order.

3. Listing Completed College Coursework as a Degree

Oh, have I seen heartbreaks with this one. Among them, a job seeker who was about to be hired by one of my recruiting clients—a global manufacturing firm—for a field engineering role. He actually didn’t need the degree as a requirement for this job, but he still felt it necessary to list a bachelor’s degree on his resume. Unfortunately (for him, me, and the hiring manager, who loved the guy), he was a few credits short of having that degree. This little nugget of information came out when the firm’s HR department did a standard degree verification. He did not get the job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or two credits away from earning the degree. If you didn’t finish it, you need to state “Coursework completed toward…,” not “Have degree.”

4. Fudging Dates (and Then Having Different Dates on Your Application)

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that the job you stormed out on last July actually ended in November. Smooth over that gap, right?

Wrong. Fudging dates is not only called lying, it’s an easy way to land yourself in hot water with decision makers, especially if you accidentally list out different dates on the official job application. You can certainly strategize if you need to de-emphasize time gaps (for instance, use years instead of months and years), but fudging dates can be a true recipe for disaster.

Without a doubt, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright mind-numbing trying to figure out how to set up a resume that snags attention and positions you to sail through the hiring process. As you consider the “tricks,” always keep in mind that some are clearly better than others.

(Avoid these.)

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31 Job Search Ideas That Won’t Make You Miserable

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These tips will help you find a job without stressing you out

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We know: It’s December. And even though you’re dying for a new gig, going to holiday parties, shopping for gifts, and drinking gallons of hot cocoa just seems like much more of a priority than writing cover letters and going to networking events.

Well, truth be told, tons of companies are hiring like crazy, so if you are on the hunt for your dream job, it doesn’t hurt to get started on a serious search now. But if you want to wait until January, we get it—so we’ve come up with 31 easy (and fun) little things you can do now so that you can hit the ground running in the new year.

Do one or do them all (one for each day of the month!), and you’ll be far more prepared than the rest of the bunch who are just getting started come 2015.

1. Mix and Mingle

Take advantage of all the mingling opportunities that December offers to freshen up your interviewing and networking skills. For example, your relatives who haven’t seen you in a year are probably going to ask, “What kind of job are you looking for?” But instead of brushing Grandma’s questions off, use this time to get comfortable talking about your goals, skills, and ideal jobs. Those same answers will come in handy when an interviewer asks you why you’re interested in a particular role or what your strengths are.

2. Boost Your Persuasion Skills

Got two minutes between meetings or while waiting for a train? Watch this two-minute video on how to be more persuasive—you’ll be totally prepared when you’re selling your skills to a hiring manager come January.

3. Create a List of Dream Companies

Browsing job openings (and thinking about all of those cover letters you’ll have to write) is bound to make your eyes glaze over. Instead, focus on putting together a list of dream companies. Look up one of your favorite companies on LinkedIn, then check out the “people also viewed” section to find more great workplaces. Then, get an inside view into 250 awesome companies in the profiles section of The Muse and save your favorites. When you do start job hunting, this will help keep you laser focused and actually get you excited (yes, it’s possible!) about landing a gig at one of your dream companies.

4. Set Career Resolutions

Making resolutions seems natural at the turn of the year, but let’s face it: Writing down “get a new job” isn’t the most helpful goal. So before January rolls around, write down a few more actionable (and less intimidating) benchmark goals, like “apply for three jobs per week” and “attend five networking events during the month and meet five new people at each.” By fulfilling these smaller goals, you’ll have a lot easier time accomplishing that overarching “new job” resolution, too.

5. Take Long Lunches

No one wants to be in the office this month (including, most likely, your boss), so taking a few coffee meetings or a long lunch here and there probably won’t hurt. Use this month to set up a couple of informational interviews with people who work in jobs or for companies you’re interested in. (And here’s how to turn those meetings into potential job opportunities.)

6. Join a Club

If you haven’t joined a professional organization or gotten involved with your alumni association yet, there’s no time like the present: Most groups have holiday parties in December, which is a great time to show up and get to know people.

7. Send Holiday Greetings

December is pretty much the only time of year you can reach out to people you haven’t talked to in forever and not have it feel random. So take advantage of that and reach out to your network. Send a holiday card to your email list on Paperless Post, create a brief “here’s what I’ve been up to this year” newsletter, or reach out directly with a personalized note to people you definitely want to reconnect with in the new year. It’s merry, it’s festive, and it gives you a head start on your 2015 networking!

8. Say Thanks

Another great way to reach out to your network? Send a thank you note to someone who has impacted your career, given you an opportunity, or introduced you to someone interesting this year. (Here’s how to write one that will really make an impact.)

9. Prep Your References

It’s not the most effective strategy to call up your references in the middle of the interview process to explain, “By the way, I listed you as a reference. They may be calling you, well, today.” To give your references enough notice—and to make sure they know what to say about you to tip the chances of getting the job in your favor—start reaching out to them now. A quick email with an updated copy of your resume and a few sentences about the type of role you’re looking for is perfect!

10. Update Your Resume (on the Couch, While Watching TV)

I know—updating your resume doesn’t sound very fun or easy. But while you’re cozy on the couch watching Home Alone, consider pulling out your laptop and making a change or two. This article has tons of ideas for tiny changes that’ll freshen up your resume in 15 minutes or less.

11. See What Message You’re Sending

Want a quick, fun way to see what hiring managers see when they read your cover letter or resume? Drop those documents into a word cloud generator and see which keywords are popping out. If the most prominent ones aren’t what you want to be remembered by, or if there are important words that aren’t present, think about how you can tweak your materials to make that more clear.

12. Do a Photo Shoot

Is your LinkedIn photo working for you? Find out at PhotoFeeler, which analyzes your photo based on how likeable, competent, and influential you seem. Not happy with the results? Have a friend or family member take a shot of you when you’re wearing your holiday best and pop your new photo up there ASAP. (Then make sure to update it on Twitter or any other sites you use professionally.)

13. Craft a New LinkedIn Headline

A super-simple—but super-effective—change you can make to your LinkedIn profile? Updating your headline. (No, the default of your current position at your current company isn’t always the way to go.) Watch this quick video to see what distinguishes an awesome headline from a mediocre one, then spend a few minutes crafting something compelling and new.

14. Get Started on Your Cover Letters

Writing a cover letter always seems like a simple task. It’s just a couple paragraphs, so shouldn’t take long, right? Four hours and a blank Word doc later, we all know how that story ends. To avoid the inevitable writer’s block, create some sample cover letter templates for yourself. Write a couple killer intros (here are a few examples), then create a list of standout projects and accomplishments that you could elaborate on. Next month, when you find a job that you want to apply for ASAP, all you’ll have to do is string together a pre-written intro, a few accomplishments, and a little research about the specific company and position, and you’ll be set—much easier than starting from scratch each time.

15. Read

Busy as they are, the holidays often come with lots of down time while you’re traveling (or trying to avoid helping your mom cook). Pick one or two books to read in December—here’s a great list of reads that will help point you in the direction of your dream job.

16. Order New Business Cards

To prepare for all of that networking you’ll be doing in the new year! Request a new set from your boss or company, or order some that fit your personal brand from a site like moo.com.

17. Shop for a New Suit

Yep, here’s your permission to online-shop the day away. A job search means interviewing, and interviewing means you’ll need a great new outfit, right? Head on over to the J.Crew sale (or your clothier of choice) and pick yourself out some new duds.

18. Tweet it Up

Every day, recruiters are tweeting jobs they need to interview candidates for—making Twitter a seriously untapped resource for job seekers. To make sure you’re in the know about these leads, create a Twitter job search list that includes recruiters, hiring managers, company hiring handles, and job search websites. Then, review their tweets daily for potential opportunities.

19. Play on Pinterest

Puppies and mason jar projects aside, Pinterest can actually be an invaluable tool for your career. Whether you’re looking for a new job, dreaming about your future company, or just looking for something to wear, try putting together one of these actually helpful Pinterest boards.

20. Plan a Party

We bet you’re not the only one who wants a new job come January. So start planning a “January Job Search” event now—like a networking party, resume workshop, or career-related book club—with some friends or professional contacts.

21. Get Started on a Personal Website

A personal website can be a great tool to show hiring managers who you are and what you’ve done. But putting one together isn’t a quick-and-easy process. So, get started now by browsing around and making a list of ones that inspire you. (Here are 35 amazing ones to get you started.) And when you’re ready to start building it? Here’s a seven-day plan for creating one from scratch.

22. Make a “To-Write” List

Being published in any capacity can be a great way to show off your writing in a job application and get your name out there to people who might be interested in hiring you. To get your creative juices flowing in January, brainstorm now and make a list of article or blog topics you could write.

23. Share Something

An even easier way to share great content with your network and show people what you’re passionate about? Share great things you’ve read on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Start making a running list of awesome articles, quotes, and blogs that you could get out there over the next few weeks and months.

24. Volunteer

’Tis the season for giving back, and volunteer opportunities in your community abound! So take a day (or even a couple of hours) and lend a hand to a cause you care about. You’ll have something new for your resume, meet some new contacts, and feel merry in the meantime!

25. Brush Up on Body Language

Whether you’re meeting with potential clients for the first time or negotiating an important business deal, small changes in body language can completely change the dynamic of the conversation. Watch this quick video to see how this plays out in conversations, and learn the other undercover nonverbal cues that can take your communication skills to a hiring manager or networking connection to the next level.

26. Sign Up for a Free Class

Browse our free, email-based classes at Muse University, like Management 101 or The Leadership Skills Every Professional Needs. Pop in your email address, and you’ll be signed up and good to go in less than five seconds.

27. Swipe Right

Looking for a super easy (almost mindless) way to browse open positions while you’re on the go and traveling for the holidays? Try the new app Switch, which is being described as “the Tinder for jobs” because it allows you to quickly sift through jobs listings—and allows hiring managers to quickly sift through candidate profiles—and then will connect you if there’s a match. It’ll make your job search feel almost like a game.

28. See How Your Family or Friends Can Help Your Job Search

Just because you’re not connected on LinkedIn doesn’t mean your close friends or family aren’t part of a network that can help you find opportunities. So while you’re catching up with family and old friends, tap into that! Let people know what you’re looking for and what you’ve done, and then ask if they have any connections who may be able to help you out. Remember, opportunities can be found in the unlikeliest of places—think your dad’s old college buddy who’s now pretty high up at a company you’d love to work for.

29. Try Out Some New Conversation Starters

Having to suffer through awkward conversations with your second cousin who you haven’t seen may seem like the worst, but think of it as stellar practice for your next kind of awkward networking event. Come up with a list of stellar conversation starters to try out when the dinner conversation starts to lull.

30. Look Through Your Old Facebook Posts

No, not to reminisce (though you can do that along the way): You want to sift through your social media to make sure there’s nothing that might be incriminating to a hiring manager. SimpleWash can help you catch any text that you wouldn’t want public any longer, but you’ll have to manually go through your old photos to remove anything embarrassing.

31. Dream Big

Here’s the easiest, most fun one of all: Treat yourself to a couple hours in a cozy cafe (or, hey, your couch). Get comfortable, relax, and then allow yourself to just daydream about where your career might take you—two, five, even 10 years from now. Don’t focus on what’s possible or what you might have to do to get there—just allow your mind to wander and dream about the stuff that you probably don’t get to in your day-to-day life. Do you want to be in a more creative role? Head up a new product or your department? Have a job that lets you travel? Start your own business? If you’d rather, you can jot down your thoughts in a notebook or share them with a friend.

Have something awesome in mind? Great. Now, think of just one thing you can do that’ll help you get there.

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