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Free Samples: Unorthodox Job Search Methods Can Pay Dividends

A company’s drive to gain an edge over its competition is similar to running a fairly grueling race. With most companies struggling to keep up with their peers and simply stay in the contest, others are far behind. Others focus and go the distance. What drives a company to triumphantly cross the finish line while its competition racks up losses? And what do the tactics of a corporation have to do with those of the job seekers circling the slippery track of today’s job market? More than you think.

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but when pushed against the wall, judicious business leaders don’t act out of desperation – they plan and act outside the box to stay afloat and make a profit. Their success stories (which, oddly enough, often begin with failures) are a testament to and inspiration to the coupes that job seekers can achieve when they apply the same general strategies of creativity and focus.

Renowned chef Gordon Ramsey, for example, is the star attraction of a lesser-known reality series, “Kitchen Nightmares,” which appears to be more of his “baby” than the popular “Hell’s Kitchen.” In these nightmares, Gordon responds to pleas for help from restaurateurs whose restaurants are about to collapse. Faced with mounting bills, inexperienced owners, worthless cooks, and menus that have elicited heartfelt “Signs of the Cross” from our culinary hero, Gordon Ramsey identifies problem areas and conjures up remedies that often seem radical. For a restaurant that was flirting heavily with disaster, Gordon convinced his owner to give local businesses free lunches made from his delicious recipes instead of the previously mediocre fare. This required some negotiations, as not only were there no immediate profits, the restaurant had never thought of offering a take away menu!

Instead of delivering the lunches in disposable containers, the world-famous chef ordered the kitchen staff to use stackable metal containers for lunch. Because the containers had to be collected, the cooks and waiters had the opportunity to ask how the food had been received. Not only were the responses overwhelmingly positive, they generated orders so substantial that the “giveaways” created a viable new source of business for the once-failed restaurant.

Everyone loves a “gift” and this is what Jonie Hicks, grandmother of “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks, bet on a holiday season. As a marketer whose efforts had grown the exposure and revenue of Birmingham, Alabama shopping malls over the years, Jonie was hard-pressed to create an innovative means to drive business forward. Yet this never-saying-never southern beauty was determined to build enthusiasm among her customers. By approaching the problem from an angle that at first seemed simple, Jonie convinced every retailer in a mall to provide each customer with a small free gift in exchange for shopping at those stores. He then devised a strategy through which customers could receive golf balls, each of which was painted with a number corresponding to one of several emporiums. In a flash of brilliance, Jonie chartered a plane to fly over an empty field in Birmingham and toss 10,000 golf balls into the eager hands of customers. The stunt had been widely touted and participation on the field that day exceeded expectations.

Nature, however, had other plans. When they left the mothership, unusually gusty winds blew the spheres onto the road, prompting the horde to risk life and limbs to fit as many balls as possible in pockets and purses. Despite a series of “giveaways” that got away, Birmingham citizens enjoyed an unexpected good time along with free gifts from retailers. Stores, in turn, enjoyed greater participation and a high profit margin. Jonie, however, still finds out about this adventure, an adventure the likes of which Birmingham has never seen before or since!

What lesson can job applicants learn from these business tactics? The value of innovation and the appeal of “free samples”. Whether it’s from the creativity of introducing yourself through the resume and cover letter or from the temptation to work “for no pay” as an intern or as a demonstration of your capabilities, a job candidate can create a market for itself by virtue of heterodoxy. As in the cases detailed above, the rewards for such unconventionality can far exceed expectations.

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