A strong imagination seeks opportunity

by Harvey Mackay

An elderly man living in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough.” The son gets all excited and responds: “Pop, what are you talking about? You can’t divorce mom after all these years. That’s crazy.” “It may be crazy,” says the old man, “but I am going to tell her on this coming Thanksgiving Day! It will be the last one we spend together!” Frantically, the son calls his sister in Chicago and she explodes: “Like heck they’re getting a divorce. We’re both going to fly to Phoenix tomorrow and talk some sense into dad! I don’t care if it is Thanksgiving!”
When she calls her father and shouts at him over the phone: “Do you hear me? Don’t you dare do a thing until brother and I get there tomorrow.” Then she hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife: “OK,” he says with a smile, “they are coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way. Now what do we tell them for Christmas?”

That’s what I call creativity at its best. Studies show there’s no link between intelligence and creativity. However, we can all become more creative if we put our minds to it. Creativity certainly helps in finding jobs. I say, don’t be boring. Don’t be predictable. Don’t be just another candidate. Stand out. Be different. Use a little creativity.

Here are some examples of people who used creativity to land a job:

•A person who had been out of work for four months saw an ad for her dream job with a local TV station. The standard tactic—a cover letter with a copy of her résumé—netted absolutely nothing. So she launched a more imaginative campaign, which included letters from the fellow she was going with, from her lawyer, from her eighty-year-old mother, even from her priest, who wrote, “I’m enclosing this in hopes that you will hire her. It’s depressing to look at her sad face, and besides, we haven’t had a donation from her in months.”

•A candidate for a teaching job with the Minneapolis public schools sent a singing telegram praising her skills. “When people sell themselves in a creative way, it does attract attention,” said the person who hired the candidate.

•An advertising applicant won a job at an ad agency when he sent out a creative mailer touting his services. When the cover was opened, the inside page showed a photo of the candidate standing next to a sign that read, “I’m the one.”

•A contender for the marketing director position at an arena where professional basketball is played sent her résumé and cover letter in a sneaker with the comment, “Now that I’ve got one foot in the door, how about the other?”

As you can see, one of the best strategies is to separate yourself from the pack. The part that makes the difference between getting the job and being an also-ran is giving the interviewer what he or she doesn’t expect. Be pleasingly unpredictable: Shock ’em. Be entertainingly original.

One young person I was mentoring slam-dunked his interview with a major company by showing up toting his own PowerPoint presentation. Did that help the interviewers visualize him working for them? You bet.

Some years ago I attended the graduation ceremony of my daughter, Jojo, at the University of Michigan. Seated up in the rafters, I watched thousands of seniors parade across the stage. Suddenly the crowd started roaring, as if Michigan had just defeated Ohio  State in football. Instead, a female graduate had walked across the stage with a placard on top of her graduation cap. In huge letters were the words, “I need a job.” I don’t know if she landed a job with her ingenuity, but people were falling all over themselves to give her their business cards.

As my friend Pat Fallon, chairman of Fallon Worldwide, one of the great advertising companies, says, “Imagination is one of the last remaining legal means you have to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.”

Mackay’s Moral: Creativity is as important as knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: