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Selecting sources, sowing seeds and stocking shelves

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MOM CAN'T HELP YOU HERE. THE HUNT FOR JOBS IN TODAY'S RECESSIONARY climate has proven arduous, if not dire, for millions, and less than stellar references won't aid the situation. The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service, surveyed 250 U.S. advertising and marketing executives last month via telephone to uncover the most unusual reference checks. Among the responses: A woman listed her mother as a reference, although they never worked together; and a contact disclosed that an interviewee liked to go barefoot all day. “Job seekers need to do everything they can to line up outstanding references,” said Megan Slabinski, Creative Group executive director. “The best references aren't necessarily the contacts with the most impressive job titles but rather those who can speak persuasively about an applicant's merits.” Creative Group offered tips on creating an exemplary reference list, including: asking permission before referencing an individual; offering more references than requested in case of unavailability; providing clear contact information; and informing contacts each time you apply to a prospective employer so they are well-prepared. Slabinski added that employers often do their own research and may tap all former co-workers and managers as references. “That's why it's wise to ... never burn bridges ... with past colleagues and supervisors,” she said. —Tanya Meyer REMEMBER ARBOR DAY? THAT LAST FRIDAY IN APRIL WHEN YOUR THIRD-grade self raced home with a pot of soil and the beginnings of a tree, betting your sister that hers wouldn't survive the winter and fantasizing about a redwood growing in the backyard by tenth grade? Nielsen Business Media is offering its clients the opportunity to experience that adolescent euphoria once more. In partnership with American Forests, the nation's oldest nonprofit conservation group, the b-to-b product and service provider will plant 30,000 trees in 2009 in the name of its faithful customers. The project is part of American Forests' Global ReLeaf campaign, a decades-old endeavor to plant trees in areas damaged by natural or man-made disasters. Mark Hosbein, senior VP-marketing at Nielsen, said the initiative is a way for his company to show both its appreciation for its clients and its commitment to environmental issues. The effort, which was communicated to clients via e-mail and which will be promoted throughout the year in some Nielsen publications, hasn't gone unnoticed. “Clients appreciated that [instead of] the standard Christmas gift ... this was something forward-looking,” Hosbein said. —Chelsea Ely MOLDED FOR SUCCESS. THE DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN AT Auburn University unveiled results on Jan. 28 from its collaborative retail design program with Eastman Chemical of Kingsport, Tenn. Students collected a semester's worth of data by investigating retail structures and interviewing employees about daily stocking routines and merchandise visibility challenges. From their results, students developed conceptual in-store fixtures and point-of-purchase displays to address such retailer woes as broken fixtures and overcrowded shelves. Final designs included DVD, beverage and clothing displays, along with an overhead “skyline” fixture for self-check-out kiosks. Guided by veteran Eastman engineers, students experimented with properties of thermoforming (heating, freezing and bending) Eastman's Spectar copolyester. Its flexibility and impact resistance allow designers and fabricators to create unique shapes, textures and effects as well as cut, saw, drill and bond the material. ”Providing students the opportunity to exercise their creativity with Spectar represents our commitment to sharing our material expertise with designers, who play an increasingly vital role to creating cutting-edge retail environments,” said Adia Delaney-Jackson, market development manager, visual merchandising at Eastman Chemical. A documented blog of the project can be found at http://eastmanau2008.blogspot.com. —Tanya Meyer
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