You’re bright, have industry insight and possess a strong worth ethic. What’s the problem? You cannot get your foot in the door. Whether you’re on the market for a new position or are vying for a lucrative new contract for your business, getting your foot in the door can prove a challenge. This is especially true in the face of fierce competition.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Having a strong personal or business brand is key, but may still not be enough to differentiate you from your competitors.

Per the Food Marketing Institute , grocery stores carry on average 43,844 items per location. If you want to call attention to your hickory barbeque sauce, you’ll likely have at least twenty competitors. The most effective way to convince shoppers to purchase your sauce, is to provide complimentary samples. If your sauce is truly top quality, it will sell itself.

Applying Supermarket Food Samples to Your Life

Why not allow your potential boss or client to sample your brand?

Related: How to Negotiate for What You Want

Unpaid Internships

If you’re seeking an opening with a highly sought-after employer, research unpaid internship opportunities. While some college students are forging this route in favor of paid work opportunities, the high Gen Y unemployment rate paired with the sheer competitiveness of many fields make unpaid internships a risk-free (for the employer) way to discover new, hard-working talent. Should you pursue this option, be certain to have an outline of your duties in place and make it known to your internship coordinator or hiring manager what paid position you’re aiming for at the firm, at the conclusion of your service.

Product/Service Giveaways

Gifting samples or gathering case studies through free work can be an effective way for entrepreneurs to spread their brand to desired customers. When I was first starting off as a speaker, I found that speaking for local associations, though they had little to no budget, was an effective way to prove myself to an organization, then receive invitations to speak at the state or national level while being paid my fee. The same can also be said of my gifting my book. I’ve received mass orders as a result of a single gift.

Volunteer

Many professionals completely ignore volunteering as a way to network with potential hiring managers or customers. If you know that your desired employer or client work closely with a specific non-profit, dedicating time to that organization can be a worthwhile investment in other people, as well as yourself.

Related: Could a Great Corporate Culture Be Bad for Employees?