The Cutting Edge: Gretchen Adams, 28, Account Supervisor

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Gretchen Adams watched the dot-com boom from the sidelines, working days, nights and weekends at Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, San Francisco. As an account executive and then supervisor, she saw dot-commers become paper millionaires overnight, but she stuck with the agency business. "I thought there was a little more security," she says.

In the midst of the dot-com bust, she got sacked: Ms. Adams, 28, was laid off Aug. 1 when the office closed. Living on severance and limited savings, she hopes to find a job before money runs out around January.

"During the boom, [agency] salaries didn't increase based on the amount of business you had," she says. The cost of living in San Francisco didn't allow her to save much. She shares an apartment near Golden Gate Park's Panhandle-$1,250 a month to use the dining room for a bedroom. Other monthly expenses add up: $70 for a student loan, $100 insurance for her 1995 Nissan. Entertainment is now mostly free or inexpensive activities-hiking, movie matinees-though she kept her monthly $135 tennis club membership; playing gets her through the tough times.

She's focused on the job of finding a job, checking openings online at Craig's List, writing thank you notes, making lists of places to call, keeping in touch with people she's met, and calling leads agency executives have given her. She's netted 13 interviews at 10 shops.

Many, including her boyfriend, have given up. After losing his account planning job at Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Technology, he enrolled at the University of San Francisco to become a teacher.

Headhunters-she now regrets that she didn't return calls in the heyday-advise Ms. Adams to lower her sights to an account executive post. They tell her to let them know when she decides to leave the Bay Area.

Ms. Adams recently visited family and friends in Chicago but is reluctant to move home. She's been on her own since she was 23 and lacks a network of agency contacts there. Besides, "there are so many things you can do here you just can't do in places like the Midwest," she says. Like so many die-hard ad professionals, she adds: "I'm still optimistic."

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