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Is this really what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life?" As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, the air is filled with the tinkling sound of children's laughter as they merrily skip back to school. You can't help but get a little misty-eyed thinking back to when you were young and green and fresh out of college. And you made the erroneous decision to go into advertising.

Don't get me wrong, I think advertising is a great career. You can make a lot of money in advertising and go to fun advertising parties where you meet fun advertising people. And if you're like the majority, you can impress them with your latest advertising campaign that got killed.

But lately, it seems like the more people I meet in advertising, the more people I know who want to get out of it. I've heard everything from, "I'm going to open a bait and tackle shop somewhere," to "Let's face it, it's not brain surgery," not to mention the altruistic desire to "do something worthwhile."

Unfortunately, most of the complaining is filed in the "crying wolf" category. How many advertising people do you know who actually venture off on the long and winding road traveled solely by bait and tackle shop owners, brain surgeons and Mother Teresa?

Education required: Second grade-level math.

Daily duties: Count worms-blood worms, sand worms and night crawlers-not the kind you find in advertising. Keep eel bucket filled. Grind up bunker, a particularly smelly fish (is there any other kind?) to make chum. Weigh fish. Lie to customers about weight.

Salary: $5.75 an hour (approximately $70 an hour less than advertising).

Hours: Sunrise to sunset. (Advertising translation: Four hours less than a "hot creative sweatshop," but six hours more than a "big hacky agency.") No summer hours.

Special skills: Must be able to distinguish between leftover Chinese lunch container in refrigerator and container of nightcrawlers.

Upside: Answer to yourself. Lots of alone time. It's just you and the bait. (Especially if you don't shower.)

Downside: Have to get up before 10. Have to be around cold-blooded slippery things all day.

Skills used from advertising: Ability to deal with cold-blooded slippery things all day.

For those who'd rather spend their days healing people's minds, instead of manipulating them:

Education required: Four years of college, four years of medical school, seven years of residency. (Shifts at the hospital can last 32 hours. Why do you think they call it "residency"?)

Daily duties: Pay off $100,000 college debt by sawing off tops of people's skulls or using 12-inch Black & Decker drill to get to brain tumor. Remove tumor one micrometer (1/1000 of a millimeter) at a time. (Remember when you used to have to knife 6-point type apart?) Can take up to 17 hours. (You know, like how long awards shows seem when you're not winning anything.)

Hours: On call 24 hours a day. (But when you get beeped at a party you can use the line, "Actually it is brain surgery!")

Salary: Approximately a gazillion more than bait and tackle shop owner and a bajillion more than advertising.

Special skills: Must have "hands of a surgeon." Especially needed to hold "money of a surgeon."

Upside: Big bucks. Lots of prestige. Don't have to answer to anyone, not even God. You are God.

Downside: Have to be around people who need to have their heads examined.

Skills used from advertising: Used to dealing with people who need to have their heads examined.

And finally, for those who are willing to trade in their T-squares for a real cross to bear:

Education required: 20 years at convent, three months nursing school, student of humanity for entire life.

Daily Duties: Follow Christ into the slums and help the poor, the lepers, the blind, the disabled, the aged and the dying.

Salary: None. Not even free T-shirts, knapsacks or bottles of wine from production companies. Must turn own bottle of water into wine.

Hours: How many hours are there in a day? For leap year, add .15 seconds per hour. (NYC advertising translation: Like Deutsch, with no beer breaks.)

Special skills: Ability to work long hours for no money, propensity for martyrdom. (Remember what it was like to be a junior?)

Downside: Premature aging from overexposure to sun. (Like the kind you get from lounging around at the Four Seasons pool in L.A.) Must wear plain uniform every day. No funky fashions to show co-workers how cool you are. Close proximity to people you'd only feature in a public service ad to win awards. (Not touch! Yuk!)

Upside: Win awards like the Nobel Peace Prize (of course it's not the One Show, but then what is?). Warm feeling inside from helping others. (You know, like when you do a public service ad and don't enter it in an awards show?) Answer only to God.

Skills used from advertising: Ability to answer to creative director who thinks he's God.

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