Book of Tens: Best Careers for Unemployed Ad Folks in 2010

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It "can be a highly effective career move for unemployed ad folks from any department," said Dean Crutchfield, chief engagement officer at Method, a brand-experience agency. But executive recruiter Paul Gumbinner cautions that there are some prerequisites that must be met. "The really good coaches I know go through very extensive training," said Gumbinner, former agency executive and president of Gumbinner Co. "They have to have a great understanding of the business and the nuances that differentiate one company or agency from another."

"Advertising is great training for retail, because it really teaches you to serve, which a lot of people in retailing don't understand," Mr. Gumbinner said. "Anybody who's been in advertising is intuitively a marketer, and that's an obvious benefit to retailing." The role, he said, can vary. "Anything from owning a store or chain to selling on the floor. I know of lots of people who have been out of work who are working at retailing. To me, it should be anything that someone's really interested in. I know someone who's at Home Depot."

This one may sound particularly odd, but Mr. Gumbinner thinks advertising -- and not just on the creative side, but the account side, too -- yields the skills necessary for putting on a good show. "Presenting is great training for acting," Mr. Gumbinner said. "Advertising's great background for theater. There's a guy who used to be at the old TBWA, who was an account person, whose credits I see all over the place. Another person who was an account person now is acting -- I turn on 'Law & Order' and there she is." And don't count out directing, either.

Why? Because those businesses are "about understanding your customer and your customers' needs, and good advertising people should be able to do that," Mr. Gumbinner said. Sales in general can be a good fit for ex-ad folks, said Brad Karsh, president-founder of career-services company JobBound and former VP-director of talent acquisition at Leo Burnett, Chicago. "The idea of talking to people, being persuasive in your conversation, selling a point of view, and being organized, efficient and outgoing all would make you successful in the sales arena," he said.

"The McKinseys of this world need creative and critical thinking," Mr. Gumbinner said, adding that "really good agency people know how to dig in and get information and get insights." Mr. Crutchfield sees a similar opportunity. "And for the suits amongst us, being a financial consultant/adviser can be appealing to companies because of the need to have folks who are able to build strong relationships with prospects -- something that we're good at in this biz," he said.

Again, perhaps a bit of a stretch, until you think through the skills such a job entails. "I think there are a lot of agency people who have gone into the talent business and have done reasonably well," Mr. Gumbinner said. "Certainly casting [is a good career move] for creative people." Why? "It's just gut. Somebody's doing a casting for a housewife, and intuitively an ex-advertising person should be able to know what the product is, who the audience is and therefore what the talent should look like."

Working for a nonprofit makes sense "because any marketer is good at mobilizing an organization," said Marc de Swaan Arons, chairman of global marketing consultancy EffectiveBrands and a former senior brand manager at Unilever. "NGOs, charities -- they are extremely high on passion but they score extremely low on how effectively they do it." That's where the skills of former marketers come in, Mr. de Swaan Arons said. "A great marketer is able to quickly make a huge difference in terms of how those organizations define their mission."

"In advertising, art and writing skills have just diminished. They've become secondary to visual thinking and idea generation. So writers and art directors tend to be almost better idea people," said Erik Proulx, former senior copywriter at Arnold, Boston, founder of job blog Please Feed the Animals and producer of the film "Lemonade." "If people do have those writing skills, I think the one thing that has significant financial opportunity is being a writing consultant for business leaders. They'll pay you a lot of money to have you help them craft their writing style," Mr. Proulx said.

This is a great avenue for former ad folks to consider, JobBound's Mr. Karsh said, even if it is in a less glamorous, less colorful manufacturing setting. "Working with teams, working on deadline, pushing definitive projects with beginnings and ends through, being organized, being able to multitask -- these all would be the key traits that account managers and producers would bring to a job in logistics operations or project management," he said. "The environment is obviously quite a bit less creative . . . but I think you could apply the skill set quite nicely."

When all else fails, or even when it doesn't, and you've got the gumption and financial flexibility to do so, strike out on your own and start a business -- be it industry-related or not. "It doesn't have to be something specifically related [to your former career], said Mr. Karsh, who started his company after spending 15 years at Leo Burnett and who is also an author. When opening up your own shop, it's an opportunity to directly draw on your marketing skills.

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