What 'Bouncing Back' Looks Like for Ad Talent in a Pandemic

4 lessons from a rough time for job seekers

Nine months ago, Covid-19 sent the advertising world into an unfortunate layoff frenzy. Watching from the sidelines, thankful to have kept my job, I wanted to give back. Like any creative in our industry, I recognized a problem in need of a solution.

Then it hit me. Looking for a job in advertising during a global pandemic is comparable to being a contestant on The Masked Singer, a show where celebrities face off against one another wearing elaborate costumes hiding their identity. Similarly, in our industry it's a struggle trying to promote yourself while hiding behind a résumé or portfolio. Recruiters see only your work instead of the person behind the work. Realizing that, I knew what had to be done.

I had never recorded a podcast, let alone a video series, but I wanted to give the people who had recently been laid off the opportunity to sell themselves to recruiters. It was important that they saw the real person and not just the work they're capable of.

With full support from BBDO leadership, where I'm currently an associate creative director, ​Bouncing Back​ was born​. 

Since its launch in May I've recorded 70 episodes, and over 40 of my guests have been hired to full-time roles. I've also partnered with The Avail List to interview their highlighted talent each month.

The main goal of this series was always to help people get back on their feet, but along the way I've also learned so much from these conversations. Here are just a few things I've learned: 

People are ready to work.

Being laid off affects everyone differently, but one thing all of my guests have had in common is an eagerness to flex their creative muscles again. People are doing everything in their power to set up their next agency gig, and are more willing than ever to get out of their comfort zones in an attempt to get noticed. ​So recruiters, please give them a call, or shoot them an email, because they are waiting with their phones on loud. 

Self-care is a priority.

For most people, losing your job comes as a shock. With a newfound abundance of free time, many of my guests have taken the opportunity to reset and really think about what comes next. Whether that means spending time with family, catching up on sleep, reading, or just doing neglected errands or things around the house—self-care has become more important than ever. 

Self-care also means dedicating time to passion projects. A lot of people have turned to side hustles to keep their creative juices flowing, like learning to cook, tending a garden, or playing an instrument. Keeping busy with activities you're passionate about is a healthy outlet to stay positive and energized. 

Expanding your skillsets increases hire-ability.

A lot of people have also been using this time to harness new skills. I've heard from many writers who are taking courses in design, and art directors who have recently taken up writing. Now more than ever, people are hungry to grow and to better themselves. Taking time to develop your craft, and become a multi-dimensional creative, is invaluable in an industry that increasingly craves utility and agility.

The ad world has never been closer.

Since the onset of Covid-19, the industry has rallied together as an online support system for thousands across the world. My hope is that whenever things do get back to "normal," our small advertising community remains committed to helping one another. It's been nice to feel like we're all on the same team. 

And lastly, since the point of this series is to put the spotlight on ad folks who are looking for work, I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't list the people behind the masked portfolios that have made ​Bouncing Back possible in the first place:

Carolina Levy, Josh Crafter, Chris Liu, Dave Adams, Louis Xinran, Patricio D Andrade, Alexandra Jordache, Bre Fern, David Valento, Alok Mahadevia, Benji Shaw, Stephanie Granado, Andrew Weissman, Robert Schneider, Joel Austin, Morgan Young, Hannah Jew, Megan Herren, Monica Andrade, Tasheyia Thomas, Sherri Hollander, Justin Oberman, Nicholas Pessarra, Kiko Martinez, Nick Sheingold, Jae Shin, Eric Peck, Devin Atherton, Ted Pedro, Josh D Weiss, Bryan Flynn, Matt Sayles, Maalik Ausar Obasi, Marcus Chin-Quee, Shabazz Larkin, Sarika Persaud, Shelbe Feaster, Meosha Jupiter, Edi Inderbitzin, Shin Kawase, Mark Conn, Ariel Lee, Treasure Brown, Kaitlin Summer, Jordon Derr, Dannielle Carr, Kenneth Fojas, Bret Ridgeway, Aliza Grover, Amanda Wong, Palak Kapadia, Paul Sincoff, Jana Schneider, Brian Hunn, Keshawn Hughes, Sonia Velasco, Dumarys Espaillat, Joel Hanlin, Andy Halleck, Mike O'Malley, Marcos Capriles, Ivette Rafael, Alexander Coles, Ryan Moore, Aasawari Kulkarni, Jeff Zimm, Veronica Jancuk, Catherine Trestini, Allison Werner, Jose Jorge Netto

Matt Low
Matt Low is associate creative director at BBDO New York.

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