There should be a course taught to Advertising students called "Plan B." I think it would be highly popular and would serve to steer some toward alternate careers. Now I mean alternate careers within advertising, not a different industry altogether. I say this because the more I speak to near-graduates, the more I find a slew of them are curious as to what else is out there beyond copywriting and art direction.
Last week I visited a mid-west ad school and had conversations with at least 4 students who were clear that they wanted to do something else, but had no idea how to get there. One student wants to be an art buyer; another a stylist; another a creative assistant; another "something creative, but not sure." (yea, not sure I can help that last one).
This Plan B class would teach all about art buying: what they do, what skills are imperative and how to purposely chart a course into a junior art buying job. It would teach print production in the same way. Creative students who have an eye for design, but perhaps can't design worth a lick, can certainly learn the art and science of printing. The class would also teach about all the other operational positions within an agency that are viable career options for creative folks. I know all the schools generally talk about other positions within an agency. Students learn about what traffic does, what the art buyer does, what the people in the studio do. But, I'd love to see them learn more concrete ways to actually get one of these jobs.
For example, I gave the ones interested in art buying some advice about trying to get a part-time job in an art gallery (they live in the uber-artistic city of Minneapolis, so this shouldn't be too hard). I told them to start researching local photographers and get to know their work. Then classify the styles of each one, ultimately ending up with a binder full of potential photo vendors that could be tapped into for future shoots. Then do the exact same thing for local illustrators. This is something the students can begin now, before they graduate, and even if they never, ever even use the binder, it is a fantastic lesson in research. And, who wouldn't be impressed with a junior candidate who brought a binder like that to an interview and showed the advance work they had done to begin their career in art buying. I'd be.
Everyone studying advertising knows that want a "creative" career. Yet not everyone has the copywriting, design and conceptual strength to make it in the creative department. We should teach about Plan B just in case.