There was a pattern forming on my resume where every significant position I had held was a three-year stint. Douglas Samuel turned out to be five, simply because after the first three, it took another two just to get out of there. My book was going backwards and something needed to be done to save it. Thinking that going back to New York might be a natural progression for my newfound professional skills and big important titles to match, it was my portfolio that would prevent this from ever happening.
My daughter had a new friend in her preschool whose daddy, Dave, was a big ad guy in the city, and he was willing to meet with me one night for some portfolio advice. Putting it bluntly, he told me, "Just because you did a great ad for these guys, doesn't make it a great ad." In other words, just as one of my professors at ArtCenter had taught me, "You can't polish a turd." A piece of shit, even if you paint it gold, is just gold shit. My book was full of gold shit, and Dave's suggestion was to start over. Just like in school, doing comps - well-executed layouts of ideas - for real consumer brands. Brands you might have actually heard of, instead of the B-to-B brands nobody, except maybe other companies in a related highly-specialized industry, would possibly have heard of. I gave myself total creative freedom to create three campaigns that better represented what I was capable of, and not just what I had accomplished.
Ultimately, it didn't matter that they weren't "real," and it worked in getting me a position as the Creative Director for a small design studio with big-brand clients, in Hackettstown, NJ. It was my packaging experience and "real" consumer-facing brand comps that convinced Diane, who, with her husband Frank, co-owned the business. As cool as it was to be working on big consumer brands like M&M/Mars, Crayola, and Centrum, the reality of her incompetency and antisemitism began taking its toll, and, after yet another three-year run, Diane had one of her trusted Account Managers ambush me as I entered the office one mild June morning. The stuff from my office was already boxed up and waiting for me, and ignoring instructions not to, I went and said goodbye to my former friends and colleagues. To this day, I'm not really sure what the reason was for letting me go, but the one thing everyone says to comfort you and ease your total panic when you get fired is, "You'll see, it was for the better. When one door closes, another one opens up."