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BARED (ALMOST) ALL

Lawson Clarke, copywriter

"Why is there a $5,000 charge for a bearskin rug?" asked Lawson Clarke's wife, Gable, brandishing their credit card bill. Lawson, a creative director at an ad agency, explained that, fearing layoffs, he was building an online portfolio for what he called a career "lifeboat." When he got laid off in March 2009, he launched the site malecopywriter.com. Taking inspiration from a 1972 Burt Reynolds Cosmopolitan centerfold, his site features Lawson, naked (save for a strategically placed vintage TV) on that rug, touting his skills as an ad man. "I tried to come up with a website that would make me laugh if it came across my desk," says Lawson, 38. The parody worked to jump-start his freelance career. "I saw the site and said, 'I've got to call this guy,'" says Lance Jensen, executive creative director of a Boston ad agency who has hired Lawson. The only person not so thrilled with the provocative site? Lawson's mom. "Why don't you call Burt Reynolds' mother," says Judy Clarke, 68, "and see how she felt."

SHOWED A SIGN OF LIFE SKILLS

Mark Leuner, engineering/sales

After nine months out of work without one job offer, Mark Leuner, 49, says he was "getting frantic." Trained in ceramic engineering, he had most recently sold construction equipment but was willing to do anything. Then he lit on an idea that landed him 50 leads in a single weekend. Dressed in both a suit jacket and hard hat, he stood on the sidewalk outside a newspaper office in Greenville, S.C., holding a large homemade sign that listed positions for which he was qualified: DITCH DIGGER, DIAPER CHANGER and MACHINIST among them. "I thought he was crazy," says his wife, Lorene, an ecologist. But after spending the morning on the street, Leuner came home to an answering machine full of job offers and inquiries. (Nobody took him up on diaper changing, but several felt he could sell insurance. "At the end of the day, 90 percent were purely sales commission offers. They said, 'Anybody with this much nerve can go sell snow to an Eskimo,'" says Leuner with a laugh.) Ed Flanary, president of American Foam & Fabric, was impressed by Leuner's gumption. "I thought, 'This guy is serious about wanting a job. He would be a good worker,'" says Flanary, who hired him as a manager by week's end. A year later Leuner has parlayed that into managing U.S. operations for an Israeli company and hasn't needed the sign again. "It was a stunt," says Leuner. "I was hoping it would catch someone's attention, and it did."

CREATED A ROADSIDE ATTRACTION

Pasha Stocking, PR/marketing exec

After 16 years working with mentally challenged teens and adults, Pasha Stocking was ready for a change and wanted to try marketing. Her dad gave her a start by hiring her at his health-care-training company. But less than a year later, due to the recession, he cut her position. "I was in shock," says Stocking, 37. "I couldn't believe my father got rid of my job." With no other clients, she decided to do some PR for herself. "I was like, 'I've got to do something crazy.'" In April 2009 she took $2,500 from her savings to rent a billboard off I-95 in Bridgeport, Conn., that read, "HIRE ME!" Soon she had nearly 80 job offers. Buoyed by her success, she opened her own PR and marketing firm. "She put her money on the line," says another publicist, Yusuf Salaam, who hired Stocking to redesign his website. "And it worked."