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Blue Collar Job Search

A lot of what I’ve written about in the past has been for professionals and executives, but I had an experience recently that made me think about a blue collar job search, and what the differences are. This is pretty interesting because most of the job search blogs I follow seem to be written for a white collar professional.

I don’t want to draw any lines and declare that blue collar is better, or worse, than white collar. I simply want to talk about some of the nuances of a blue collar job search, compared to a white collar job search.

Here’s how this came about. I have a friend I was chatting with recently. He has been in a stable job for more than 15 years, but the time came for him to look for another gig. He’s a hard worker, very talented, and a really nice guy. He’s looking for a job where he can build and/or maintain stuff, working with his hands not at a computer all day, cooped up in an office (like me). At first I thought many of the job search tactics he would employ would be the same as what I recommend to others; but after we chatted last I realized the advice he needed was different than the advice I normally give. I began to brainstorm the differences, and here’s what I came with:

Identifying the type of job you want

Before I could help my friend I realized I had to understand what kind of job he would like to have. He didn’t communicate his wants or needs to me very well, so I had to draw them out. The kinds of questions we needed answers to included:

  • What kind of hours do you want to work?
  • Are you OK with night or swing shift?
  • Do you want to work weekends?
  • Do you want salary or opportunity for overtime?
  • Do you want management responsibilities?
  • Etc.
The key here is to figure out the type of responsibilities, expectations and the ideal work environment. I came up with at least a dozen questions to help him think through this.

You can’t get away from networking, no matter what kind of job you are seeking. We identified some networking events that are perfect for him not where his peers are but hiring managers are. Once you start networking you open up a can of worms: what to wear, how to talk in a networking event, how to approach people, and all of the rest of the networking strategies and tactics you can read about in a good networking book.


One of the distinct issues I found with my buddy was that he didn’t know how to communicate his brand, or value proposition, to others. Just a simple guy who can do regular stuff. There are many issues with his inability to appropriately brand himself; here are two: First, he completely depreciates his value. What might be normal to him is magic to me I’m about us unhandy as it gets, whereas he can build or fix just about anything. He takes his skills for granted, but he should really be able to communicate what he can do. Second, if he simply passes over his skills, experience and ability, he might make people think that he really isn’t that good.

Finding job opportunities

There is a lot of talk about where to find jobs. Some think you go just to job boards, others think job boards don’t work at all. I think it depends on your level, industry, and the type of job you are looking for. I found job boards to be quite valuable in my friend’s process for a number of reasons. He was able to find new target companies he hadn’t heard of before. He was able to list new “job titles” he was interested in new titles to talk about or search for. He was able to get a feel for skills that are valued, and keywords a company is looking for, to help hone his resume and prepare answers for interview questions or responses in a networking situation. Job boards get beat up a bit but they shouldn’t be discounted. To find a job board by industry check out Peter Weddle’s list of associations. Look for one appropriate for you, and see if they have a job board.

Social networking

I am not pushing social networking, even LinkedIn, very much with my buddy. I think white collar professionals have to be on LinkedIn so they can be found, but I’m not sure how many people are doing searches for facility maintenance, construction or other trade employees on LinkedIn. However, my friend can certainly spend valuable time each day looking for hiring managers and company contacts to network with. It’s a different use than what I’ve generally recommended.

Communicating to others

Once you understand your brand and value proposition, it’s critical that you can concisely communicate that to anyone you talk with. You should be able to tell them how your job search is going (or, more importantly, how they can help you in your job search), what kind of company or role you are looking for, and what your value proposition or personal brand is. People don’t want too much information, but you have a chance to ask for help or make an impression, and you should prepare for that chance.

Isn’t it amazing that what we really want to do (the work) is easy compared to doing all the stuff above? In today’s world, however, we need to think about those ideas so that when we transition again and we will transition again we are prepared to have a smooth transition.

By Jason Alba for AOL.COM
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Blue Collar Jobs in Demand for 2010 (with Median Annual Salaries)

Ready for a career change but dread getting another desk job? Then how about trying your hand at, well, working with your hands?
“There is a blue collar renaissance going on right now,” says Joe Lamacchia, author of Blue Collar and Proud of It: The All-in-One-Resource for Finding Freedom, Financial Success, and Security Outside of the Cubicle. “These are necessary jobs and they’re not going to go anywhere. Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. We want to turn this country green, and we don’t have enough workers to do it. There’s a lot of opportunity here.”
Following is a list of blue collar jobs experts say are most in demand this year, and their median annual salary according to online salary database, PayScale.com. To check out more blue collar job salaries, see our salary calculator.
Training for many of these positions includes a paid on-the-job apprenticeship, and the work can be physically rigorous. None of these jobs require education beyond a two-year associate’s degree.
1. Plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter
“With all the alternative energy sources that people are coming up with like solar heating, geothermal heat, and biofuel there’s a big need for these workers,” says Dr. Laurence Shatkin, co-author of “300 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these occupations are among the highest paid in the construction industry. Most of these workers receive their training in a technical school or community college, in addition to a four- or five-year apprenticeship, the BLS reports. In most states and municipalities, plumbers need to obtain a license.
Median annual salary: $49,773
Who’s hiring: Plumber jobs
2. Carpenter
Do you have a strong back, a propensity for math, and a love of power tools? Then you might enjoy carpentry. Although the construction industry took a beating during the recession, the demand for environmentally friendly, energy-efficient buildings has helped hasten the field’s recovery, the BLS notes. “These are the people who are going to green this country,” Lamacchia says. In fact, the BLS expects carpentry opportunities to grow by 13 percent this decade. According to the BLS, a third of carpenters are self-employed. In addition, many acquire the necessary skills by training on the job, enrolling in a vocational program, or working as an apprentice for three or four years.
Median annual salary: $38,473
Who’s hiring: Carpenter jobs
3. Electrician
According to the BLS, employment growth in the field will increase 12 percent this decade. Those with the widest range of skills such as voice, data, and video wiring will be the most marketable, the BLS reports. Factor in the nation’s move to green energy sources, says Shatkin, and you have a thriving occupation. As the BLS notes, electricians usually get their training during a four-year apprenticeship. As with plumbers, state and municipal licensing is usually required.
Median annual salary: $45,218
Who’s hiring: Electrician jobs
4. Automobile mechanic
No matter what the economy’s doing, this is one job in demand. “When a recession hits, people want to keep their cars running longer instead of buying new,” Shatkin says. A vocational training program in automotive technology (often six to 12 months) or a two-year associate degree is usually needed to be competitive in the marketplace, the BLS reports.
Median annual salary: $35,889
Who’s hiring: Automobile mechanic jobs
5. Heating, air conditioning, or refrigeration mechanic/installer
Thanks to the government offering consumers tax incentives to upgrade their appliances to more energy-efficient models, the demand for such technicians remains generous, Shatkin says. In fact, the BLS estimates that job opportunities will increase by a whopping 28 percent this decade. To compete in the job market, the BLS says, a six-month to two-year vocational program or an apprenticeship are usually required. Same goes for state and local licenses.
Median annual salary: $48,494
Who’s hiring: Mechanic jobs
6. Roofer
If you’re strong, comfortable with heights, and don’t mind getting dirty, you might like this line work. Since much of the work revolves around repairing or replacing outdated roofing systems, the occupation is fairly recession proof, the BLS says. Another variable that can keep roofers busy: “There’s more concentration now on making green roofs that keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter,” Shatkin says. Training is often obtained on the job or through a three-year apprenticeship, the BLS reports.
Median annual salary: $38,026
Who’s hiring: Roofer jobs
7. Elevator installer/repairer
This is one of the best-paid blue collar positions, Shatkin says. What’s more, he says, it’s incredibly recession-proof, as most of the work entails maintenance or repair. According to the BLS, most elevator technicians start their career in a four-year apprenticeship program and belong to a union. In addition, city and state licensing is often required.
Median annual salary: $49,036

Who’s hiring: Elevator repairer jobs

Still not sure you can leave the cubicle life behind? Then, Lamacchia says, consider this: “You’re home in the evening. You’re not at the airport or living out of a suitcase. You can go to your daughter’s play or your son’s little league game. It’s a nice life.”

By Michelle Goodman for AOL.COM


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