Posted Sept. 22, 2008 -- Working in a white-collar industry may be appealing to many workers. After all, it's great to be out of the elements and in comfortable surroundings. And while an office isn't completely free of hazards, it's generally a safe environment.
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But working in a blue-collar job also has its benefits. And for some people, those jobs may also be a better fit. Are you one of those people?
Is blue better than white?
Kevan Barley has worked in both white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Barley has a master's degree in education and worked as an administrative leader and trainer. But several years ago, he made an unusual leap to a new line of work: He became a plumber.
Barley, who's based in Memphis, Tennessee, enjoys the instant sense of accomplishment he feels when he fixes a plumbing problem. "When I worked hard, something changed. I can look at my work and see the results. In a lot of jobs, this is rare," Barley says.
Five benefits to a blue-collar job
Reason No. 1 why blue-collar is better: It can be a competitive, lucrative career field.
Although some blue-collar fields (like construction) have seen a decrease in numbers, there are many other jobs that pay a significant wage. Engineers who go into blue-collar fields are in high demand and can usually command salaries of $50,000 or more a year. Energy-related jobs, including mining, have increased in number over the last several years.
Reason No. 2 why blue-collar is better: A constant change of scenery.
The sameness of the corporate world can be irritating to some workers. Barley prefers the variety of experiences his line of work gives him every day. "I never drive up to the same building, park in the same space, walk the same route, sit in the same chair and put up with the same idiots," he notes. "I go from home to home, meet hundreds of new people and no two days are alike."
Reason No. 3 why blue-collar is better: No two days are alike.
Barley notes that his schedule is never the same. Depending on the needs of the client and what his surroundings for that day are like, it keeps him on his toes -- and that's the way he likes it. "When the weather is beautiful, I'm outside while my friends are cooped up in their cubes. When the weather is horrendous, then it's wilderness adventure time, like a kid on a backpacking expedition.
Reason No. 4 why blue-collar is better: Seeing new faces and making new friends.
In Barley's opinion, one of the biggest bonuses of his job is the opportunity he has every day to see new faces. "I go from home to home and meet hundreds of new people," says Barley, who is often a welcome sight for his clients.
"So often in white-collar your job is to approach people and tell them something that they'd rather not hear." But when Barley arrives at a client's home these days, he's usually greeted with the same response: "Am I glad to see you!"
That sentiment is especially true when he's working during bad weather conditions. "Customers are twice as nice, and I have bragging rights like nobody else," he declares.
Reason No. 5 why blue-collar is better: Every day is casual dress day.
Some workers find corporate business attire to be uncomfortable and restrictive. Barley and many other blue-collar workers enjoy a relaxed dress code. The actual dress code varies by industry, but generally, blue collar workers are able to wear jeans or simple work pants and shirts with no ties, jackets or blazers required.
In some cases, there is a tradeoff: Blue-collar workers may not have to wear business attire, but depending on the job they perform, they might be required to wear helmets, goggles and other safety gear for several hours at a time.