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?
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.
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.