Life After 'Dirty Jobs': Mike Rowe Busts The Myths About Blue-Collar Work
As fans of "Dirty Jobs" know, the host of the cable TV show, Mike Rowe, has been out of a job since last fall, when the series aired its 169th and final episode. The program's end, after eight seasons, was bittersweet for Rowe, who called it "the most honest show in the history of reality TV."
Rowe, 50, says that he feels good about his current state of unemployment. "I got way busier than I thought I'd ever be with 'Dirty Jobs,' " he tells AOL Jobs. One of his current projects is a website, mikeroweWORKS.com, which is designed to be a resource center for people looking for more information about careers in trades. In a sense, it carries on the mission of the show, by providing information about the jobs that many Americans would rather not or simply won't do -- and where and how to get them.
Though some 12 million Americans are unemployed, roughly 3 million jobs go unfilled in the U.S. because too few people have the skills necessary to do jobs such as plumbing, welding, electrical, construction and related occupations. "It's a symptom of a bigger problem," Rowe says. "It's the way we look at work. It's the way we approach our vocation and the degree to which we assign our identity to what we do."
Simply put: Too few people are pursuing trades because the work isn't glamorous. What's more, Americans' views on education -- that everyone should pursue a four-year college degree -- further stigmatize blue-collar work. But Rowe says education isn't only found in ivy-covered halls. It's also found in the everyday lives and occupations of the nation's laborers.
Rowe, who started his show business career singing for the Baltimore Opera, says that his career has taught him that the youthful notion of "following your passion" isn't the answer for everyone who seeks job satisfaction, but being passionate about the work you do is. Loving what they did was a trait common to all of the workers profiled on "Dirty Jobs," Rowe says.
So what was it like to tackle a new dirty job week after week? Rowe says that, by definition, all of them were fish-out-of-water exploits. "That was the whole point of it; to try and relive or experience each day as though it was your first day on the job," he says. "There's a measure of 'What the hell is going on?' present in all of them -- even the ones that aren't really physically or mentally demanding."
Dirty jobs are different from the kind of work that many Americans typically do, Rowe says. By and large they are still done by people who are generalists. "They are people who can drill a spring well, run electric, run pipe, work on the plumbing, deliver a calf [and more]," he says.
They are workers who look for opportunity and don't concern themselves with where others are headed. Dirty jobs are difficult, and may involve financial risk or any number of unattractive things. But those who thrive doing dirty jobs become excellent at what they do and then "find a way to love it," he says.
Though his life isn't as hectic as it was when "Dirty Jobs" was on the air, Rowe is sanguine about his future, saying, "I've never been afraid of the feeling of not knowing what's going to happen next or the feeling of having more time on my hands than I might be accustomed to."
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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