Why Working In A Trade Makes More Sense Than A 9-To-5


When I lived in New York, my friend Pat and I used to have drinks sometimes after work. He's probably one of the happiest guys I know.

He's a painter by trade, and works freelance. When Pat slings back a beer, he's a man smiling with satisfaction.

It took me a long time to understand the contentment in Pat's grin. My friends and family who work behind laptops all day seem listless over happy hour, scratching their heads and wondering where the day went in terms of Excel Spreadsheets and PowerPoints and whatnot.


I've come to realize it's the tangibility of what Pat does that gives him a sense of satisfaction. Those of us who have to type out our progress have this strange, inhuman sense that what we're contributing to the work flow is somehow nonexistent.

I read a lot about people in colleges popping Adderall to stay focused and I can't help but think maybe a lot of us are headed in the wrong direction. I know I personally am much happier the days when I'm on my feet volunteering than the days I'm sitting in front of a screen filling in data on Salesforce.

America seems unable to grasp that not everyone aspires to a desk job and/or a bachelor's degree. Let's face it: Some people just aren't interested in school.

So why are we sinking into so much debt with this flawed belief that an expensive degree leads to success and happiness?

There's no need to force yourself to get a BA and a desk job if it's not for you. Instead consider exploring a trade profession.

Blue collar labor goes beyond being a welder or a plumber or an electrician --trades include chefs, hair stylists, t-shirt screen printers, decorators, landscapers and more. There's so many reasons to consider going down one of these career paths.

It's inexpensive to explore.

OK, so you got your bachelor's degree in political science, and you're struggling to find a well-paying job. Should you pursue more grad school? Well, that will cost you -- a lot.

However, taking a class at a local community college will set you back only about $300-$400. You can explore something that truly interests you such as a welding or woodworking class. This way, you can figure out what works for you at a low cost.

The best part is most employers won't even require an associate degree -- you can just jump in as an apprentice. Plus, letting them know you took a class will only make you a more desirable candidate.

Just by perusing USAJobs, you'll find a plethora of cool jobs in the U.S. Forestry Service (an opportunity to work outside!) and in air traffic control -- all jobs starting at roughly $45k.

There's job security.

My good friend Jen, an electrician, always says, "Learn a trade and you will always have a job."

Those with strong stomachs and a love of the macabre can guarantee a job in funeral services will never be outsourced to an app. Neither will a job fixing leaky faucets.

The need for a human being to create and repair and improve will always be necessary.

It's good for your mental health.

Author Matthew Crawford writes in his New York Times piece,

Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts. What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive.

Remember my friend Pat? He has a ton of hobbies. He does art department work on horror movie sets and goes to thrash metal concerts all the time. But he doesn't need his work to define his passions.

The fact that he has enough money to do what he wants and he's able to have a schedule he likes is enough for him to have a fulfilling life.

Wanting to create tangible, meaningful work instead of mediating and coordinating is a reasonable goal and a lot of us would be better off mentally doing that instead.

2016, whether you like it or not, has been a year of discussing the blue-collar worker. People are not happy with the new economy -- underemployed graduates included.

If you're strung out and feeling numb at your desk, there's a good reason why. Human beings weren't designed for the intangible.

Simply put, working with your hands will never go out of style.