T Nation

Career Advice: Blue vs. White Collar Work


I'm at a bit of a dilemma here on where to go with my career.

First a little background: i'm 24 and graduated from school with a degree in engineering. Due to the economy, i couldn't get a job in my field so i ended up working as a waiter, and then also working for a moving company. I don't really care for being a waiter, but working at a moving company was probably the best job i ever had, even though i only did it for a few months.

Now fast forward a year and a half and i finally was able to get a job in my field as a sales engineer. Unfortunately, this job sucks, working in sales isn't very enjoyable, and i can't stand sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time. The money and perks for this job are pretty sweet, but i feel like i would much rather go back to moving furniture for $15/hour. I've only been at this engineering job a couple months, and the only reason i haven't gone back to the moving company is because my family and friends have been pleading with me not to.

I just can't stand sitting around all day and not being active, and i would much rather have a job that pays less, but is physically challenging. Like most of you fellow t-nationers, i love getting a hard-ass work out, and i don't think i should let my body waste away at 24 years of age.

So... have any of you guys been in my situation? If so, what did you do and are there any regrets? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


I work in an office and work out every morning before work.

You are obviously a kid with no wife and child. As a husband and father you could give two shits about doing manual labor all day and are more concerned with providing for you family. So unless you are really, really ugly (or gay) I would say listen to people older than you who have responsibilities maybe just maybe the reason you are an engineer is because they sacrificed to put your ass through school. NOT to see it wasted on a FUCKING blue collar job. Or not its the internet.


What field of engineering did you study? Did you co-op?


What are you going to do down the road when your back hurts, your knees hurt, everything's hurting, and you can't keep up with the youngsters? You sure as shit aren't getting an engineering job at that point.


Start powerlifting at that point, so you can be around others who are in constant pain.


I am about as blue collar as it gets. I climb trees with ropes and chainsaws, cut off parts of those trees and then drag those parts to a wood chipper which destroys them. This is pretty awesome. I am also a husband and a father and I provide fairly well for my family and could do even better if I started my own company. Sometimes this job really sucks, like all jobs. Then some days I laugh my ass off and feel like the luckiest guy alive. The idea that the trades are somehow "less than" white collar work is just crap. However if your family did in fact sacrifice so you could go to school then that deserves consideration as well. You can't just go around quitting on this or that because you feel like it. Eventually you have to make a stand and stick it out.

I have been an arborist for 7 years now, having started when I was about your age. I am currently working on a career in law enforcement, but I wouldn't trade my years in the trades for anything. I have had experiences I will never forget while developing valuable qualities like courage, integrity, determination and grit. At the end of it all you alone have to look back over your life and judge your choices. That said you can't go around being some selfish, unrealistic little prick living in a dream world. Be smart, look at your options and the lives of those who have gone down various paths and try to have a plan, even if the plan likely get all fucked up. No matter what you are going to have to do stuff you hate, but I don't think you should hate everything about your job. Life's too short for that. But whatever you do, do it balls out with everything you have.


I find working on Jet engines more rewarding than using my education in computer science. Some people are just made that way.


If you have the good fortune to be educated, for the love of god, use it.

I've worked as a tree cutter, concrete and masonry, heavy industrial construction and light industrial fabrication my whole adult life (20 yrs) and have been doing the slow but steady for an engineering deg. for the past couple of years, taking a fifteen credit course as we speak.

I love the sense of accomplishment and all of that yadda yadda just as much as the next guy, but when it comes to working conditions, injury, and virtually all other measurable factors, white collar wins hands down.

I've known a few people that start as labor and move into engineering/white collar, but I have NEVER seen ANYBODY do the opposite.


My parents didn't sacrifice to get me through school, they just convinced me day in and day out since i was young, that you pretty much 'need' to go to college. I paid for the majority of my education, and i have $20,000 in loans that i'm paying off by myself.

Granted, i don't have a wife or kids, so maybe i'm not motivated enough to get a good paycheck. But i'm a cheap guy and don't demand much. I drive a '92 saturn, and don't plan on ever buying a brand new car in my life.

I don't care if my education is wasted, it's no more wasted than someone who majors in liberal arts and than goes on to selling life insurance.

Sometimes i think you just have to learn things the hard way, i just wish i had a better idea of what i wanted to do when i was 18.


I'm not sure what your dilemma is. You sound content with the choices you have made.

If you studied engineering that must mean you had some desire to be an engineer. So why are you in sales and not engineering? You can still do that if you want, but from the sound of it you don't care. I don't think the world needs engineers that aren't dedicated/motivated. Best of luck with your career of moving things around.


Go work for a construction company I am sure they could use an engineer. And, why don't you lift and run.

I love snowboarding, mountain climbing, lifting, boxing, smoking, and playing pranks on my friends...but it doesn't pay for my family. And family is first. Especially because they helped me get to where I am (even though I paid for it), so it would be a disservice to them if I just decided...I'm going to be a snowboard instructor...or whatever because it made me happy. Happy is an overrated emotion anyway.


So your parents didn't do anything for you...they just went on with their childless life...let you survive on your own? As I am sure they didn't, then they sacrificed for you.


You're in MD right? Local 26 or Local 24 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers would take you in a minute as an Apprentice. It's a five year program, but you work the whole time (start off at 50% of scale and get a 10% bump in pay every year).

Right now the scale is $39.05 an hour for a Journeyman Electrician (Plus Annuity, Pension and Full benefits). With your education you'll be at the top of your class and probably fall right into a foreman/service truck gig which would give you another 3 - 5 bucks an hour plus a truck and a gas card. Paid vacation and performance bonuses if you sell yourself right. It's good work.

I was an electrician for ten years (I only left because I topped out) and if the mortgage industry gets any more fucked up than it already is, I'd go back in a minute.

my .02


Now I haven't even finished my degree yet so take this with a grain of salt, but . . .

You can make a good career in engineering, even if the job you have right now isn't what you want, you can still use that to potentially move into a position more to your liking within the engineering field.

If that really isn't where you want to be, then as has already been mentioned, you can have a good career in the trades as well.

But moving furniture, to me at least, isn't a career. It's a job. And moving furniture definitely does not count as a trade by any stretch of the imagination.

You're at the age where you may want to be thinking about the career that'll give you happiness in the long term, as opposed to the job that'll make you happy in the short term.


I work as a programmer/designer doing work that has a uses a lot of math and we have a couple of guys (programmers also) who have engineering degrees. The skills are quite transferable.


Damn, dude. Chill out.


i say as long as you can provide for youself and have extra at the end of the month to toss into the bank, do what makes you happy.


Hell yea. I did that shit for years- driving a forklift, working outside, then working in a metal fabrication shop.


Use your fucking degree. There's a million guys in every shop around the world who would kill to have that.

When you're 35, decide you want a real job, and can't get one because you been moving couches for 11 years, you'll realize how fucking stupid you were.


Dilemma? At first I was going to say it was a retarded post but you get a pass because you're 24. Then I thought about how I wouldn't have posted that shit at even 22, or 20 for that matter.

Make lots of money so you can do the things you enjoy. It sounds like you might not have a great job now (read: not paying crazy good), but the skills and learning that can take place could be invaluable to your future.

I love sales; I am in sales. Sales isn't for everyone, but I will say that selling anything that requires a technical degree (computer science, chemistry, etc.) usually has the greatest potential to make lots of money. Be a rainmaker. Most CEOs are sales guys with technical ability - you usually don't see both in a person.

I will also say that I don't really like working 40 hours a week. Or even 30 for that matter. That is another reason I like sales: commission only jobs. Find a job that allows you to build a book of business, work your ass off for a few years, and sit back in 5 years from now when you're making good money and try to figure out what you will do with all your free time. It's a nice problem to have when you have a hobby like snowboarding but won't go on the weekends because everyone and their fucking uncle is up there clogging up the chairlifts... but I digress.

Don't be a fucking mover. You're 24, not 18. Want exercise? Welcome to T-Nation. Get your ass in the gym.


If you have the intellectual prowess to be a good engineer, I'd definitely go for that. Much better to be the brain behind the product than the guy physically assembling it in a factory. Use your mind to earn a living; save your body for your workouts.