This economy has really put the "blue" in blue-collar workers and there's good reason to feel discouraged: unemployment has hit the blue-collar sector especially hard. A December 2009 study by Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University showed that for each available job in the manufacturing sector, there were 12.5 unemployed people fighting for the spot. Things are even worse in the construction industry, where there were 24.5 unemployed people for every job opening. (For more, check out Top 6 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Job.)
And while blue-collar work has always tended to be physically demanding, these jobs have gotten even tougher as companies try to make do with fewer employees. Not surprisingly, many blue-collar workers want to make the jump to the white-collar world. Here are some tips to increase your odds of a successful transition.
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- Master Must-Have Skills
Obviously, you can't get an MBA overnight, but there are a few basic skills that are essential for white-collar hopefuls. For example, in today's office setting, technology rules. You need basic computer skills, of course, but you also must know your way around a spreadsheet and be able to send instant messages and texts. Also, brush up on social media sites, as virtually all companies use at least some of them. If you have a teenager or pre-teen in the house, they can give you a crash course.
- Revamp Your Resume
Before applying for any openings, give your resume a "white-collar makeover." You want to emphasize any supervisory experience you have had, plus anything in your background related to planning, strategy, problem-solving, etc. Choose your words carefully.
"It's worth spending some time to research the latest buzzwords and technical terms related to your target position or industry," says Dion Lim, president and chief operating officer of SimplyHired.com. This is especially true if you're submitting a resume online, where the system may automatically search resumes for pertinent keywords.
- Emphasize Universal and Transferable Skills
Most likely, you already possess some skills and traits widely coveted by employers in all sectors. Lim suggests highlighting things like your ability to multitask, experience working under pressure, a knack for resourcefulness, critical thinking skills and a positive attitude.
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Look the Part
It may seem unfair, but appearances count, especially in this competitive job market. The interviewer needs to be able to picture you in the position. Find out the standard office attire for the job you want and then show up in the interview dressed appropriately.
Be Smart with Your Job Search
Don't bother checking out the classifieds, as most white-collar jobs aren't there. Instead, look on sites like LinkedIn and TheLadders.com. Professional organizations related to your target industry can also be a good source of job leads. (For more, check out 5 Tips For Finding Your Perfect Job Online.)
Start with the Obvious
Probably the easiest route is to aim for the white-collar level of your current job. So, if you're a machine operator in a production facility, you would pursue opportunities in plant management. Likewise, in construction you would look into job site management positions. Those guys on the construction site wearing the dress shirt, tie and white hard hat? Find out what their titles are, and keep an eye out for any openings.
Network and Make Connections Constantly
Any savvy job seeker knows the importance of networking. Choose your hangouts wisely; search for places that cater to a white-collar crowd. Get in the habit of realizing everyone you meet could be a potentially valuable contact. Collect business cards, and always have your cell phone handy so you can add new connections to your contact list quickly. (For some tips on which fields to look into, check out 6 Sectors That Are Creating Jobs.)
Be Prepared to Keep Networking
The "schmoozing" doesn't stop once you've gotten some leads - or even when you've landed the job. Today's business world is all about networking and work-related socializing, says personal finance expert Manisha Thakor. "Going to lunch with co-workers and participating in after-work events is actually a good investment in your career path."
To limit the impact on your budget, Thakor suggests using a service like ZashPay that allows co-workers to chip in for a tab - or reimburse the person who laid out the cost of a business expense - using their e-mail or cell phone number.
The Bottom Line
Joining the white-collar ranks may take some effort and a little bit of research - and perhaps even a few new wardrobe essentials. But targeting your job search and playing up your strengths can greatly increase your chances of making the leap. (For more, check out 7 Jobs Companies Are Desperate To Fill.)
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