Author Topic: Should I be looking into manual trades? Recent graduate looking for advice  (Read 3139 times)


  • Bristles
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Hi! This question is inspired by the "50 jobs over $50,000" posts. Should I be looking into these sorts of jobs for my situation?

I recently graduated (debt free) from a four year university. I floundered around a while, as school and me didn't really fit. I ended up with a degree in Finance, but without any great internships or relevant work experience. I have been applying to entry level financial analyst jobs and other similar positions, but the only responses have been to jobs that are honestly too far away to actually commute to them. I can't move because my wife has a great career in the area, and we also like it here. Therefore I am searching for semi local jobs, ideally within biking distance. None have worked so far. Our area is predominantly "blue collar" and I would have no problem working such a job.

I am currently working part time in retail banking at a credit union, and it is an extremely bad fit for me. I don't enjoy sales when I can't honestly believe in the product I am selling, it in no way requires a college degree, and I feel extremely unproductive while at work.  I enjoy number crunching , but I hale also always enjoyed manual labor. If it wasn't a pay and career cut, I would rather be at my old food service job than at the credit union.

Reading MMM's "50 jobs over $50,000 without a degree" was rather inspiring, and many of the jobs sounded like they would make me happy to do them. Especially many of the traditional trades. I would rather be a plumber than sit at a desk. Many also would be scalable and lead to business ownership. I don't know if I should concentrate on doing something like starting a painting business, or sticking it out in my field. I am not experienced when it comes to working on things with my hands, but when I helped my father on our house as a kid I really enjoyed it..

Lastly, the event that pushed me over the edge was talking to the landscaper who maintains the property at my work. He moved up the ladder, owns his own business, and also owns a good dozen rental properties on the side, while still doing much of the raw work himself. He is also extremely happy, retiring somewhat early, and loving life. I would rather be him than be a more "successful", but depressed desk employee..

Thank you for your thoughts and opinions!
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 10:08:25 AM by innkeeper77 »


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Should I be looking into manual trades? Recent graduate looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2014, 11:45:58 AM »
You sound exactly like me and I'm looking forward to hearing people's opinions/suggestions.

I currently work as an engineer for an extremely large corporation and work in a cubicle.  But I'd honestly rather dig ditches if it paid me the same. (And all the benefits/perks were compensated for.)  I will say, you are young so this is the time to go try and do whatever you want, or create a business.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Should I be looking into manual trades? Recent graduate looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2014, 01:48:16 PM »
Only even consider it if you are fit, take good care of yourself, and have good longevity genes. Otherwise you'll wind up like my dad, who has been unable to work since his mid-50s. He used to be a damn good auto mechanic. Now he's half-deaf and half-crippled by gout. If he had eaten right and exercised, he could still be working.

The Millionaire Next Door talks about how many self-made millionaires are the owners of their own blue-collar type business (like HVAC). Good luck with the decision!

Debt Free in Alabama

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Should I be looking into manual trades? Recent graduate looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2014, 04:01:28 PM »
A couple of thoughts for you from one who has been on both sides of the desk you speak of...
From having now rehabbed 30+ homes, there is a shortage of plumbers in my area.  How can I tell?  I have to call 3 to get 1 to call, then the one doesn't show up within a 48 hour period of when they SAY they will....then they want $200 to get out of the truck!  Obviously not enough competition.
1. Blue collar trades are wonderful, if you choose wisely.  I worked outdoors in marine construction (ie, building decks, docks, bulkheads for homeowners on the water before completing my MBA and working my way into a great sales job).  I have counseled several young men to attend trade school/vocational school if possible to learn to become an electrician, plumber, HVAC tech.  This can be done in anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, at a very reasonable cost.
2. If you can't attend, I would humble myself, approach owners of these types of businesses, tell them you'd like to learn to become the best [fill in the blank} in the state which would benefit his company, and that you'd be willing to start at the bottom as the gopher and do whatever is needed to be done IF they will teach you small steps of the puzzle involved in becoming a master {fill in the blank}.  Negotiate some raises in advance for superior work, ask to be able to take on more responsibilities when you learn certain skills.

This is the way it used to be done, before moving paper from stack A to stack B (while taking a cut of the transaction) was 35%+ of our economy.
Hard work will be rewarded with your own work truck whereby you get to go on calls/jobs by yourself to earn the wages of a master technician in your chosen field, earning $35-$100 per hour.  Your desire to succeed will be your limit to how high you can leverage your wages into small houses you buy for rental property purchased out of foreclosure, or into a personal retirement account (assuming none is offered at work) like a traditional IRA/Roth IRA/individual 401k, etc.

Not a fast road, nor particularly easy, but no one who achieves financial independence achieves it easily.
It's simple, but not easy.
These skills have always been in demand.  Now, more so than ever.
let us know!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Should I be looking into manual trades? Recent graduate looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2014, 09:27:17 PM »
I work in the construction industry in a relatively low cost market. There can be very good money working in trades for reliable employees who are safety-minded, drug-free, have a clean (good, with no DUI or suspension in the last 3 years) driving record and a good work ethic. In trades, you may have to start with lower wages but the more you learn, the more you earn. We have had people move from completely unskilled at a $12 starting wage to $20 (an hour, decent pay here) in a year. Specialized, experienced tradespeople can make wages of $45-50 an hour (as employees) with experience, so there is an incredible range. There is high turnover in many trades and some thing are pretty much immediate firing offenses and amazingly common - lying on application, theft, drug use and major safety violations.

If you choose trades and want to go out on your own after a few years just remember to do your homework. Insurance, underbidding jobs to get work, buying new equipment on credit and employees (meeting payroll, unreliability, putting up with drama/personal issues) are what trip up most new construction trade businesses in my experience. If you learn the work and the management of the work, do your paperwork, pay your taxes and insurance, and hire good people (NOT some guy your buddy knows who needs a job) there is promising and profitable work for good tradespeople.

If the work you are considering is physical make sure the drawbacks of a shortened career due to overuse/injury/repetitive tasks/hearing loss/sun exposure etc. My number one recommendation is to look for companies that make safety a priority when starting out. Nothing is more important than that.

There are trade offs in any line of work but the trades can be satisfying and lucrative if done wisely.


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All of the above is good advice.


  • Bristles
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Thank you for all of the advice!

I will continue to think about the options, and keep an eye out for opportunities in my area, talking to business owners when I am able. The points about body breaking work are noted- I was thinking that hopefully I would avoid the worst of those, and having a wife means I am also adverse to the riskier options in terms of health.

I don't know how long it will take me to move from my current job, and even if it will be to a trade, but I will let you know as things happen, and as I find out more.