According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the retail sector and in the corporate world make up some of the most popular jobs in America. If you're in a sea of cubicles, the biggest "dirty job" you may encounter is changing the ink on the printer.
But there are hundreds of tough blue-collar jobs available, too. Many of them have been immortalized in a slew of reality television shows like "Deadliest Catch," which depicts crab fishermen battling the Bering Sea; "Dirty Jobs," which portrays workers who earn a living doing unspeakable tasks; "America's Toughest Jobs," which reveals some of the most dangerous jobs on Earth, and "Ice Road Truckers," which features truck drivers transporting heavy loads across frozen bodies of water.
What are these jobs like? And what motivates a worker to take on a job that's rough, demanding and potentially dangerous?
Come in from the mold
David Meekma is a mold remediator in Orange County, Calif. Meekma and his team are contacted by homeowners to banish offensive growths from the interior of their homes. As a result, Meekma's witnessed a lot of disgusting mold colonies over the years.
Surprisingly, Meekma pursued this career path after several years as a white-collar worker. "I chose this job because I was tired of the corporate world and its politics," he says. "The routine was wearing on me."
Meekma likes that he sees the results of his labor firsthand. "In mold remediation, I actually remove potentially harmful toxins from a home, making it a safer place to live. This is a better way to spend a day than analyzing profit and loss statements," he declares.
Bugs and mice and rats -- oh my!
Greg Baumann is a senior scientist and vice president at the National Pest Management Association. Baumann finds his "dirty job" to be quite rewarding.
"This job is exciting because every day is different and each pest problem is a challenge," Baumann observes. "Technicians must have an understanding of science, math, construction and customer relations."
Obviously, working with rodents and other vermin is not a job for the squeamish. "There are times when the job can be dirty and difficult," Baumann says. "Finding the source of a rat infestation may require working in sewers for inspections and to install prevention measures."
Even Baumann is caught by surprise occasionally. "Once, when tearing apart a pallet of spilled food items, mice started flooding out of the broken boxes of cookies creating quite a startling scene for all around!"
"We clean up other people's screw-ups," declares Kayton Kimberly, the author of "Repossess Your Life." Kimberly works in what is technically known as the "collateral recovery industry." Most people would refer to Kimberly and other workers like him as "the repo man."
Kimberly says that his job is often misunderstood. He says that he understands that people are frustrated, but that their anger is misdirected.
"We become part of a solution. In truth, it's not our problem that they missed their payments. We just bring that fact home when they wake up and their collateral is gone."
Kimberly got into the repossession industry when he worked with his father. Although he fulfills the requests of his clients, there is at least one time of year he avoids his "dirty job."
"I made it a policy after a few years not to take people's cars on Christmas Eve," Kimberly says. "Invariably, we'd repo a car, get it back to the lot and inside would be stuffed with wrapped Christmas gifts." Kimberly doesn't mind playing the repo man, but that he didn't want to be Scrooge for children at Christmas.
"All of my work is done in a warehouse freezer where temperatures do not exceed minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit," Wagner says. "The floors are slick, and we're prone to slipping and falling. The hours are long and arduous."
Wagner has had other roles at the warehouse, but says he likes his job. "Working in such extreme conditions is certainly a dirty and tough job, but if you're up to the challenge and want to make a good salary in which you set your own pace, this is definitely something I would recommend."
Choosing a dirty job
Workers who decide to take on challenging, often grimy jobs often do so because they like seeing the results of their labor immediately.
Some of these blue-collar workers also love the freedom they get from some of the trappings of the corporate world. They aren't required to wear business suits or deal with the monotony of the same surroundings or same people every day.
"Dirty jobs" aren't easy jobs, though. In addition to strenuous manual labor, many of these jobs require substantial training or prior certification.
If working a "dirty job" sounds like something you'd be interested in, try using key words like "manufacturing" "waste management" "day laborer" or "physically demanding" in your next job search.
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