A popular topic of discussion on many career blogs is white-collar work vs. blue-collar work. Since the grass is always greener on the other side, collar-switching daydreams are common.
One major benefit to "blue" work is visual cues. Sure these guys and gals have to rely on Mother Nature more than they'd like to, but at the end of the day, blue-collar workers have more tangibles. They build things. Physical things. Things they can pass by and say, "Hey, that was all me."
Many of us desk dwellers do not have the same experience. There are things we do and decisions we make that might touch concrete things, but it's much more difficult to internalize and articulate.
Rather than just be envious, here's a system you can adopt to feel better about what you do...or at least attach something "real" to it:
1) I'm often amazed at the limited amount of time workers and companies spend analyzing the success or failure of a project. Everyone usually just exhales in relief that a trying task is finally done. However, even if it's not required by your boss, I recommend you conduct your own postmortem. Write up a memo, prepare a summary, or simply E-mail yourself what you did, why you did it, and what the results were. Print the document, and put it in a folder. You'll bring the project to a proper close and provide yourself with a visual cue for the future. (This is also great for when you want to update your résumé or pitch for a raise!)
2) Since many of us spend the majority of our time anchored to a desk, drowning in paper, it's easy to lose focus on what it is we're really doing. Next time you find yourself questioning if you should shred your college diploma and learn how to paint bridges, pretend you're explaining your job to an 8-year-old. When we simplify what we do, it brings us back to basics. Try this aloud in the shower. It's a powerful verbal cue.
3) Regardless of what you do for work, you are ultimately serving someone. The question is, whom? Radio stations often employ a tactic where the program director will hang images of the station's target audience so DJs can remember whom they are speaking to. Why not try this at your desk? Whom are YOU "speaking" to on a daily basis? Knowing the beneficiaries of your work brings purpose to your labor.
Whatever your career, I guarantee that you are important. Sometimes, we all just need a reminder. And that reminder should come from within.
After holding down various media jobs, including stops at MTV Networks and Fox News, Andrew G.R. was completely discouraged—not only about his own career but about the lack of job resources that truly spoke to him. Enter Jobacle.com, the employment blog and podcast designed to Make Work Better.