Job Skills Over Degree: The Rise of Remote New Collar Workers

A remote worker walking down the city streets with his laptop bag

The employment landscape has undergone some significant developments in the last decade or so. Obviously, there’s the shifts in employee priorities, brought on by economic turmoil and the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to mention that remote and hybrid working practices are becoming increasingly prominent. But, a fresh “collar” designation has also emerged recently: new collar workers.

Most people are familiar with blue collar and white collar workers. But fewer people — employees and companies alike — have a good understanding of what a new collar worker is. Perhaps most importantly, they don’t always recognize what fantastic opportunities this designation can hold. 

Let’s explore what new collar workers are and the types of jobs they do.

What Are New Collar Workers?

So, first thing’s first: what are new collar workers? These are professionals who are characterized by their non-traditional educational paths to their careers. They don’t usually have university degrees, yet have generated significant professional expertise from developing skills and experience in other ways.

For instance, they might have taken courses, used self-teaching methods, and developed projects under their own steam. In addition, new collar workers are primarily in tech or tech-adjacent roles.

Their value in remote working

New collar workers are often linked to remote working practices. This is often because the types of roles involved are suited to working primarily on a computer, giving them a lot of flexibility. Indeed, the self-driven nature of these professionals’ learning and development experiences tends to mean they’re well-organized and productive remote and hybrid employees. After all, they’ve forged an independent career path and have developed organizational practices that enable them to thrive.

Multifaceted skills

Another key characteristic of new collar workers is their combination of technical and transferable skill sets. The freedom to take a non-traditional educational path tends to mean these workers haven’t only learned the key skills that tend to be the focus of academia. Alongside their technical know-how, the challenges of a non-traditional path often results in solid problem-solving and stress management skills. The need to reach out for networking and interacting with others on personal projects can also mean they have superior communication and conflict resolution abilities. Not to mention that eschewing the boundaries of tradition can mean they’re more creative and innovative thinkers.

Whether you’re considering pursuing a new collar worker career or perhaps bringing these workers onto your team, it’s worth recognizing that there are a diverse roles these employees tend to pursue. We’re going to explore a handful of them.

Cybersecurity Analyst

Overview of the role

New collar cybersecurity analysts’ primary responsibility is to monitor, assess, and secure computer systems, networks, and applications. They are there to spot potential breaches, inform businesses of current and upcoming risks, and often contribute to devising appropriate solutions.

This is also a role that can be performed entirely remotely, either as part of full-time staff or acting as a cybersecurity consultant. This is because new collar analysts can access company networks in real time from wherever they happen to be working from. Not to mention that their research into current cybersecurity threats is not dependent on being on-premises. In situations where there’s a need to review staff members’ behavior or examine hardware, new collar cybersecurity analysts can function in a hybrid format.

New collar training

Unlike traditional job roles that might require a specific degree or academic background, the path to becoming a Cybersecurity Analyst is often characterized by a focus on practical skills and certifications. A lot of professionals in this field have pursued certifications such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and CompTIA Security+ independently through courses.

Some analysts will also have been part of self-driven cybersecurity projects, such as hackathons. Essentially, these are time-limited penetration testing endurance events. This type of activity can be a vital training ground, as it requires creative problem solving and the ability to think as cybercriminals might. This unconventional approach can be a powerful tool for protecting businesses.

Data Science Professional

Overview of the role

Data Science has gone far beyond its origins in the tech sphere. Now it plays a key role in a diverse range of industries, from finance to healthcare, among many others. Businesses are increasingly reliant on accurate real-time and predictive data interpretation to make informed decisions. As a result, new collar data science professionals are a vital resource. They work with companies to understand the current data challenges faced and tailor data collection, management, analytics, and reporting practices.

Like the majority of new collar workers, data science professionals tend to be able to work purely remotely. This is because much of the meat of data science work can be performed via digital platforms. Data can be stored and shared via the cloud, scientists can interact with the data architecture by remotely accessing company networks. Even traditionally analog data, like employee surveys, can be uploaded and reviewed on aggregator software.

New collar training

Data science professionals usually possess a combination of technical and analytical skills. One of the key proficiencies data scientists need is programming. This is to manage data and build analytical algorithms. Therefore, professionals will either be self-taught or have independently gained certifications in a range of programming languages, such as Python, R, VBA, and SQL. They may also have completed specific data science eLearning courses related to statistics, mathematics, or computer science.

Acquiring and honing these skills independently takes a significant amount of dedication and drive. Therefore, companies can expect new collar data science professionals to be agile contributors with solid creative thinking and robust dispositions. Their need to interact with and interpret data for different departments, understanding levels, and backgrounds also means these professionals are great communicators.

Digital Marketer

Overview of the role

The digital marketing landscape is increasingly dynamic and diverse. New collar digital marketers are entrusted with using their skills alongside digital tools to strategize the most appropriate campaigns for brands. Their responsibilities encompass various activities, depending on the scope of the campaign. These can include performing market research, crafting compelling content, managing social media channels, and performing search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, among others.

New collar digital marketers are, again, suited to remote working practices. This is because almost all activities are both planned and executed on digital platforms. Marketers can strategize using collaborative ideation software, plan and track campaigns through cloud-based project management tools, and assess campaign outcomes via online analytics platforms. 

New collar training and education

Given how dynamic and wide-ranging digital marketing is, new collar digital marketers often come from a diverse range of training and experience paths. Indeed, traditional university marketing degrees are not typical anymore. Some may have previously worked in either analog marketing realms or even other creative industries, upskilling with relevant digital marketing knowledge to make them more effective in the current climate. Some will have taken eLearning courses to specialize in areas such as SEO, PPC, or social media influencer marketing.

In addition to technical skills, successful new collar digital marketers have cultivated experience that gives them a deep understanding of how changeable the marketing landscape is. As a result, they tend to be adaptable, using their creative thinking to pivot strategies based on emerging needs and communicating these to clients and collaborators accordingly.

Conclusion

In an employment landscape that thrives through diversity and is embracing remote work, new collar workers are vital contributors. This is likely to grow as fresh technologies emerge and companies need agile, self-driven professionals to help leverage these. It’s important to remember, though, that whether you’re pursuing a new collar career or hiring an employee, to find the right match. Thankfully, this more tailorable approach to work makes that more possible than ever before.

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Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.

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