Ben Baden

Ted Liberatos spent 17 years as an executive recruiter before he decided that traveling 20 weekends out of the year and working in an office environment weren't for him. He sold his company in 1999 and set off to find something more satisfying. "I got out mostly because of the fact that it was an awful lot of travel," Liberatos says. "I wanted something where I didn't have to sit at a desk and work at a computer."

After selling his company, Liberatos took the leap into the blue-collar world. He spent the next few years working for an old college buddy building houses. A few years into his transition, Liberatos bought a truck and began doing cleanup work at various job sites.

It wasn't long before members of the community began calling him and asking if he could come to clean out a neighbor's basement, an old job site, or even a company's warehouse. He now runs his own business, Anything Goes Removal Services, in Newton, Mass. He started with one truck and a desire for a different lifestyle. Today, he has four trucks and one full-time employee, and he works with four part-time independent contractors. "Here it is 2010, and I'm in a very successful, healthy, rewarding, and happy transition," he says.

For many workers, years of sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer screen have become monotonous and boring. Some, like Liberatos, have traded in their suits for jeans, chosen a more active lifestyle, and made the transition into blue-collar jobs -- defined as occupations that involve manual labor and typically an hourly wage. Manpower conducts an annual survey of employers about which jobs are consistently the hardest to fill, and certain blue-collar jobs that can yield six-figure salaries frequently appear high on the list. Other blue-collar jobs, including tractor-trailer drivers, landscaping workers, carpenters, and general maintenance workers, are all projected to be among the 30 occupations with the largest employment growth between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the midst of a tough job market, it's also important to remember the vital role that many of these laborers play in the economy. "The people who fix my plumbing can't live in India," says Melanie Holmes, vice president at Manpower.

If gardening is a favorite hobby of yours, it may make sense to go into landscaping. Or if you've always had a knack for fixing things, consider pursuing training for a repair job or opening up your own shop. People who take pleasure in working on their own homes may enjoy work in construction or renovation.

At times, hands-on projects can seem more rewarding than static office work. "If you're making something or fixing something, you can often see the tangible or immediate results of your work, and there are tons of people in white-collar jobs who don't," Holmes says.

The trade-offs. Liberatos admits that there has been a downside to his transition. He's making less money: about 40 percent less than he earned at his previous job.

In return, he says he feels much more tied in to his community. He is now a member of the local Elks Club, and he also helps with the Boys and Girls Club. Instead of flying to Chicago on the weekends for work, he spends time with his fiancée and neighbors.

With his new occupation, he no longer has to work from home or report to an office. Now, he spends a lot of his time outdoors. "There's nothing like working outside in the summertime," he says.