It seems like I have been a real estate agent my entire life. It’s actually my third career.

I fell into my first career by taking the first job that paid a living wage and benefits during a recession. I leveraged that job into a second career that was more rewarding and lucrative, but personally limiting.

Some of the things that attracted me to being a real estate agent included the freedom to make decisions and the lack of artificial income limits.

There is no glass ceiling for agents, and I don’t have to go to work everyday and have people tell me what I can and cannot do.

Many of the things that I learned in my past careers have helped me in my latest.

We all have self-limiting ideas and beliefs that hold us back if we let them. Fear is probably the biggest barrier to success in real estate.

Here are some lessons I have learned during my 12 years:

  1. Paying my own health insurance is actually less frightening than the alternatives of having no health insurance, using COBRA or depending on an employer who may lay me off when I am sick.
  2. Real estate agents do not get a license on a Wednesday and then have their first sale the following Sunday at their first open house. In fact, most sales do not occur at or because of open houses.
  3. There isn’t anything easy about finding business, because everyone has a relative or friend who is at least a part-time agent. But there is plenty of business out there.
  4. No matter how good of a job we do, some of our clients will choose another agent next time they buy or sell real estate. No one owes us every real estate transaction just because we did a good job for them once.
  5. Working hard does not guarantee success, but not working almost guarantees failure.
  6. Everyone pays taxes. Being self-employed just means we need to take money out of our own checks for taxes. Just remember that 30 to 50 percent of each check needs to be set aside for paying taxes and for putting into retirement accounts, which also helps reduce taxable income.
  7. Each day is a new day. If yesterday was a complete waste of time, today could more than make up for it. I won’t let anything that happened yesterday hold me back from making the most of today.
  8. Some days being a real estate agent is more closely related to being a social worker than it is to being a salesperson. Most days my job would be easier if I could just be a salesperson.
  9. Having a comfort zone is a terribly expensive luxury, and I am better off without it.
  10. Being able to use basic business technology is a must for real estate agents. I am thankful that there are entire real estate companies that don’t get it.
  11. No two days are quite the same. With each experience and with each real estate transaction, I learn something that will be of value to my next client.
  12.  Sometimes “no” is the right answer, no matter what the question is.

Being a real estate agent has changed some of my attitudes. For the most part, I feel as though anything can be fixed or changed. There are few problems that cannot be solved or negotiated away. Sometimes an opportunity starts out looking like a problem.

I am using skills that I did not know that I had and that I never needed to use when I had a traditional job, where my responsibilities were narrow and I allowed myself to be underutilized — and probably underpaid — as a “corporate human resource.”

After 12 years as an agent, I have some ideas about what my next career is going to look like. I plan on working in the real estate space until I can retire at around the age of 110, or when I am too old to work, whichever comes first.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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