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Jobs That Are Harder Than They Look

July 17th, 2013

Curtains add elegance to your new homeJobs That Are Harder Than They Look

Did you ever have a day where you thought about throwing in the towel and doing something easier like become a Realtor or Insurance Agent? (Unless you already are one, and then you know the challenges of that position)

USA News reported on four careers that seem easy but are quite difficult to break into.


Real Estate Agent

You may be considering it because you’re in charge of your own time with finding your own clients, setting appointments, and roaming neighborhoods making up much of your job. For some, it sounds like heaven to not being trapped in an office cubicle sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. And with the housing market on the rise, the idea of profits are big.

Why this career is harder than it looks: It takes time to get established and build up your reputation. Also it takes time to learn the skills of consultative sales and customer service.

What takes so long? You’ll have to get your real estate license, which involves passing state and national exams, and there are fees for those. Experts suggest prospective real estate agents have $1,500 to $2,000 on hand for start-up costs, including exam fees, the necessary courses to get a license, and liability insurance, in case some client feels you wronged them in a sale. After all that, you actually have to make a sale, and consistently earn enough to support yourself.

Insurance Agent

Why you may be considering it? Those large commissions can be appealing. And while they vary from state to state and company to company, in general, life insurance policies can pay an agent most of the first year’s premium—anywhere from as low as 20 percent and as high as 90 percent.  Health, auto, homeowners, motorcycle, boat , etc offer an insurance agent a steady monthly commission of generally 10 to 15 percent of the monthly payment (of course, it may not add up too much; reports that the average insurance agent salary is $45,191).

Like the real estate market, there’s also a lot of freedom as you set up appointments and drive around the city meeting clients, speaking to groups, attending networking meetings, etc.

Why this career is harder than it looks: You’ll need a license to sell insurance, and to get it, you’ll have to spend money (it varies, but you can expect it’s at least $100 or more) and time in classroom training. Not everyone will pass the test.

If you do get your license, after reaching out in your personal network of your friends and family who are willing to change insurance plans, you’ll realize that finding additional customers is extremely difficult. This is when most people give up. In a best-case scenario, you earned at least enough money to pay off your start-up costs, and you had a good experience. The worst case? You’ve just spent a lot of time and money to get your now-former employer a bunch of new clients.

“I think the biggest mistake people make when going into insurance is thinking, ‘I’ve got a good personality,’ and that’s important, because you have to network, but you really have to study insurance. It’s a complicated product, and most clients have no idea what’s involved in an insurance product, so you really know what you’re talking about,” says Matt Knox, who spent 10 years in the industry before starting, an online classifieds site for the home-improvement market.

Adds Knox: “You really have to get rid of your Xbox or whatever your hobbies are for the first year, so you can succeed in insurance. You need to become an expert.”

Selling insurance is also a long slog, he says, because you really have two sales you’re depending on for each policy: “First, you have to get the client to say, ‘Yes, I want that.’ But then the second sale is getting the insurance company to approve it.”

Knox says he has seen a lot of people quit after not getting that second sale. It just becomes too demoralizing.


You may be looking into this job because of the freedom it allows. You could work from home. You can set your own hours. And you feel like you’re really helping people find jobs. You get a great bonus when you help the company hire the right candidate.

Why this career is harder than it looks:

You could spend a lot of time with people who aren’t right for the position. It takes time to learn how to properly screen candidates and then set up the right person for the right interviews with the right jobs. If a company loses faith in your, you’re back on the street looking for more clients.


The end product of recruiting, for one thing, is someone’s else’s work – it is someone else’s talent, ability to interview, and everything else they have that gets them hired that is the end product of the recruiter’s process. It’s hard to pinpoint the recruiter’s exact role in this pseudo-science. Did they identify the talent? Spot them? Find them? Assess them? Understand the job? The culture? Have the right database? The right connections? The right insight into the department or hiring manager psychology? Did they make a lot of calls or know some secret strings to search for in Google? It’s hard to say what it is exactly that the recruiter does and so it’s easy to discount the recruiter’s role entirely.

You have to look at everything that comes before that identification to see the value of a good recruiter. A great recruiter creates the conditions for that magic luck to strike. They don’t talk to a lot of different people. They talk to everyone. They don’t want to know their clients or their company’s competitors. They want to know everything that’s happening at every company in their area. It’s a massive amount of work that requires constant rejection, failure, stress, and is compounded by the minutiae of job offers and the uncertainty of human emotion.

Very few people succeed at recruiting. The background required for long-term recruiting success involves a deep study of companies, products, markets, assessment, and professions coupled with unfailing persistence in pursuing the talents of other people and learning to accept rejection.

This isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t look into changing careers. If your passion truly is helping people find the right home, insurance or job, then spend the time working out a transition plan while you build up your experience and reputation.

Would you like to run away and join a circus instead?


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