I”m reading a book recommended by my team leader: Grit by Angela Duckworth. In it, I was stunned by the statistic she quotes from a 2014 Gallup Poll where more than 2/3 of adults said that they were not “engaged” at work. This got me thinking….am I engaged as an agent?

I believe that I am. And I think it’s because I love what I do.This good fortune is not lost on me – while the above statistic surprised me at first, I know there are a great many people who dream about a job other than what they find themselves doing to pay the bills.

Which leads to me to the topic of this post because I’d wager (based on the popularity of HGTV and various home design blogs) that there is large subset of mildly disgruntled workers who have considered dipping their toes in the waters of real estate. I’d recommend it, of course, but it’s a huge decision. Changing careers and starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. However, it can be hugely rewarding.

If you are currently tossing around this possibility, here are four things that I think every prospective agent should know:

1. Life is not like TV. Nobody with any grasp on reality thinks that you can find the love of your life in six weeks while dating 30 different people (I’m looking at you, Bachelor franchise). Yet, everyone seems to think that real estate is JUST like what we see on cable. Who wouldn’t want a job where all you do is tour mid-century French revival craftsman bungalows with delighted buyers showing them the gorgeous view of the backyard off the lanai? I mean…LOOK AT THAT SHIPLAP!

Yes, you will show homes to buyers. That will be approximately 1.2% of what you do in any given week. The rest of the time you’re killing entire forests of trees with endless paperwork. There’s also math – lots of it! And research. And math and research COMBINED! If you hate math, research and/or paperwork, plan to hire an assistant…after you make enough money doing math, research and paperwork for yourself for a while.

2. You will wear many hats. I’ve been a teacher and a mom, so I’m accustomed to playing different roles. But nothing can prepare you for the various occupations of real estate. You will be an agent. You will also be a therapist (individual, marriage, & sometimes family), educator, facilitator, financial consultant, babysitter, crisis negotiator, confidant, friend, scapegoat, courier, chauffeur, and both bad cop & good cop – often at the same time, And you better be able to figure out who you are supposed to be on the fly when your client calls with an emergency and you need to handle it (yes, you will also be Olivia Pope). This is a challenge but it’s also the fun part. Because when you play your role right, you will also be the hero.

3. You will not get rich immediately. You will not even get PAID immediately. You will work tirelessly on deals that never happen. You will follow leads right down a dirt road to a dead end. You will have to pay for a new bathroom chandelier at the closing table because you didn’t read your seller’s disclosure carefully (True story. A BATHROOM chandelier). And during this time when you are barely breaking even (or not) you will be paying for marketing and supplies and various board dues. You are starting your own business and this is one of the cheapest ways to do that, but be prepared: you will be broke. In the best case scenario, being broke will make you hungry and being hungry will make you great. But you’ll have to be patient while striving for greatness. And plan in advance how to best eat and find shelter while you are becoming great.

4 (or, possibly 3a). You must keep learning. You will not be finished with education when you take your state test. The best agents (and the ones who make the best money and have the most loyal clients) NEVER stop learning. You will subscribe to online newsletters and read them everyday. You will attend multiple classes every year on everything from mortgage programs to contracts. You will pay attention to school board minutes and city council meetings and land development proposals. The guy in line at Starbucks who sees your name tag and innocently asks about the market will have NO IDEA WHAT HE’S JUST UNLEASHED! You will become an expert. Because everyone wants to work with the best and brightest.

With realistic expectations and a good dose of that “grit” I’m reading about, real estate really can be a dream job. As with anything, making sure you know what you’re getting into is key. If you think it might be the right career move for you…the only way to know for sure is to jump in with both feet!