6 First Time Home Buying Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House At The Age of 20

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

7 Ways Americans Plan to Ensure a Financially Secure Retirement

Older couple with financial planner
EdBockStock / Shutterstock.com

A secure retirement is in your hands — and nobody else’s.

For better or worse, we all have to finance our own retirement. Sure, Social Security and Medicare will help. But workplace pensions are rare, and few will inherit fortunes from their parents, or anyone else.

Fortunately, many Americans understand and accept this reality. They are taking steps long before retirement to make sure they will not struggle financially during their post-work years.

Recently, the National Institute on Retirement Security asked 1,200 people 25 and older what they are doing to ensure a financially secure retirement. Below are the methods they cited most often.

7. Seek work in retirement

Senior worker
gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 39%

When the chips are down and you need more cash, nothing tops working and earning a regular income. It is the single most effective way to quickly add to your bottom line.

The survey respondents clearly understand that fact. Few of us want to work a full-time job in retirement — we gave up the 9-to-5 for a reason, after all. But there are plenty of opportunities to earn part-time income that can make a crucial difference in retirement.

For more, check out “20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.”

6. Save about 5% more than you currently do

Woman with piggy bank
Jason Stitt / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 40%

Most of us find it difficult to save as much as we do now, let alone 5% more. But saving just a bit extra can make an enormous difference, especially if you do it for many years and invest the money well.

If the thought of saving more scares you, we can relate. Maybe it’s time to sit down with a financial pro who can help you craft a savings and investment strategy that will pay a lifetime of dividends. Stop by Money Talks News’ Solutions Center and search for a fee-only financial planner who can offer expert advice.

5. Delay claiming Social Security

Social Security payments
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 41%

As we have pointed out, sometimes it does not pay to delay applying for Social Security benefits. But in other cases, waiting to file can be one of the smartest financial decisions you will ever make.

For every year you wait to claim past your full retirement age, your benefit will grow by as much as 8%. That is tough to beat.

For many people, this decision — to delay or not to delay — is a vexing one. If you need help, stop by Money Talks News’ Solutions Center and check into working with Social Security Choices, a company that can help you determine when is the best time to claim given your personal situation.

3. Save about 1% to 4% more than currently (tie)

Photo (cc) by American Advisors Group

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 48%

Remember that notion of saving 5% more? If that is too intimidating a challenge, don’t be afraid to take a more modest approach, like saving 1% to 4% more.

At Money Talks News, we believe that saving a little over a long period of time can add up to big things. It’s a gospel we preach because many of us have lived it out and have seen the power of this strategy up close. The survey respondents apparently agree.

For more tips on getting started saving, read “The 7 Fastest Ways to Catch Up on Retirement Savings.”

3. Cut back spending once retired (tie)

saving money
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 48%

Those who need more cash but don’t want to work have one option left: to spend less.

This is often easier said than done. But if you find ways to trim back expenses, you open up more breathing room in your budget.

One way to spend less during your golden years is to retire in a place where the cost of living is lower. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson discussed some options in a recent podcast, “5 Countries Where You Can Retire on $2,000 a Month or Less.”

2. Cut back current spending

A surprised man looks at his empty wallet in shock
ToffeePhoto / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 55%

Cutting back on spending in retirement can be painful. It’s a lot easier to trim your budget now, while you are still working and have a steady income.

Trim your sails today, and you will have more money to invest in a nest egg that will see you through your golden years. Creating a budget can help you find places to cut expenses.

Some people find budgeting to be a pain, but Money Talks News partner YNAB (short for “You Need A Budget”) makes the process easy. The YNAB app helps you track day-to-day expenses, prepare for unexpected costs and build savings.

You can even connect the program directly to your bank and credit card accounts, which allows you to download transactions to YNAB automatically so you don’t have to manually enter them one by one.

For more, check out “An Easy Way to Track Your Spending and Build Your Savings.”

1. Stay in your current job as long as possible

Senior at a computer
Stocklite / Shutterstock.com

Respondents who plan to do this to ensure a financially secure retirement: 60%

Even if you really want to retire soon — like yesterday — sometimes it simply makes more sense to stick with that job a little longer.

The survey respondents are clearly a tough-minded, clear-eyed bunch. A full 60% say they plan to work as long as possible to ensure they have a secure retirement.

It is a great idea — tough to beat, actually. But it is not always practical. Gallup polling has found that the average age at which workers retire is a fairly young 61. Sometimes unexpected life changes or health problems can prevent you from working as long as you planned.

So, if you are working today, remember that now is the best time to save and to create a plan for that dream retirement down the road.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Reasons Your Career Is Stalled and How to Get Unstuck

What do you do when you realize it’s been a hot minute since you’ve had a big win in your professional life? Let’s diagnose the problem so you can get busy solving it.

By

Rachel Cooke
February 22, 2021

career lattice. Imagine a shape more like a snowflake than a ladder. It represents the idea that careers could—and in many cases should—move in all directions.

When the time to climb arrives, you’ll be carrying more tools in your professional toolbox.

At different seasons in our lives, we may need different things. Sometimes explosive upward growth is it. But sometimes it’s about taking a left or a right and learning new and valuable things, instead. It’s about expanding our knowledge before we take the next step up. Then, when the time to climb arrives, we’ll be carrying more tools in our professional toolbox.

When I worked full-time in human resources, there were essentially two brands of HR professionals. The specialists managed programs. Think talent management, leadership development, and even company-wide compensation. The generalists partnered with and advised individual business units.

My climb had always been up the specialist ladder. I knew that world was a better fit for me. But I came to a point in my career whee I realized that if I was going to keep climbing, I needed some generalist experience. Spending time advising business leaders would only help me design better programming in the future.

The last move I made in my full-time career was this lateral one. For me, it became the springboard into consulting. I felt rounded out and ready.

This business I run today would be considered a specialist one, but my generalist experience absolutely informs the practicality of the solutions I build for my clients.

So now ask yourself: What’s a move I could take laterally that would round out my portfolio of skills and experience and ready me for the next step up?

2. Your personal brand needs some love

Early in your career, you were known as the hard-working, creative superstar who would roll up their sleeves and solve any challenge. But is this still the narrative that follows you? When’s the last time you checked in on how people are experiencing you?

When I spoke with personal branding expert Dorie Clark, she talked of the importance of not just crafting but staying vigilant about the state of your personal brand, the way you’re thought of by those around you.

Make sure your colleagues and professional contacts experience you as the person deserving of that next great move. Optics matter.

Have you been doing great work, but finding that the accolades and opportunities for growth don’t seem to be following? Dorie would advise you to consider a personal branding refresh.

Here are some strategies she might suggest:

  • Be a recognized expert. Ask around to find out how people are thinking of you. Are you just a great worker all around, or are you the go-to on something critical? Strive for the latter.
     
  • Recapture your creativity. In the pursuit of doing great work, have you tried anything interesting, or are you just playing it safe? Push yourself out of the box.
     
  • Play more offense. Have you been waiting for the next great move to find you? It might be time for you to let the world know you’re on the hunt.

Make sure your colleagues and professional contacts experience you as the person deserving of that next great move. Optics matter.

3. Your network has stopped working for you

You know what they say: It’s all about who you know. The question here is, have you been paying attention to your network?

Think back to when you started this job. As an ambitious professional, chances are, you leaned into networking around the company like … well, like it was your job. We start new jobs with energy and enthusiasm. We want to learn, drink it in, meet everyone and learn about what they do.

We start new jobs with energy and enthusiasm. And then we start to settle in.

And then we start to settle in. People we reached out to in the early days have forgotten us, or in many cases have moved on themselves.

Having advocates and sponsors at work absolutely matters, people senior to you who will raise your name when they’re discussing a big opportunity.

So ask yourself: When is the last time I was intentional about doing some internal outreach?

Start booking those virtual coffees today.

4. It’s time to bulk up your resume

When you finished school and landed the job, you had everything they were looking for.

But time has passed, and you’ve taken on more. Maybe you’ve had a promotion or two along the way.

It’s possible you’ve hit your ceiling. For the qualifications you have, you’re at the top of your game. So, it may be time to consider adding a qualification.

Amidst the pandemic, I’ve seen friends add coaching certifications, accounting credentials, and advisory licenses to their resumes. I’ve watched people learn coding, web design, and more.

If something about your resume has stopped compelling people, then spruce it up and make them listen!

5. It’s time to move on

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

You’re impressive, you’re hard-working, and you know this company like the back of your hand. Sometimes that last bit about knowing your role and company inside and out is the problem. Companies are looking for fresh blood. They want new perspectives, fresh eyes on old ways of doing things.

Consider all you’ve learned, seen, and achieved at your organization. When you put it all in the blender, what’s the story that emerges?

This isn’t a criticism of you. It just may mean that for the outcome you want, you need to explore options outside of your company.

Maybe it’s your moment to be someone else’s fresh eyes.

Consider all you’ve learned, seen, and achieved at your organization. When you put it all in the blender, what’s the story that emerges?

How will you show up for another organization with exactly the wisdom and perspective they need in the moment?

And there you have it! Don’t let a career stall get you down. Diagnose the problem so you can get busy solving it.