Why You Should Start Out Your Career Disappointed

Why You Should Start Out Your Career Disappointed

Everyone knows your first job sucks, but your second job should be great, right? Actress Sarah Paulson suggests it might actually be better if your career starts out with disappointment and gets better slowly.

Photo by Britt-knee.

Sarah Paulson has started getting a lot of starring roles lately, most notably in hit shows American Horror Story and The People vs. O.J. Simpson. However, she’s been a relatively obscure actress for a long time. To prove the point, you probably forgot she was the woman in the hologram at the end of Serenity. She got that role more than ten years into her career, according to IMDb.

Most of us would bristle at the thought of doing mostly minor work for two decades before we get to do the really awesome dream job stuff. However, Paulson suggests that starting out with less makes it feel more meaningful when you actually get there:

If my career had turned out like the fantasy I had of what it was going to be, it would never have made me happy. But I couldn’t have known that until it didn’t happen. I found a success that is so much bigger and deeper and better, and it’s because it happened later.

If any of what I’m having happen now – the successes – would have happened to me when I was younger, I would have been ruined. Because when you’re young, and things come super easily to you, and you have success right out of the gate, you’re liable to think that’s how it actually works. You start to think you don’t need to be fully prepared or committed to have these things meet you.

You also have the benefit of being forced to work harder. When success comes easy, it’s tempting to slack off. You’re already at the top of your game, why bother working hard? It may feel gruelling or unrewarding, but if you’re struggling early in your career, take it as a positive and let it motivate you to improve rather than getting discouraged over temporary “failure.”

Sarah Paulson’s Career Advice? Don’t Succeed So Early [GQ]


  • So well written… Two decades in and I’m finally getting somewhere, and it feels good. I am so much more grateful for it. And happier.

  • One thing my school careers counsellor should have told me (all of us) was that the first couple of jobs are about learning to work, learning to commit to doing things that you sometimes or even often don’t like, but have to be done, learn to organise yourself, and to hunt work. In my first proper job (my first actual paid job was as a builders’ labourer) I was still in high school mode, waiting for the boss to give me work. If I was re-running that one, I’d be at the boss to up the pace, help me plan my work and set some extending challenges. They came, but too slowly.

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