Here's Why It's OK if You're Struggling at Work

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I’m a talented writer.

My school essays were always met with high scores and gold stars. I wrote for my local newspaper when I was just a teenager. I even won first place in a poetry contest when I was in third grade (yes, my mom still has the book to prove it).

But, for one reason or another, I didn’t start my career as a writer. In fact, it took me a few years to finally take the leap and pursue the one thing that people had always assured me I was good at.

At that point, with my head inflated by the seemingly endless compliments I had received since I was just an adolescent, I operated with this assumption: Writing would be easy. I was obviously good at it. I figured I knew all that I needed to know, which meant that I’d be able to hit the ground running and submit drafts that would remain untouched by those dreaded red pens.

I was wrong. Really wrong

I still distinctly remember the moment I got one of my very first drafts returned to me by an editor. Its margins were stuffed full with comments, suggestions, and corrections. My verb tense wasn’t matching. I needed to remember to use the serial comma. I should really re-order the sections so that the piece would flow better. And, to top it all off, that editor thought that the article lacked clarity.

You know what else I not-so-fondly remember about that experience? My eyes welling with tears, plenty of venting sessions, and maybe even one too many glasses of wine.

I was mortified. This was the one area I had always been assured I was talented in. Yet, I wasn’t seguing into this new career path with grace and a booming Hallelujah Chorus. What was going on? Had people just been lying to me all these years? Was I really just a crappy writer that had looked like she needed an ego boost?

Of course, none of those nagging self-criticisms were true. Instead, that lesson served as an excellent reminder of this: Any new job—no matter how relevant or awesome or seemingly perfect for you—is going to be challenging when you’re just getting started.

Talent doesn’t automatically equate to flawlessness. Skill doesn’t always trump experience. And, being naturally good at something will never mean that you have absolutely nothing to learn or improve.

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be discouraging to feel like you’re miserably failing at something that you thought was one of your strong suits. But, instead of being disheartened, take comfort in the fact that it’s normal—and even expected.

Remember, nobody starts out as an expert, and you likely won’t sail by with ease on your first attempt—no matter how much raw talent you have. When it comes to your career, it takes some time, humility, and maybe even a few red pen edits to get things right.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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