Compared to the rest of the gang in The Big Bang Theory, Penny struggles to really find career success for most of the show. Everyone else is a successful scientist, but Penny moved to California to make it as an actress… even if she’s not that good at it, and pays her bills by working at the Cheesecake Factory in the meantime.
Over the course of the show, things changed for Penny, as she realized that acting maybe wasn’t the ideal job for her, and took on a pharma sales rep job instead. Fans loved to see her start to succeed financially and professionally – but what were the decisions that helped (and hindered) her along the way?
Best: Having A Day Job
This was definitely necessary, as Penny’s acting ‘jobs’ didn’t pay much, and were few and far between, but the ability to pay rent (most of the time) isn’t the only reason that her job at the Cheesecake Factory made sense. It also introduced her to Bernadette (who was working there while she finished school), and that led to her eventual career.
Worst: Penny Blossoms
For a brief moment, it seemed as though Penny had a great idea for a side-hustle, when she started selling ‘Penny Blossoms’. These cute little floral hair accessories were fun for her to make, and she was able to sell them pretty easily, but this storyline proved that Penny doesn’t really have the right mindset to run a business. She offered ‘next day delivery’ even though she couldn’t fulfill it, and had to use her friends as an assembly line to make it work.
Best: Her Ape Movies
For much of the show, it seemed as though these would have been one of Penny’s worst career moves – a low-budget horror that she was in as one of her first acting jobs (and that involved some semi-nudity). At first, Penny was ashamed of this choice, but in the end, it turned out to be a cult hit! She got to experience a small thrill of fame at a convention, where fans lined up to meet her, and it turns out, it was probably her biggest hit.
Worst: A Play Above A Bowling Alley
Penny was offered so few roles that it often seemed she would take literally anything offered to her out of desperation. This included a terrible play, about Anne Frank, that was shown above a bowling alley.
This was never going to be a part that earned her money or put her on the map.
Best: Giving Up On Acting
It was hard for her to do, because giving up on a dream is never easy – but this was definitely the right decision. Penny gave her acting career years of her life and everything she could, and she just wasn’t getting anywhere. Being willing to take on a new career, and recognizing when it was time to quit, was what finally got Penny on a career path she could be proud of.
Worst: The Rent Showcase
Penny may have been a decent actress (fans don’t really get to see her in action that much), but she was a terrible singer. When she was in a Rent showcase, she was heard practicing her singing in the halls, and it is definitely not her talent! If any agents had come to watch this, there’s no way they would have signed her on it.
Best: Doing A Commercial
Penny may have been a little embarrassed about the subject matter of the commercial she did (hemorrhoids), but it was actually a smart move.
It helped get her face out there, and helped with her credits – but more than anything, it actually paid. In fact, it paid fairly well, and Penny later mentions that she still gets residuals for it.
Worst: Competing With A Fellow Actress
Early on in the series, the guys get a new upstairs neighbor, who is also an aspiring actress – but a much more successful one. She’s already getting parts, and leaves quickly because she gets her big break. Admittedly, she’s a bit of an unpleasant person, and manipulates the guys to get what she wants, but Penny still lets her jealousy get in the way of what could have been a great opportunity. She could have befriended the new neighbor and made some great contacts through her – instead, she treated her like competition and lost the chance.
Best: Switching To Sales
Penny is actually a natural when it comes to sales – far more than when she was acting. Taking on a job with Bernadette’s company was the best thing she could have done, because not only does she start to earn good money, she starts to feel good about herself. After years of being rejected, she is able to really see that she is smart, capable, and talented, and take pride in herself and in her work. It’s a fantastic change in her, and it’s clear this job is ideal for her.
Worst: Not Having A Plan (Beyond ‘Get Famous’)
Penny had big dreams when she moved to LA, which isn’t a bad thing. But she didn’t have much of a plan to go with them. It seemed at times that Penny figured she would just show up and become famous, and she didn’t do much to try and save money to deal with the uncertain income of acting, or have a Plan B at all. Thankfully, she was able to find her way into something that worked, but it wasn’t because she was thinking about her future.