CAREER GUIDE: PART 2

Where to start?

Image by Matt Duncan

6 MINUTE READ

Escaping Inertia

 

Nearly everyone feels the force of inertia when making career decisions. It can be the ease of staying at a job that you’ve worked at for a few years, the obvious choice of choosing whichever job is available where you live, or even the feeling that you have to accept any available opportunity because there might not be another one. It’s not always wrong to make the obvious choice, but it’s almost always wrong to do it without considering the full range of your options.

 

All this is even more important if you’re setting out to benefit others. It’s hard to find a career path that is both a good fit for you personally and a good use of your abilities to improve the world. You’re not likely to stumble upon it if you don’t actively search for it. Moreover, it’s not always easy to get good answers to important questions like, 'How much am I contributing by taking this job?' when you try to think about it seriously. Could it be that if you didn’t take the job, someone else (just as qualified as you) would get it, making your time better spent elsewhere?

 

If finding an impactful career isn’t going to just happen by accident, you might need to make the (relatively small) commitment to break the inertia: To take a step back, consider your goals, and think about what you believe to be the most important areas for improving the world. Then, we can start reframing the idea of  your career as a long-term and important endeavor that requires some thought and planning.

Keep in mind, this process won’t be short (though we hope it’s enjoyable!). Since your career will span decades, it’s easily worth spending quite a bit of effort and time to improve your trajectory with intentional decisions. This guide will go through some important questions and considerations to help you along the way, but the first step is to decide that this is an important journey to undertake.

It Can Be Hard

One of the reasons many people take a more passive approach to career decisions is that the process isn’t easy. The parts of the process that people find difficult (and the degree of difficulty) vary greatly between different people, but there are some common areas that many people find hard. These include:

  • Time commitment: Fully exploring your options and how much good you could do isn’t very fast. There’s a lot of material to help you, but it’s a longer process than looking up jobs on a board and just applying to whichever ones look potentially relevant.

  • Hard questions with large uncertainty: Both moral questions (do I prefer working to stop factory farming or alleviating the hardships of poverty?) and practical questions (is this organization doing effective work for their cause?) can be difficult  questions to answer. In most cases, even after looking into them, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the answer.

  • Rejection: Our biases often lead us to avoid the risk of being rejected. Usually, if you want to find how you could do the most good, that would mean applying to very effective positions, even if your chance of being accepted is lower (we’ll discuss this in-depth later). Naturally, this will lead to more potentially stressful processes and more rejections, which many people find difficult to deal with.

 

It would be great if it all had some simple solution, or if we could say, “follow these 7 easy steps, and you’ll find the best way to do good with your career.” Or 17 steps. Or 27. Of course, it isn’t that easy. And we’d be very skeptical of any promise to solve complex problems with a set of easy steps (though, rarely, there are exceptions).

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A great way to test personal fit for perovskite photovoltaic cell development is whether you can pronounce the words perovskite photovoltaic cell.

What we can say is that we take the complexity of the process seriously. We’ll help you make sense of the process and provide you with the best information available. We’ll also be clear and upfront about our level of confidence in what we write and we’ll take your feedback seriously  to get better over time.

It’s Worth It

 

We’re not exaggerating when we say your career could improve the world and save lives. We think there’s a wide range of careers and paths that will end up saving over 100 lives or doing some equivalent amount of good — and there are some more speculative paths that have a chance to do much, much more.

 

Whether through alleviating the effects of poverty or reducing the suffering of animals, decreasing the chance for catastrophic risk, or increasing humanity’s potential for flourishing, there is a lot of positive impact to be made. . If you’re anything like us, discovering the paths to do so will get you excited – not only about the possibility of doing good, but about just how much good a single person can do.

 

The Process

 

There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about your career and how to have a meaningful impact. Below is our model for how to think about these things. The easiest way to use this guide is to follow along in order, and we’ll take you through the important things you need to think about, one by one. If a specific topic interests you right now, feel free to click and jump ahead.

 

Research & Introspection

 

The first and easiest place to start is thinking. Figuring out what options are available to you, what sort of impact you can have and which would be a good personal fit for you. Reaching an understanding of what you know and what you need to find out in order to make good career decisions.

Values and Impact

What causes are important and what career paths and organizations are the best paths for you to make meaningful change to promote those causes?

Scope

What options are at all relevant? What are the hard restrictions (geography, salary, skills) that determine your available options?

Fit

Which careers and jobs fit your skills and personality? Where would you be satisfied and able to work and make a positive impact over many years?

 

Uncertainties & Experimentation

 

A lot of the most important information can’t be read and requires actual experience. Understanding what are the most important questions you need answered to make good career decisions and finding the most cost-effective ways to answer those questions.

Modeling Uncertainty

What sort of questions do you need answered? Do you need to decide on a field of study or choose between specific offers? How uncertain are you about important parameters in career choice?

Most Important Questions

What are the most important questions that need to be answered? Which questions are you most uncertain about and would have the greatest impact on your eventual decisions and path?

Experimentation

How to go about answering these questions? Can a phone call to a friend give enough information? A side-project in your spare time? 2-3 years of experience?

 

Decisions & Moving Forward

 

The only thing that’s left is actually finding, choosing and reaching relevant opportunities or jobs. 

Long-Term Career Planning

How to think about your career in the long term? What are the trade-offs you’re making between impact right now and a potential larger impact in the future?

Finding Relevant Opportunities

Where and how to look? How to filter potential options?

Getting the Job You Want

How to actually land the right jobs for you? How to write a resume, prepare for an interview and give yourself the best chance to be accepted?