Assessing Impact of
Specific Roles

Image by Levi XU


So let’s check in. At this point, we discussed how your values and moral views may influence the causes you want to work in. Then, we utilized the ITN framework to  compare and analyze different cause areas that align with your values. This led us to look into some promising cause areas — including mental health, global development, catastrophic risks, etc.— where you could potentially make a big impact.


After thinking through all this, we can start looking at specific roles and jobs at different organizations. We began this process by thinking about a role’s “counterfactual impact,” or, the additional benefit (or harm) caused by an action, compared to what would have happened if you hadn’t done it. Sometimes it helps to consider counterfactual impact before looking into roles, but often, it’s something to keep in mind as you compare different options. 


Now that we’ve caught up, we can get to the main topic at hand:


How do I assess the impact of a specific role?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your career is likely your best resource for improving the world! Given this, it’s worth taking the time to find roles with the greatest potential for impact.


Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious whether or not a role can make an impact. Sometimes a job or role falls within an important cause area (like animal welfare) but ultimately, it doesn’t do much to improve the world. Other times, a role can seem important, but in practice, it makes a much smaller impact than we initially thought.


To assess just how impactful specific roles could be, we’ll look at four major factors:


  1. Problem significance: how big and important is the problem you’re working on?

  2. Method efficacy: how well can a particular approach or organization help solve it?

  3. Role leverage: how much does a specific role influence the organization or broader goal?

  4. Personal fit: how likely are you to excel in (and enjoy) this role?


Taken together, these factors make up the SELF framework: a tool for assessing the impact of specific roles and opportunities. In the chapters ahead, we’ll dive into each factor, provide tools for understanding them, and look at how each of them works together. Then, we’ll apply this framework to real-life situations with a couple of case studies. 


So what does this mean for you? Later on in the guide, we'll talk more about the big personal career questions— like which paths to pursue, how to make decisions between them, etc. For now, we are aiming to establish an understanding of what makes for an impactful job. 


While we don’t expect to find a final answer by adding up all the right factors, breaking down different considerations can sharpen our intuition and help us recognize differences between options… which might be much larger than we would have assumed. Sometimes, even a rough estimate can make these differences obvious; it just takes a bit of investigating to get there.

First up in our impact assessment, we’ll look at the significance of different problems— and how some problems may be more important to work on than others.