How to Choose a Career

3 Questions

  • How do I personally fit with this job?
    • How satisfied will I be in this job?
    • Am I excited by the job?
    • Do I think I could stick with it for a significant period of time?
    • How good am I, or could I become, at this type of work, compared to other people and compared to other careers I might choose?
  • What’s my impact while I’m working at this job?
    • How many resources can I influence, whether that’s the labor I provide, the people or budget I manage, the money I earn, or a public platform I have access to?
    • How effective are the causes to which I can direct those resources?
  • How does this job contribute to my impact later on in life?
    • How well does this job build my skills, connections, and credentials?
    • How well does this job keep my options open?
    • How much will I learn in the course of this job about what I might want to do next?

Five Predictors of Job Satisfaction

  • The most consistent predictor of jobs satisfaction is engaging work, which can be broken down into 5 factors
    • Sense of completion
      • To what extent does the job involve completing a whole piece of work so that your contribution to the end product is easily visible, rather than being merely a small part of a much larger product?
    • Variety
      • To what extent does the job require you to perform a range of different activities, using different skills and talents?
    • Feedback from the job
      • How easy is it to know whether you’re performing well or badly?
    • Contribution
      • To what extent does your work “make a difference,” as defined by positive contributions to the well-being of other people?

Finding a Job

  • It’s best to take empirical approach to finding a job
    • Keep a track record to predict how good you’ll do in the future
    • Learn as much about the work as you can
    • Go and speak to people in the job
  • See your career as a work in progress
    • Rather than having a fixed career plan, try to have a career “model”—a set of provisional goals and hypotheses that you’re constantly revising as you get new evidence or opportunities. It’s better to have a bad plan than no plan, but only if you’re open to changing it.

  • Find where you’re uncertain, reduce that uncertainty
    • Before making a decision, don’t merely try to weigh all the pros and cons as you currently see them (though that is a good thing to do). Ask yourself: What is the single most important piece of information that would be most useful for my career decision? Now, what can I do in order to gain that information?

How to Have an Impact on a Job

    1. Through the labor you provide
    1. Through the money you give
    1. Through the influence you can have on other people


Working for a Nonprofit

  • If you’re considering working for a nonprofit, ask these questions:
    • Is the organization particularly effective?
    • Will I learn a lot working here?
    • Is the organization money-rich but talent-poor?
    • Am I sure I want to work within nonprofits long-term?

Starting a Nonprofit

  • It’s good to focus on one particularly important cause
  • Also ask yourself:
    • Why hasn’t this problem been solved by markets?
    • Why hasn’t this problem been solved by the state?
    • Why hasn’t this problem already been solved by philanthropy?

Which case should you focus on

  • Scale
    • What’s the magnitude of this problem?
    • How much does it affect lives in the short run and long run?
  • Tractability
    • How easy is it to make progress on this problem, and how easy is it to tell if you’re making progress?
    • Do interventions to make progress within this cause exist, and how strong is the evidence behind those interventions?
    • Do you expect to be able to discover new promising interventions within this cause?
  • Neglectedness
    • How many resources are already being dedicated to tackling this problem?
    • How well allocated are the resources that are currently being dedicated to the problem?
    • Is there reason to expect that markets or governments can’t solve this problem?
  • Personal fit
    • Given your skills, resources, knowledge, connections, and passions, how likely are you to make a large difference in this area?