Career guide overview
Many people would like to do good with their career but many don’t. When asked why, these are a few common answers:
- There’s just too many things wrong with the world… I can’t make a meaningful difference.
- Some charities sound good but they make much less of a difference than I’d expect.
- To actually improve the world, surely I’d need some very specific or specialized skills that I don’t have…
- I don’t know of any relevant opportunities in my profession – how do I even start looking?
- Am I even ready for a big change in my career trajectory?
- Maybe my needs, expenses, and lifestyle are just not compatible with focusing on helping others…
These responses are completely understandable, but we think they may involve some misconceptions. Throughout the career guide, we’ll talk through your reservations, explore different considerations in-depth, and help build a framework for making career decisions. So try setting aside your initial hesitations and imagine a world in which you can make a definite positive impact and even feel satisfied doing so.
What does it mean to make an impact?
If you want to help others with your career, does that mean you need to become a doctor or work for a charity? These are certainly options, but there are probably a lot more ways to improve the world than you initially think.
From fighting neglected diseases to decreasing factory farming, democratizing mental healthcare to mitigating risks of global power conflict – each issue requires a range of experiences and skills. This means your unique contributions could be a major asset.
Before finding an impactful career, we need to understand what “impact” looks like. In part 1 of the guide, we’ll talk about the various ways to think about social impact and how some approaches might provide much more help than others. We’ll also explore how your values can influence the problems you want to work on and how to compare different important causes.
What does an impactful career look like?
Nearly everyone feels the force of inertia when making career decisions. It could 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 career choice, but it’s almost always wrong to do it without considering the full range of your options – especially if you’re setting out to benefit others.
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. Take a step back, consider your goals, and think about which problems are especially important to work on. Then, we can start reframing the idea of your career as a long-term endeavor that requires a bit more thought and planning.
In part 2 of the guide, we’ll explore different ways to think about careers in terms of impact. This includes a framework for analyzing specific job opportunities and extra considerations that are important to keep in mind when exploring options.
How do I apply this to my life?
A few reasons people take a more passive approach to career decisions is the time it takes, the uncertainty involved, and the chance of rejection. It would be great if we could say, “follow these 7 easy steps, and you’ll find the best way to do good with your career.” Of course, it isn’t that simple, and we’d be very skeptical of any career guidance that says otherwise.
Taking an impact-focused approach to career planning involves a bit more time and effort, but 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. There are also some more speculative paths that have a chance to do much, much more.
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.
In part 3 of the guide, we’ll look at how to apply all these concepts to your career planning and decision-making process.
Career Guide Principles
Doing the most good
When thinking about impactful careers, we try to ask: how can we use our resources to do the most good? This means that we’re not content with doing some good, but want to understand how we achieve as much impact as possible.
The advice we give isn’t solely based on intuition; it’s based on the best data and evidence we can find. There’s rarely perfect evidence, so we’ll be very careful in noting our level of confidence in our claims and sharing what evidence we base them on.
Tools over conclusions
We aim to give you the tools to make informed decisions, rather than giving specific answers or recommendations. While this means our suggestions don’t always provide easy or universal answers, we want to equip you to feel confident in reaching your own conclusions.
Using the guide
At the end of the day, you’re an individual with a specific set of skills, preferences, constraints and experiences. This guide will not, and should not, replace your own judgment (and neither should any other piece of information you read on the internet!).
There’s no ‘best career’ for everyone, and we’re not aiming to give specific answers to questions like, “which organization should I join?” But we do provide useful questions, decision-making processes, and valuable ideas for anyone trying to figure out how to make a genuine difference.
While this guide is mostly aimed mostly at students and young people just starting out their careers, we think that much of this advice (particularly the SELF framework and part 3) may be useful for experienced professionals as well who want to pivot to a more impact-focused career. We’re motivated to help you find a path that makes sense for your needs, situation, and values. And of course, if we’ve given you advice you disagree with, please reach out!