Take Action: Steps You Can Take Right Now to Make a Difference With Your Career

Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis – take action! Here’s a quick guide to practical next steps you can take to further your career and help others. Click on the stage that best reflects what you’re looking for to see recommended next steps.

I want to plan ahead

If you know you want to take action with your career but aren’t sure where to get started, creating a plan can help give you clarity on what would be your most useful next career steps.

Create a plan

What you can do today: Take 30 minutes and write down your reflections on these question prompts: 

  • What motivates you? Think of the three most important factors in a job that would make you excited to go to work each day, and write them down.
  • What are your needs? Your needs are non-negotiable requirements, such as a certain salary or living in a particular place. Write these down.
  • What are you good at? These are the skills you excel in – often ones that others have told you you’re great at. List the three skills you consider to be your strongest. 
  • Which of the world’s problems do you want to tackle? Write down the five issues facing the world today you think are the highest priority and rank them. Our cause areas page is a good place to start thinking about prioritizing problems, as well as chapters four and five of our career guide.

Longer-term: Develop a thorough plan to help work out your long-term goals for a fulfilling and impactful career, and which short-term actions can best help you achieve them. To help with this, our friends at 80,000 Hours have produced a really helpful career planning course and template that will help you systematically form a concrete plan over eight weeks.

I want to learn a new skill or get a qualification

Gaining skills – whether it be a formal qualification, deeper knowledge of a subject, or a broadly applicable skill – can help further your career in any field. Choose one option that aligns with your goals:

Learn a new subject or skill

What you can do today: Decide on a subject you’d like to learn or a skill you’d like to develop that could be useful for one or more career paths you’re interested in. Then, try and find the best resources you can, suited to your level of knowledge. If you find a well-structured course, textbook, or reading list – great. If not, you can collect resources you find online and create your own study plan.

Here are a few places to find resources:

  • Online courses: Take a look at popular course providers like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Futurelearn. MOOC List lists many courses from different providers.
  • Textbooks: Try exploring the Open Textbook Library and the OER Commons – these are repositories of open-access (and therefore free) textbooks.
  • Reading lists: University websites often list the curricula for current and old courses. Internet searches for subject-specific reading lists also often give relevant results, especially for less academic lists. If you’re creating your own reading list, Google Scholar and Elicit can help you find relevant resources.

Extra credit for reading the first chapter or paper, or starting the first lesson if you’re taking a course!

Longer-term: Complete the textbook, course, reading list, or your own study plan if you created one. Try to commit to a regular pattern of study (for example, each week you might study for four hours, read two chapters, complete two lessons, etc). It might also help to employ a learning technique such as spaced repetition to help you best absorb the information.

Get formal qualifications

What you can do today: Spend an hour figuring out what specific qualifications would help you get a job you could see yourself in. Such qualifications could include specific degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate), fellowships, certificates, awards, grants, or even free online courses. 

If you want a quick way to discover the entry requirements for high-impact career paths, you can consult our career profiles! We’ve investigated the best paths into a number of promising careers.

Alternatively, you could take a look at job boards and note the entry requirements for roles you’re interested in. You could also consider investigating the backgrounds of people in the positions you’d like (using LinkedIn), as job “requirements” are often looser than they sound! 

Next, create a shortlist of three or more courses/programs that you’d like to complete. Extra credit if you sign up or apply for one today!

Longer-term: If you haven’t already, apply to or sign up for the qualifications, courses, or programs you’ve identified. If you’re accepted into one of the programs you applied for, congratulations! Now, try and stick with it until the end (unless there’s a strong reason to leave early). 

If you’re not successful, try sending out more applications or choose a next step that doesn’t require an application such as self-study.

I want to test my fit

Your personal fit is how much a career or specific job suits your specific preferences, skills, and other characteristics. It can be a really important factor in determining both how happy you are in a job and how good you’ll be at it. Here are a few options to choose from:

Gain experience

What you can do today: Find opportunities that will let you test your fit in a more structured way, such as through an internship or volunteering opportunity. Try to find at least three you’d be excited about and that suit your experience. This board of high-impact opportunities could be a great place to start (make sure to apply the filter for testing your fit for a certain career path). You can also consult our list of impact-focused job boards, many of which advertise volunteering or internship opportunities.

Longer-term: Send applications or expressions of interest to the opportunities you identified. This should be at least three, but extra credit for applying for more! 

If you’re successful, congratulations! You’ll hopefully have a great time seeing if this type of work is for you. But if you aren’t accepted, don’t be discouraged – try to find even more opportunities and apply for them as well.

If you don’t want to spend more time finding and applying for opportunities, it could be worth finding ways to test your fit independently instead (discussed below). Though formal work experience has many benefits, such as more opportunities for constructive feedback, there are lots of useful ways to test your fit for different careers on your own terms.

Test your fit independently

What you can do today: Identify and complete a task that’s representative of a career you’re interested in. For instance, if you’re interested in a writing-heavy role such as journalism, you could write a short article or blog post on a topic you think is important or interesting. Or for research-heavy careers, you could read an academic article on a topic you’re interested in and summarize its key points.

If you want a helping hand thinking of ways to independently test your fit for a new career, we provide ideas for tasks that test personal fit in our career profiles

Longer-term: Extend your test into a full project. Ideally, this will be something you can devote time to every week, for at least several weeks. For example, if you summarized an article, consider writing a literature review for several articles. If you wrote a blog post, try to write a blog post every week. If the first task you completed can’t be extended into a full project, then devise a new project from which you can gain a better sense of your fit for this work. 

Feel free to stop the project once you feel you’ve gained enough knowledge about whether this type of work is for you.

I want to find and apply for opportunities

If you’re ready to look for a role, here are a few actions to consider:

Generate options

What you can do today: Set a timer (e.g., 30 minutes). Before the timer’s up, find at least three jobs, internships, volunteer positions, or similar opportunities that you’d be excited to apply for. Check out our high-impact job board if you want a place to start. 

Longer-term: If you’ve found opportunities you could already be suited for, send out applications! If you’re not quite ready yet, continue tracking job boards and relevant organizations to keep updated for any good opportunities that come up.

It might help to have a goal to send out a specific number of applications by a certain date. For example, “By the end of this year, I’ll have sent out 30 applications.” You could even set a number of rejections you want to achieve. This way, you can treat rejections as successes, as well as incentivize yourself to be more ambitious with your applications.

Use your network

What you can do today: A large share of jobs are filled by personal connections. Use this to your advantage! Identify people in your current network (such as friends, acquaintances, and LinkedIn connections) who work in domains or organizations you’re interested in, and let them know you’re looking for a job. 

Alternatively, you could start by first looking at organizations and jobs you’re interested in, and then try to find connections that might be able to get you in touch with someone there. 

Extra credit if you reach out to three people by the end of the day! 

Longer-term: Keep at it! As always, setting a specific goal can be motivating. Try to send out an inquiry to someone in your network every week (or more) for the duration of your job search. On top of this, keep seeking opportunities to expand your network. Try directly reaching out to people or attending conferences and networking events.

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Joining a community

At any stage in your career journey, getting involved in a community of like-minded people can help motivate you and also provide a source of networking and job opportunities. Here are a few communities that focus on having a positive impact on the world:

Still unsure about the best next steps for you?

Apply for a free advising session with our team!