The question this week: what are the biggest changes to our career guide since 2017?
- Read the new and updated career guide here, by our founder Benjamin Todd and the 80,000 Hours team.
Our 2023 career guide isn’t just a fancy new design — here’s a rundown of how the content has been updated:
1. Career capital: get good at something useful
In our previous career guide, we argued that your primary focus should be on building very broadly applicable skills, credentials, and connections — what we called transferable career capital.
We also highlighted jobs like consulting as a way to get this.
However, since launching the 2017 version of the career guide, we came to think a focus on transferable career capital might lead you to neglect experience that can be very useful to enter the most impactful jobs — for example, experience working in an AI lab or studying synthetic biology.
OK, so how should you figure out the best career capital option for you?
Our new advice: get good at something useful.
In more depth — choose some valuable skills to learn, and that are a good fit for you, and then find opportunities that let you practise those skills. And then have concrete back-up plans and plan Bs in mind, rather than relying on general ‘transferability.’
This focus on skills is important because you’re much more likely to have an impact if you’re good at what you do — and research suggests it can take years of experience to reach your peak abilities. It also becomes much easier to build up other components of career capital — like gaining credentials or making connections — once you have something useful to offer.
We’ve supplemented this with an updated list of impactful role types to aim at long-term and common types of next steps that help to learn skills useful for those.
These steps still often involve learning skills that can be applied to many different global problems or sectors (since all else equal, more transferability is better), but we don’t emphasise transferability as much. We’re also less keen on consulting as a route into working on the most pressing problems (though it’s still best for some).
2. How to plan your career
We have greatly expanded our content on how to plan your career.
Our chapter on career planning leads you through planning for both a longer-term vision and immediate next steps:
- Your longer-term vision is useful for helping shape your plans, although it shouldn’t be more than a vague idea about where you’d like to end up (read more).
- You can then work backwards from that vision to help come up with next steps — but you should also work forward from your current situation, looking at any opportunities immediately in front of you (read more).
And to help you develop your career plan, we also have a new career planning template, designed to be used alongside our career guide.
3. Other changes and improvements
- New types of impactful careers. We added sections on why government and policy and organisation-building careers could have a high impact.
- A new chapter on which global problems are most pressing. The previous version of the printed book (although not the website) didn’t contain anything about which problems we think are most pressing and why. The new chapter tells the story of how our views have evolved, and why we focus on reducing existential risks today.
- Avoiding doing harm with your career. In the past years, we’ve become more concerned about the risk of people potentially causing harm with their careers, despite attempts to do good. Our new career guide more carefully and explicitly warns against this, and provides advice on how to avoid causing harm. Relatedly, we suggest considering your character as part of your career capital, and so considering how any job you take will shape and form your virtues.
- We greatly expanded the chapter on assessing personal fit and exploring your options.
- We’ve fully updated the more empirical sections of the guide using more up-to-date papers and data.
By working together, in our lifetimes, we can prevent the next pandemic and mitigate the risks of AI, we can end extreme global poverty and factory farming — and we can do this while having interesting, fulfilling lives too.
Our hope is that this new guide will help you do exactly that.