Find a fulfilling career that does good
This free guide is based on over ten years of research alongside academics at Oxford.
Scroll down to start reading. If you join our newsletter, we’ll mail you the guide as a paperback book (for free).
Introduction: Why read this guide?
Answer: You have 80,000 hours in your career. That’s a long time. Spend one or two of those hours on this guide, to help you work out how to use the rest. We believe you might be able to find a career that is both more satisfying and has a greater positive impact.
You can read the articles online here or get the guide as a book. We also cover what the guide is based on and how to use it best.
Or read a two-minute summary of the entire guide.
Part 1: What makes for a dream job?
Answer: Research shows that to have a fulfilling career, you should do something you’re good at that makes the world a better place. Don’t aim for a highly paid, easy job, or expect to discover your “passion” in a flash of insight.
Find out the six key ingredients of fulfilling work:
Part 2:How much difference can one person make?
Answer: Many common ways to do good, such as becoming a doctor, have less impact than you might first think. Other, more unconventional options, have allowed certain people to achieve an extraordinary impact (including one particular Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet military).
Find out why your choice of career really matters for the world:
Part 3:Can you change the world without changing job?
Answer: With the right approach, you can make a major difference to the lives of others without changing job, or making a major sacrifice. You can do this by giving 10% of your income to the world’s poorest people, promoting important causes, or helping others to have a greater impact.
Learn about three ways to make a difference in any job:
Part 4:Where should you focus to have the most impact?
Answer: To maximise your impact, work on areas (1) that are large in scale, (2) that others neglect, and (3) where it’s possible to make progress. Many people fail to compare the scale of different problems, work on the same problems as everyone else, and support programmes with no evidence of impact.
Learn how to compare global problems:
Part 5:What’s the biggest and most urgent problem in the world?
Answer: Most people in rich countries who aim to do good work on health, poverty, and education in their home country. But health in poor countries is a bigger, more solvable problem, and only receives 4% of charitable donations. And we argue there are even bigger and more neglected issues, such as those involving existential risks and smarter-than-human AI.
Find out what we’ve learnt about the world’s most urgent problems:
If you’re interested in a specific area, see our:
Part 6: Which jobs help people the most?
Answer: When we think of jobs that help people, medicine, teaching, and charity work are what first come to mind. But these are not always the highest-impact options. To help the most people, think broadly about the paths where you can make the biggest contribution, including research, communications and community-building, taking high-earning jobs to donate to charity, government and policy, and organisation-building.
Learn about five types of high-impact careers:
Also see our:
Part 7: Which jobs put you in the best position for the future?
Answer: Especially early in your career, take options that will give you career capital — skills, connections, credentials, character, and runway that put you in a better position to make a difference. Examples include working at high-performing growing organisations, graduate studies in certain subjects such as economics, or learning concrete skills like information security or China expertise. Be careful with humanities PhDs, charity jobs, and vocational qualifications.
Get a list of ways to put yourself in a better position:
Part 8: What’s the right career for you?
Answer: Don’t expect to figure out what you’re best at right away, especially through introspection, going with your gut, or career tests. Instead, think like a scientist: make best guesses, clarify your key uncertainties, and then investigate those uncertainties by doing research and cheap tests. Early in your career, consider trying out several paths, and when in doubt, aim high.
Learn how to find the best career for you:
Part 9:How can you be more successful in your current job?
Lots of self-help advice isn’t based on much, but there are plenty of evidence-based ways anyone can become more productive, impactful, and happy in any career. Don’t neglect the basics like your mental health. Consider “meta” skills that can make you more effective at everything else, like learning how to learn and think better. We also cover how to actually network.
See 15 evidence-based ways to be more successful:
Part 10: How should you plan your career?
Answer: Rather than try to pinpoint the single best option, accept that your plan is likely to change. But don’t try to “keep your options open”. Instead, think about your career in three stages: exploring, building career capital, and deploying that career capital to have an impact. Then, sketch out a plan A, but also a plan B and plan Z in case it doesn’t work out. Update your plan every couple of years.
Learn how to make a flexible A/B/Z career plan:
If you’d like to write your own career plan, see:
Part 11: What’s the best way to get a job?
Answer: Don’t just send out your CV in response to job listings. Get leads through your connections, and prove that you can do the work by actually doing some. When you get an offer, negotiate.
See our summary of all the best advice on how to get the job you want:
Part 12:What’s the best way to gain connections?
Answer: Join a community of people working in the same area as you. You’ll get hundreds of connections at once. And two people working together effectively can achieve more than they could individually. Every community’s unique, so try out several and see which are best for you and your career. If you liked this guide, then you’ll probably share aims with lots of people in the effective altruism community, which we helped start back in 2011.
Learn about how community can help:
The end:A cheery final note — imagining your deathbed
We sum up the whole guide in one minute.
What’s next?Speak to our team one-on-one and get help with your plan
Our advising team may be able to help check your new career plan, as well as introduce you to mentors, job openings, and funding opportunities to help you put it into action. (It’s free.)
Or if you’d like to keep learning:Go beyond the basics
Here’s some more of our most important research about how to have more impact with your career. Skim through and read the articles most relevant to your situation.