8-week career planning course: career planning template
Table of Contents
- 1 Get your copy of the career planner
- 2 Sign up to be guided through the template
- 3 The full career plan template
- 3.1 How to use the template
- 3.2 Section 1: What does a fulfilling and high-impact career look like for you?
- 3.3 Section 2: Clarify your views of which global problems are most pressing
- 3.4 Section 3: Generate ideas for longer-term paths
- 3.5 Section 4: Clarify your strategic focus
- 3.6 Section 5: Determine your best-guess next career step
- 3.7 Section 6: Plan to adapt
- 3.8 Section 7: Investigate key uncertainties and make a judgement call
- 3.9 Congratulations on making your high-impact career plan!
- 3.10 Section 8: Put your plan into action
- 3.11 Appendix
- 4 Get started with the full career planning process
Note: We also have a shorter career planning template designed to accompany our career guide.
Key parts of the career planner:
- What does a fulfilling, high-impact career look like for you? (What are your career goals?)
- Clarify your views of which global problems are the most pressing
- Generate ideas for longer-term paths
- Clarify your strategic focus
- Determine your best-guess next career step
- Plan to adapt
- Get feedback, investigate key uncertainties, and make a judgement call
- Put your plan into action
If you complete each part, you will have worked through the most important issues you need to think about when planning your career, considered your most promising career options, identified next steps to help you achieve your long term goals, and have all your answers sketched out in one place.
Get your copy of the career planner
You can also see a filled-out example template from a reader, which we’ve lightly edited for anonymity.
Sign up to be guided through the template
Get instructions and resources in your inbox to complete one section per week as part of our free career planning course.
We’ll also send you monthly updates on our research and updates on high-impact job opportunities. You can unsubscribe from either in one click.
The full career plan template
If you don’t want to use the Google doc version, you can copy paste from here into your format of choice.
How to use the template
Feel free to spend as much or as little time as you like on this template. A more thorough way to engage with it might involve working through one section each week, then discussing with a friend or mentor. A more shallow way might involve taking a rough guess at everything in a couple of hours, and then identifying some sections to come back to.
Either way, we encourage you to talk to friends and advisors, and/or send your template around for comments. Read more about how to use the planning process in the companion process.
Subsections with a ★ are the most important.
Section 1: What does a fulfilling and high-impact career look like for you?
1.1 How do you define impartial positive impact?
Write out your rough definition here:
If you agree with our rough definition, you can leave this blank, or you can copy out a version of it to keep in mind throughout the process.
1.2 Your top 3–6 personal priorities
The factors we argue are important for impact — working on a pressing problem, finding an effective opportunity, and having a strong personal fit with your role — can also contribute to personal fulfillment and happiness.
But there are other career-related personal factors that will be important for you in the long term. For example, for most people it’s also key to have engaging work, autonomy, supportive colleagues, fair pay, and non-crazy working hours.
What are your top career-related personal priorities that won’t already be furthered by aiming to have a positive impact?
1.3 Other moral considerations
What other career-relevant moral considerations besides impact (considered impartially) do you want to keep in mind? (E.g. religious obligations or obligations to help your hometown)
Section 2: Clarify your views of which global problems are most pressing
Which global problems do you think additional people would have the most impact by working on? By ‘global problems’ we mean broad areas like preventing catastrophic pandemics, extreme climate change, etc.
★ 2.1 Write out the global problems you think are most pressing
There are two main approaches for coming up with your ranked list. The ideal is to combine the two:
- Do your own research
Find someone whose judgement you trust, and use their views
For the second approach, are there any organisations or people you want to use as a starting point? If, so write them down:
If you listed us, you can see our views here.
Bear in mind that no one has this all figured out. So you’ll probably want to do at least some of your own analysis to adjust or confirm any views you work from.
If you want to go a bit more in-depth and start from scratch with your own research, we provide questions in the appendix to help you work through the process. When you’re done, come back here to continue on.
Make sure you’re thinking about which problems are most pressing in general, not yet taking your personal fit into account — that comes later.
2.1.1 Based on what you learned above, list the 2–5 global issues you think are likely to be most pressing
2.1.2 Then consider 3–10 issues that might be even more pressing, but about which you are more uncertain
You could include some of the issues we discuss on our longer list if you want.
2.1.3 Now combine them into a single list
Rank the issues by how useful it would be for more people to work on them, all things considered (including the ‘value of information’ of working on less explored areas). It’s ok if you’re not sure about the ranking — just write down your best guess.
★ 2.2 What are your 3–5 biggest uncertainties about your list?
Think about questions where you’re unsure, and where the answer would make a big difference to how pressing you think different issues are. You’ll return to these questions later.
Section 3: Generate ideas for longer-term paths
By longer-term paths we mean what you might plan to do beyond your immediate next career step, say over the next 5–25 years. E.g. working in operations at a climate change nonprofit, or becoming an economics researcher working on important questions. (More on what longer-term paths should look like and why to make them.)
★ 3.1 Make a long list of ideas
In this section we’ll take you through four ways to come up with ideas for longer-term options (with a timeframe of 5+ years in the future). We discuss these methods in more depth in the process.
Don’t worry if, after you do this exercise, you feel really uncertain about your options — you can still make a great next career step, as we’ll cover in Section 5.
As you go through, don’t forget about our list of career paths to consider. Also keep in mind that it’s generally wise to aim high and not rule options out too quickly.
★ 3.1.1. Aim at top problems
Think about what’s most needed to make progress on your top problems, and then generate ideas for career paths that might help you address those needs (more detail).
For example, if one of your top problems is climate change, and you think what mitigating climate change most requires is technological innovation, you might list ‘running an incubator for green tech startups’ as a potential option. Write out 3–5 ideas in this category.
★ 3.1.2. Develop transferable career capital
This means aiming to build skills, connections, reputation, and other resources that will give you good options to work on top problems in the future (more detail).
E.g. you could aim to work your way up in government, or become known as an expert in operations management. Write 3–5 options in this category.
★ 3.1.3 Capitalise on your strengths
For this method, first clarify your strengths, competencies, and other career capital — e.g. maybe you excel at communication, have experience in information security, etc. (More on how to do this.) Try to list 3–6 strengths or other assets:
Now brainstorm another 2–5 ideas for longer-term paths that would allow you to capitalise on these assets:
3.1.4 Coordinate with others in a community
Which communities that can make a positive difference, if any, would you most like to be more involved with? Write about any here:
What do these communities most need in order to have more positive impact? Brainstorm another 2–5 ideas for longer-term paths you could take to help meet those needs:
3.1.6 Generate any more options for longer-term paths you can think of
One of the biggest mistakes people make in planning their career is not considering enough options.
Check out our lists of especially promising career paths and add any that might be a good fit for you in the longer term.
Some prompts you can use to think of more:
- Elimination: If you couldn’t do any of your top ideas, what would you do instead?
Good luck: What would you do if you knew you would have a high chance of success?
See more prompts in the full process.
★ 3.2 Write out a shortlist of your 3–6 most promising longer-term paths
Now that you have your long list, it’s time to narrow it down to a shortlist of the most promising options.
You can choose what factors to use to compare options, but we suggest:
- Targeted impact: How pressing are the problem(s) each longer-term path addresses, and how much do they help you solve them?
Transferable career capital or influence: How much will each path give you general-purpose leverage to contribute to solving pressing problems?
Personal fit: What are your chances of outsized success? (Also consider your relative fit if you’re working with a community.)
How well does each path fit with your personal priorities from Section 1.2?
See our advice for more guidance on how to assess your paths based on the factors you choose.
Again, don’t worry if you’re uncertain — you’ll write your uncertainties below and come back to them.
★ 3.3 What are your biggest uncertainties about this list?
Try to come up with at least three.
Section 4: Clarify your strategic focus
★ 4.1 Which strategic focus is the best fit for you right now?
Your ‘strategic focus’ is a heuristic you’ll use for figuring out what factors to emphasise when choosing what next career steps you want to take (which we’ll discuss in the next section).
Here are four focuses that can be helpful at different points in your career (click here read about them):
- Betting on one of your longer-term paths (with a backup plan)
Career capital opportunism
Write your current strategic focus, and why you chose it, here:
Section 5: Determine your best-guess next career step
★ 5.1 Write a long list of ideas
By next career steps we mean jobs or other opportunities you might take on a shorter timeframe, for up to a few years — e.g. applying for a master’s degree in public policy, trying to shift into a management position at your company, or taking an online course in machine learning.
★ 5.1.1 Try working backward
Take the longer-term paths you identified in Section 3.2 and try to generate 5–10 ideas for next career steps that will help you work toward them, e.g. steps for professional development or useful experience (More detail).
★ 5.1.2 Try working forward
Generate 2–10 more ideas for steps that seem immediately promising. For instance, are there job openings that seem interesting? (See e.g. our job board.) Do you have connections or mentors that have interesting recommendations? Etc. (More detail)
5.1.3 Now add more options by getting creative
Use the methods of elimination, combination, and modification to add to your long list of options:
5.2 Narrow down your next steps and write down key uncertainties
★ 5.2.1 Clarify which criteria you’re going to use to compare your next steps
We generally recommend comparing your options based on (i) immediate impact potential, (ii) specialist career capital potential, (iii) transferable career capital potential, (iv) personal fit, (v) information value, and (vi) fit with your other personal priorities (read about these factors). But you should feel free to add to or adjust these factors as you see fit.
Use the strategic focus you chose in Section 4 to help you identify which of these factors are most important for you to consider, and write them down here:
★ 5.2.2 Your shortlist
Now use the factors you just identified to narrow down your long list to a shortlist of five top options. You can do this just based on your rough impression of what seems best on the factors you’re using, or read more about ways to use your factors to narrow down here.
Also, keep in mind when narrowing down that you should probably eliminate potentially harmful options if you can’t mitigate their risks (why).
Your top option on this shortlist will be part of your Plan A:
^ This is your best guess at what you should try to do next in your career (part of your Plan A).
- ★ 5.2.3 Now write your key uncertainties about your shortlist
5.3 Your Plan A
You have all the ingredients for your Plan A: your best-guess next career step and any longer-term paths from the shortlist you made in Section 3.2 that are compatible with it (what to do if you don’t have any).
Write out your Plan A here:
Section 6: Plan to adapt
★ 6.1 Your Plan B
Your options for Plan B are promising alternatives to your Plan A that you can switch into if Plan A doesn’t work out.
Write out your Plan B options:
★ 6.2 Your Plan Z
We also recommend making a Plan Z — what you’ll do if you face a more serious setback — so that it’s easier to take risks.
E.g. Could you move in with family, or go back to your old job?
Write out your Plan Z options:
6.3 Write key uncertainties about your back-up plans
Section 7: Investigate key uncertainties and make a judgement call
★ 7.1 Step back, reflect, and make your final a list of key uncertainties
7.1.1 Gather up all the uncertainties you listed in previous sections
Copy and paste them here:
7.1.2 Get some overall feedback
Get more uncertainties (and start resolving some of your existing ones) by sending this template to friends, colleagues, or mentors, or reaching out to people for general feedback on the plans you’ve made.
Adjust your list in 7.1.1 with whatever you learn.
7.1.3 Change frame and ask yourself how you feel about your plan
Two more exercises for spotting potential key uncertainties about your plan are:
- Stepping into a different frame of mind — e.g. by doing a ‘premortem’ (optional)
Asking your gut how you feel about your plans and why
You can use this space to freewrite using these prompts.
Do these exercises turn up any further uncertainties (or resolve any)? If so, add them to your list in Section 7.1.1.
★ 7.2 Prioritise your key uncertainties
Now decide which uncertainties are most pressing to resolve. Do this based on how uncertain you are about the question, how much time it would take to resolve some of that uncertainty, and how big a difference doing so could make to your plans.
Write your prioritised list of uncertainties here (feel free to leave off any that are so low priority you know they aren’t worth trying to resolve):
★ 7.3 Make a plan to investigate
Now that you have your final list of key uncertainties, how will you resolve them?
We discuss how (and whether!) to investigate key uncertainties, as well as how long to spend, in the full process.
One general tip is to always start with the lowest cost ways to gain information. For example, you could start by reading relevant career reviews or problem profiles, and then decide to talk to people in an area. If you want to invest more, you could test out a project.
List actions you will take to investigate your key uncertainties here:
As you investigate, adjust your plans as appropriate.
You can also move some of your investigation steps to Section 8.1, and list them as ‘next actions’ — so you don’t have to finish them all before moving on. In truth, investigating uncertainties, taking next actions, and moving toward next steps is not a linear process, and it’s fine to jump back and forth.
★ 7.4 Make a judgement call
Now that you’ve investigated some of your key uncertainties, it’s time to make a judgement call about your career plan.
In particular, for now you’ll need to make a judgement call on your Plan A — i.e. whether to stick with what you came up with in Section 5.5 for now, or switch to one of your other options.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel fully settled — you can (and likely will) adjust your plans later as you learn more throughout your career.
Now write down your best-guess plan here, by filling in the blanks with what you have above:
Global issues I might help tackle with my career include…
My strategic focus (and any other strategic priorities) right now is…
My Plan A is to…
My Plan B is to…
My Plan Z is to…
★ 7.5 Set review points
Your plan is done for now, but you should review and adjust it periodically as you advance in your career.
Write when you’ll review your plan (e.g. at your next performance review, or at the new year) here:
Also set a reminder in your calendar.
Congratulations on making your high-impact career plan!
You’ve put a lot of thought into how you’ll use your career to help make the world a better place, and you’re now in as strong a position as you can be to go out there and do it.
Thank you for taking the time, and for your dedication to making a positive difference with your career.
This is almost where this template will leave off.
However, to get you started on executing on your plan, we’ve included some tips on putting your plan into action, now that you have it.
Section 8: Put your plan into action
★ 8.1 Define next actions
To take your best-guess next career step, what do you need to do? Email a professor? Set up a meeting? Start a side project? Read a book? Make a demo?
You may also have more investigation steps from Section 7.3 that you haven’t done yet. You can also add those to your list of next actions.
Write out what you’re going to do in the form of small, manageable next actions, as well as when you’ll do them, here:
And so on…
For anything you can’t do right away, add a reminder in your calendar.
Keep adding items to your action plan, completing them, and crossing off items as long as you find it useful.
8.2 Get jobs, meet people, and succeed in your roles
The rest of your career is an iterative process of improvement, reassessment, progress, and next steps.
We have advice on some of the key ingredients in this process — doing a job search and getting a job, meeting people, and succeeding in your roles — on our website.
Now go out there and help solve the world’s most pressing problems. We’re rooting for you.
Your investigation of which global problems are most pressing
We provide some guidance in the full process on investigating and comparing global issues. Here we go through the main ingredients.
Your values and worldview
What do you think is important? What do you think the world is like, and how do you think we should come to beliefs about it? Your answers to these questions are part of your worldview.
You can see some examples of worldviews (like longtermism and neartermism) in the full process.
Do you share any of the example worldviews? Do you have any reservations about them, or want to combine parts of different ones? Do you have a totally different view of what’s important, what the world is like, and/or how we can know about it?
Use this space to write about your views — keeping in mind it’s ok if they’re sketchy or uncertain.
Framework(s) for comparing issues
Learn about different frameworks you can use to compare issues. For example, we often use the importance, neglectedness, and tractability framework, where how you assess the importance and tractability of problems is partially determined by your worldview. (See a more popular introduction to the framework).
Make any notes you want on frameworks you want to use here:
Start generating ideas
Once you have frameworks and your worldview clarified to some extent, you can start generating ideas for pressing problems, perhaps using other people’s lists to get started. See some tips for generating ideas in the full process (scroll down from worldviews and frameworks within the optional section on doing your own investigation).
Use this space to brainstorm and write about your assessments. You don’t have to be certain you’ve got things right — just make your best guess and you’ll record uncertainties as you go.
Now that you have your list of global problems, compare them according to your worldview and using the frameworks you learned about above.
How to do it? Later sections of the process provide more detail, but in short: Once you generate a long list of options, identify key uncertainties, and work out what research you might do to resolve those uncertainties, then go ahead and do it, and then reassess and repeat. Use this space to write out your thoughts.
Now return to Section 2.1 above, and continue from there.
Get started with the full career planning process
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