The first stage in a job search involves generating leads. A lead is any opportunity that might turn into a job – including friends or colleagues who might know an opportunity or a side project you might be able to get paid for. It’s important to search for “informal” leads like these in addition to publicly available vacancies that can be listed on a job board.
We recommend generating wide variety of leads and sending dozens of applications. You should apply for “stretch” roles you think you’re unlikely to get, as well as a large number of “reasonable” options and some “backup” options.
Stretch options are important because (i) some people are under confident and underestimate their chances of getting highly demanding roles and (ii) it’s easy to overestimate the hiring bar of a particular vacancy or organisation (e.g. a common mistake is to assume that if you’re missing a formal qualification mentioned in the job requirements, you have no chance of getting an interview.). If you are making either mistake, it is very valuable to find this out. What’s more, even if you do not get a role you apply for, there can be a large upside to getting “on the radar” of an organisation – they may consider you for future opportunities, or they may know of other opportunities (perhaps not publicly advertised) that might be a good fit. In general, when searching for jobs, there are often large returns to optimism and actions that increase your “luck surface area” (i.e. the probability you get a “lucky” break).
Your backup options should mean that you’re extremely likely to finish your search with an acceptable short-term option available. Well-defined backup options reduce personal risk and can help make a job search process somewhat less stressful. Example backup options might be (i) staying in your current job rather than changing; (ii) taking a job that’s not an ideal fit or (iii) doing whatever it takes to free up energy to invest in developing your skills while not at work, e.g. taking an easy part-time job or moving in with friends or parents to reduce your living expenses.
Many successful careers involve periods of great uncertainty and repeated setbacks – if you find the process tough, it may help to remind yourself that it is normal to find this difficult, and to invest more than usual in self-care. Many of the roles we advertise are very difficult to get and in many fields it’s common for talented people to get 20+ rejections during an early career job search.
Our job board aims to list opportunities that may be among the best opportunities for some of our readers. Some opportunities on the board may be a suitable backup option for you, but most readers will need to look elsewhere to find their backup options. Most readers should also do more than just check our job board to build their list of “stretch” and “reasonable” leads. Further steps you might take:
- Lead discovery: make a list of the organisations you’re interested in, then check their websites, follow them on social media and join their newsletters. Do the same thing for individuals who are working in the areas you’re interested in. Check other job boards that cover your areas of interest.
- Lead creation: many of the best roles are never publicly advertised. Consider sending speculative applications to relevant organisations and individuals if you think you can help them (whether or not they’re advertising a role that fits you). Reach out to friends and colleagues and ask who they think you should talk to and whether they know anywhere that might be a good fit. Consider doing voluntary or freelance contract work.
There’s more advice in our articles on how to get a job and how to make a career plan.
Some limitations of the 80,000 Hours job board to bear in mind:
- We focus on our top recommended problem areas and priority career paths. If you want to work on a different problem, including those on our lists of potentially promising problems areas and career paths, the board is less likely to be useful.
- We aim to present a “short, curated list” rather than comprehensive coverage. This means we highlight a selection of the most promising roles we know about that will be relevant to our audience. We do not have the resources to cover (or even discover) all the promising organisations that exist, and the fact that we sometimes advertise roles at a given organisation does not mean we’ll always list every promising vacancy they have.
- Our curation process selects for opportunities that are easy for us to identify as promising. Read more about how we decide what to list.