In some careers your parents can give you a huge boost. Should you do what they did?

Angelina-Jon-GettyWould Angelina Jolie have been as successful if her father wasn’t Jon Voight?

In our talks we often note that in the past people typically went into the same career as their parents, but today young people are free to choose from a much wider range of options that might suit them better. That’s true, and it’s a great thing. However, there are still sometimes reasons to follow in your parents’ footsteps.

New research shows that working in the same field as a successful parent can give your odds of success a huge boost. Surely some of what’s going on here is that the child of a star parent is more likely to try to enter the same field in the first place, but part must also be that they are more likely to succeed when they do so.

Some, perhaps even most, of that effect will be due to to unfair and zero-sum nepotistic advantage, and so shouldn’t be actively exploited. But part of it must also be down to nothing immoral: you will start learning about the work incidentally from a young age, you’ll happen to make useful contacts as you grow up, and your parent may even be able to offer you personal coaching.

Unfortunately, the boost seems to be largest in fields where performance is hardest to measure (it’s smaller in sport and science) or where a brand surname matters, as in politics.

Here are the results for some of the most competitive positions in society:

nytimesinheritance

I recommend reading the full article which has many more details.

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How to get “elite” jobs: Dartmouth is not good enough

I just came across a study of what top-tier investment banks, law firms, and management consulting firms look for when recruiting. The author of the study interviewed over 100 recruiters at these firms to find out what criteria they used.1

The Chronicle of Higher Education summed up the results:

If you want to get a job at the very best law firm, investment bank, or consultancy:2

1. Go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or (maybe) Stanford. If you’re a business student, attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania will work, too, but don’t show up with a diploma from Dartmouth or MIT. No one cares about those places.
2. Don’t work your rear off for a 4.0. Better to graduate with 3.7 and a bunch of really awesome extracurriculars. And by “really awesome” I mean literally climbing Everest or winning an Olympic medal. Playing intramurals doesn’t cut it.

Here’s a chart showing the key signals that recruiters used to screen candidates.

How to get elite jobs
Graphic re-created from original figure in Rivera (2011)

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Should you move to Thailand?

Chiang Mai Coffee Shop
Chiang Mai Coffee Shop. Credit: Spartantraveler.com

By moving to Thailand, you can cut your cost of living by two to six times, and probably have a higher standard of living than you would have in a big city in the US or UK. NomadList currently estimates that you can live in Chiang Mai for only £400 per month, and flights from London can be had for £500 return. There’s several other cities in Thailand, Vietnam and Eastern Europe, which offer a cost of living under £900 per month.

In the case of Chiang Mai, this includes:

  • A nice, serviced apartment on short-let.
  • Fast internet.
  • Plenty of good cafes and co-working spaces.
  • Warm weather all year.
  • No commute.
  • Big community of international remote workers.
  • Eating out every meal.
  • No visa required for 3 months.
  • Set up within a day.

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The Undercover Economist speaks to 80,000 Hours

Tim2

Tim Harford recently spoke to us at Oxford. He’s a journalist for the Financial Times and the best-selling author of the Undercover Economist, which we’d recommend as a popular introduction to Economics. He also wrote Adapt, which argues that trial and error is the best strategy for solving important global problems. The arguments he makes fit with some of the arguments we have made for trial and error being a good way to plan your career.

Tim gave a talk on innovation, similar to this. The talk introduced a distinction between two types of innovation, and asks, which one is more important?

  1. Marginal improvements – incremental improvements to existing systems.

  2. Revolutionary improvements – transformations of existing systems to create new ones.

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More Evidence on the Competitiveness of Charity Jobs

Introduction

Here’s a short report, “Charities: Passion and skills in aid of a good cause,” on changes in the nonprofit sector’s employment landscape. The report provides evidence of increased competition over jobs, which is attributed to strong interest among recent graduates, greater professionalization across the sector, higher salaries, and an increase in the number of business people switching into nonprofit positions.

The report was published in 2008 by the Financial Times, but our sense is that the trends described have likely continued. The report features excerpts from an interview with a recruiter specialising in non-profit careers.

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Economics PhD the only one worth getting?

Introduction

Here’s a case for doing an Economics PhD by Noah Smith, professor of finance at Stony Brook University. We think it’s an interesting argument, though there’s much more we need to investigate to work out whether this is an especially promising path for 80,000 Hours members. Regardless, we think that many of our readers will find this article and several of the embedded links useful.

If you’re persuaded, Smith also coauthored a guide on how to get into an Economics PhD program.

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Careers advice from top tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen

We just came across a series of four careers advice posts by Marc Andreessen (hat tip, Satvik Beri).

We’re always on the look out for thoughtful careers advice from very successful individuals aimed at people looking to make a big impact – we think it’s one of the best sources of careers advice, and we think these posts qualify. Andressen co-authored Mosaic (the first web browser), founded Netscape, and then led a successful career in venture capital.

The advice is particularly orientated towards people who want to enter the technology industry, which we think is a particularly promising path to social impact.

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What should you do with a very large amount of money?

A philanthropist who will remain anonymous recently asked Nick Beckstead, a trustee of 80,000 Hours, what he would do with a very large amount of money.

Nick, with support from Carl Shulman (a research advisor to 80,000 Hours), wrote a detailed answer: A long-run perspective on strategic cause selection and philanthropy.

If you’re looking to spend or influence large budgets with the aim of improving the world (or happen to be extremely wealthy!) we recommend taking a look. It also contains brief arguments in favor of five causes.

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