Use our tool to decide whether you’re on the right career path

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You know how you should review your career at least once a year to make sure that you’re on the right path and set goals for the coming year?

You did that already, right?

Oh, no?

Well, in that case we’ve created a tool to make it quick and easy. Just answer the questions, and we’ll email you your answers when you’re done. There are only six key questions:

Do your annual career review

 
Once you’re done and have decided what steps to take, you can relax about your career trajectory for another 12 months!

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Biases: how they affect your career decisions, and what to do about them

A large and growing body of research suggests our reasoning is far from perfectly “rational.” This means that an important part of designing a process for choosing a high impact career has been looking into the extent to which these biases tend to affect peoples’ career decisions, and what can be done about them.

It turns out that we likely don’t know as much as we think we do, and our judgements can often be mistaken in ways that affect our career decisions negatively. Just being aware of this also doesn’t help much. Rather we need to be more sceptical of our decisions than we might be inclined to be, and take a more systematic and evidence-based approach to career choice.

Narrowmind

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Estimation – Part I: How to do it?

Trying to answer questions about the impact of a career is difficult, and trying to decide between different career options is even harder. If I asked you ‘How many people will benefit from research into anti-malarial vaccination?’ or ‘How many malaria nets would a £1000 donation to the Against Malaria Foundation get?’, your first answer will probably be that you don’t know. After this you will probably try to google the answer, but in most cases the information that you need is either not easily accessible or it would cost you a lot of time and money to find it. Finally you might guess or estimate an answer.

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But are some guesses or estimates better than others? In this post we will look at processes you can go through to make an estimate and how to make sure that your estimate is as good as it can be.

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Should you plan your career?

Should you try to plan your career?

On the one hand, goals provide direction and motivation. Especially if you care about really making a difference, you don’t want to be just stabbing in the dark. Yet at the same time, the world around you is constantly changing, as are you – isn’t it naive to plan for the future when you have no real idea what the job market will look like, what the world’s biggest needs might be, and what you might want personally?

should you plan your career

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Two questions you won’t want to ask yourself but should

Most of us spend a lot of time visualising scenarios we’d like to happen, thinking about reasons the things we believe (or the things we want to believe) are likely to be true. We very rarely do the opposite: really thinking through worst case scenarios, or actively looking for reasons our deepest held beliefs are false. Why would we want to do this? We might found out something we don’t want to know. But this is exactly why we should do it.

Wrong

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Common Mistakes In Careers Advice: When Should You Trust Sayings?

“Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves.”

Often in careers advice, as in life generally, you will be handed some proverb. But sometimes these sayings aren’t true, how can you know when to trust them? A common mistake in career choice is to blindly accept common ideas like this without good reason.

You can’t always rely on hard studies being available, you have to rely on your intuitions a lot of the time. One way of using your intuition better that I’ve found effective is to follow this plan:

  • Reverse the principle and see if the opposite idea makes sense
  • Tell two stories, one to explain the principle, one to explain the reverse.
  • Use these stories to find out when to trust the principle.

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Are you cheating career choice?

Often when faced with a really difficult question, people “cheat” by opting to answer an easier but related one, without realising they’re doing it. Sometimes this is a helpful tactic, but it can be a huge source of error. Could you be doing this with your career decisions?

People often end up cheating and answering an easier question because the real question is so complex that they don’t even know how to go about answering it. What we’re aiming to do is provide you with the tools and guidance you need to answer the questions “Which career is right for me?” and “How can I make a difference in my career?”, so that you don’t need to cheat.

Cheating

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Want to be successful? Know your odds.

If you want to make a difference in your career, you need to think not just about which jobs have the most impact, but which jobs you’ve got the best chances of success in. This latter point can be easily neglected. It’s all very well working for an incredibly high impact cause, but if you do a rubbish job you won’t make much difference. Judging your chances of success is hard. Knowing the odds: the average person’s chances of success, is a good place to start.

Formula

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Do you think you’re better than average?

Most people think they’re better than the average person: that they’re smarter, more likeable, more attractive. This tendency to think of ourselves as better than average is a well-established bias. But if we need to do this to feel better about ourselves, who cares? The problem is that we’ll also overestimate our chances of being successful. And if you want to work out where to make the most difference, you need to have a realistic idea of where your chances of success are best.

Formula

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Triumphs of intuition

Paramedics appear to make good, fast decisions based on “gut feeling”: knowing what to do without knowing how you know. Along a similar vein, chess grandmasters are able to identify and decide on the best moves incredibly rapidly, moves which mediocre players may not even spot at all.

But this ability to make astoundingly accurate judgements in the blink of an eye isn’t limited to experts. We all do it every day: when we judge what some else wants from their facial expressions, or catch a ball without doing any complex physics calculation. How are these triumphs of intuition possible?

Formula

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Sunk Costs in Careers

In my last post we looked at sunk costs. We saw that having paid for something distorts how you think about it later on.

This is a very common experience in career decisions. You might be in a degree course you don’t want to be on, or climbing the ladder in a company you aren’t sure about, or find out that the dream job you’ve spent years working for isn’t as good as expected. It is only by forgetting these sunk costs that you can make the right career decisions and have as much impact as you can.

But if you find yourself in this situation what can you do?

Mark Lee

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Good generals let their soldiers die in vain

In November 1914 Winston Churchill proposed a campaign to turn the tide of war on the Eastern Front. The plan was to fight a land war up the Gallipoli peninsula, secure safe passage for warships up the Dardanelles, and give the Russians access to the Mediterranean.

The land war was a total failure. After landing in April 1915 the Allied troops lost momentum quickly. By August Ottoman forces had tied them into static trench warfare. The Allies couldn’t make any more progress, they had achieved nothing and 220,000 soldiers had died. It was at this point that the allied troops were ordered to evacuate.

Some soldiers said they hoped their dead comrades wouldn’t notice them leaving. The 220,00 soldiers died “in vain”. And yet it was a great decision by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Monro to let them die in vain. Better that than lose even more men pointlessly.

Illustration par Carrey pour le journal Le Miroir en 1915

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When should I quantify? – Quantification – Part 4

Every 48 seconds someone dies of malaria. Every one of those deaths is a human being with passions and loves and feelings. When we talk about quantifying our impact on the world it is important not to forget what those numbers mean. They mean people. Every single year of happy life we can give, is a joyful thing to the person living it. This is ultimately why we what to have as much impact as possible. Because more people living happy joyful lives is better than fewer.

Mosquito Netting

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Quantification as a Lamppost in the Dark – Quantification – Part 3

Late one evening a police officer comes across a man on the way home from a party. He is quite drunk and looking for something under a lamppost. “What are you looking for?” asks the policeman. “My keys,” the man replies, pointing down the road a little way, “I dropped them over there.” The policeman is baffled, “Then why are you looking for them here?”. “Because there’s no light over there.”

The joke is old but it gets to the heart of the debate over quantification. Is it best to look for keys under lampposts?

Gecko in lamp by night

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