Written by Saad Siddiqui and Kevin Wei
This is a quick post to share a worksheet that I developed with input from Kevin Wei as we ran career planning programmes at Schwarzman College.
Some important background information on our worksheet:
Given how much students tend to care about their careers, we found that surprisingly there were no career-focused intro fellowship syllabi. Most career planning material either focused entirely on using 80,000 Hours career planning worksheet or following the Global Challenges Project career guide.
Important goals in creating this worksheet were to create a brief, beginner-friendly introduction to career planning / EA ideas for students new to EA. Based on my experience using the 80,000 Hours worksheet as intro to EA material in early 2022, my personal view is that the 80,000 Hours and GCP worksheets materials are neither user-friendly nor easy to parse for people new to EA.
Our target audience was master’s students, many of whom had at least 1 year of previous work experience and some of whom were considering a career transition away from their previous work. As such, our audience was a mix of top-of-funnel (students new to EA) and mid-funnel (students with prior exposure to EA from undergrad). More information about the Schwarzman program is available here
Our worksheet is based off of the 80,000 Hours worksheet, and it:
- Is shorter: The worksheet we designed is shorter because people felt parts of the original 80K worksheet were repetitive and unclear, specifically the distinction between Sections 3 and 4. We were also told by the careers office at our programme that a 6-week programme would work much better than an 8-week programme; Kevin also believes this to be true given his experience running the program in 2022-2023, since even 6 weeks feels like a long commitment for a one-year educational program.
- Has defined reading goals per week: There are clear reading goals for each week to guide individuals towards some of the more important materials on 80,000 Hours, as some participants felt intimidated by the rabbit hole of links on the 80,000 Hours website.
- Has more prompts: Has some clearer prompts and is more user-friendly. Most of the prompts were drawn from the Global Challenges Project’s career planning programme.
- Includes exercises: to help flesh out some of the most important concepts being raised, mostly drawn from the EA Virtual Programs’s Intro to EA worksheets,.
- Is designed to be part of a series of fellowships/programmes: This programme was run at the beginning of the academic year in 2022-23, so there was less of a rush in trying to get all the concepts across in as short a time as possible. Thus, this career planning worksheet ends with a kind of ‘diagnostic’ process, drawn entirely from the Global Challenges Project career planning guide, to help participants decide whether they want to:
- Explore more cause areas
- Do more detailed investigations of different long-term paths
- Figure out next steps for their next year
- Book a call with 80,000 Hours
Basic outline of our career planning worksheet:
- Week 1: Why does maximizing impact matter?
- Week 2: What does maximizing impact in your career look like?
- Week 3: Why should we and how can we compare the most pressing problems?
- Week 4: What do we think are the world’s most pressing problems?
- Week 5: What are promising high-impact career paths we should consider?
- Week 6: What next?
Our Experiences with This Worksheet
Some of our experiences using this worksheet and running these session in Spring 2022 / Fall 2022:
- In Spring of 2022: We had about 25 people join in 5 groups at various points during the Spring term, though only about 10 completed the programme. Part of this was because I emphasised that people could drop whenever the programme stopped being useful for them, and partly because there were Covid-related disruptions that led to many students leaving the college earlier than expected. Out of the 25 that started the programme, 6-8 have continued engaging with EA ideas or cause-area specific programmes.
- This programme also led to a more general increase in high fidelity discussions about EA and longtermism during the programme. As the cohort was small, I had a lot of 1-on-1s with many cohort members, both those that were doing the career planning programme and others who were generally interested.
- This general increase in discussion around EA increased the overall perception of EA and longtermists within the cohort, with fewer people having the impressions that EA = Earning to Give
- In Fall of 2022: We had about 20 people join in 4 groups at the start of Fall term, but only 15 students started the program and only 6 students completed the program. We attribute the high attrition rate at least in part due to Covid-related disruptions in China causing in-person meetups to become virtual as well as large disruptions in Schwarzman programming / events, which contributed to a sharp decline in interest from participants.
- General participant feedback: participants appreciated using the framework from the worksheet to think about their careers, having a dedicated time to intentionally plan and think about their careers, and having a group of peers to discuss career planning with. One challenge participants faced was balancing commitment to the career planning program with other Schwarzman events and commitments. Anecdotally, participants were able to narrow down broad cause areas of interest and possible career paths but did not completely switch career paths from what they had previously considering, though some participants indicated that they had been exposed to new cause areas and would consider incorporating some of those topics into their work.
- Career planning is a deeply vulnerable exercise; it involves you laying out what you want out of a huge chunk of your life, and your best guess on how you want to get there. We want to thank the participants who trusted us and were willing to interrogate these questions with us.
- The Schwarzman careers team for support and input at various points during the planning and execution process. (Their support does not constitute official endorsement)
- Several Schwarzman scholars from the 6th cohort who provided detailed input on the worksheet based on their own experiences going through the programme
- Several 80,000 Hours staff for providing high-level feedback and advice at different points in the process
- Dewi Erwan for advice and support on various Schwarzman-related projects through the past year
- Some others who would prefer to remain anonymous (you know who you are) - thank you!