From 2016 to 2019, 80,000 Hours’ core content was contained in our persistently popular career guide. (You may also remember it as the 80,000 Hours book: 80,000 Hours — Find a fulfilling career that does good).
Today, we’re re-launching that guide. Among many other changes, in the new version:
- We’ve substantially changed our recommendations on career capital.
- We have significantly improved and extended our article on career planning.
- We improved our advice on personal fit and career exploration.
- We added sections on why community-building, government and policy, and organisation-building careers could be high impact.
- We focus more on avoiding harm (in line with our updates following the collapse of FTX), and explicitly discuss Sam Bankman-Fried when talking about earning to give.
- We are more upfront about 80,000 Hours’ focus on existential risk in particular (while also discussing a wide variety of cause areas, including global health, animal welfare, existential risk and meta-causes).
- We’ve updated the more empirical sections of the guide using more up-to-date papers and data.
We’d appreciate you sharing the new guide with a friend! You can send them a free copy using this link. Many of the people who’ve found our advice most useful in the past have found us via a friend, so we think the time you take to share it could be really worthwhile.
What’s in the guide?
The first article is about what to look for in a fulfilling job:
- Part 1: What makes for a dream job?
The next five are about which options are most impactful for the world:
- Part 2: Can one person make a difference?
- Part 3: How to have a real positive impact in any job
- Part 4: How to choose which problems to focus on
- Part 5: What are the world’s biggest and most urgent problems?
- Part 6: What types of jobs help the most?
The next four cover how to find the best option for you and invest in your skills:
- Part 7: Which jobs put you in a better position?
- Part 8: How to find the right career for you
- Part 9: How to be more successful in any job
- Part 10: How to write a career plan
The last two cover how to take action and launch your dream career:
Advice (for EAs) on how to read the guide
The topics we tackle are complex, and in the past we’ve noticed people interpreting our advice in ways we didn’t intend. Here are some points to bear in mind before diving in.
- We’ve been wrong before and we’ll be wrong again. While we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these issues, we still have a lot to learn. Our positions have changed over the years, and due to the nature of the questions we take on, we’re rarely more than about 70% confident in our answers. You should try to strike a balance between what we think and your previous position, depending on the strength of the arguments and how much you already knew about the topic.
- It’s extremely difficult to give universally applicable career advice. Most importantly, the option that’s best for you depends a huge amount on your skills, circumstances, and the specific details of the opportunity. So, while we might highlight path A more than path B, the best opportunities in path B will often be better than the typical opportunities in path A. Moreover, your personal circumstances could easily mean the best option for you is in path B. So, treat the specific options we mention as an aid for compiling your personal list of career ideas. Also, keep in mind that many issues in career choice are a matter of balancing opposing considerations — for instance, some readers are underconfident and need to be encouraged to aim higher, while some readers are overconfident and need to be encouraged to make a better backup plan. If we say people put too little emphasis on X, there will usually be some readers who put too much emphasis on X and need to hear the opposite advice. This is part of the motivation behind offering our 1-1 calls, which can offer much more specific, tailored advice, and if you’ve read the whole career guide, you should probably consider applying.
- Our advice is aimed at a particular audience: namely, people with college degrees (or on their way to getting one) who want to make having a positive impact (from an impartial perspective) a significant focus of their career (especially in the problem areas we most recommend); who mostly live in rich, English-speaking countries; and who want to take an analytical approach to their career. At any given moment, many people need to focus on taking care of their own lives, and we don’t think anyone should feel guilty if that’s the case. Certain parts of our advice, such as our list of priority paths, are especially aimed at people who are unusually high achieving. In general, the more similar you are to our core audience, the more useful the advice will be, although much of what we write is useful to anyone who wants to make a difference.
- Treat increasing your impact as just one long-term goal. Working on the world’s most pressing problems is among the most worthwhile challenges we can imagine, though it can also be overwhelming. We see increasing our impact as just one important goal among several in our lives, which means we often do things that aren’t ideal from the perspective of doing good. Indeed, even if your only goal was to have an impact, to do that it’s vital to do something you can stick with for years — and this means taking care of your personal priorities as well.
- Aim for steady progress rather than perfection. It can take a long time to work out how to incorporate the ideas we cover into your own plans and find the right opportunity. Because there’s always more that could be done, it can be easy to become overly perfectionist, get caught up with comparisons, and never be satisfied. When using our advice, the aim is not to find the (unknowable and unattainable) perfect option or have more impact than people you compare yourself to. Rather, focus on making steady progress towards the best career that’s practical for you, given your constraints.
Why did we make this change?
Our key ideas series had a more serious tone and was more focused on impact. It represented our best and most up-to-date advice. We expected that this switch would reduce engagement time on our site, but that the key ideas series would better appeal to people more likely to change their careers to do good.
However, the drop in engagement time which we could attribute to this change was larger than we’d expected. In addition, data from our user survey suggested that people who changed their careers were more, not less, likely to have found and used the older, more informal career guide (which we kept up on our site).
As a result, we decided to bring the advice in our career guide in line with our latest views, while attempting to retain its structure, tone, and engagingness.
We’re retaining the content in our key ideas series: it’s been re-released as our advanced series.
Has it been successful so far?
We’ve had positive feedback on the quality of the content in the guide, and we’ve also seen many more people reading this guide than our key ideas series. Since soft launching the guide in May, we’ve seen about a 30% increase in total weekly engagement time on our site.
How can you help?
Please take a look at the guide and, if possible, share it with a friend! You can send them a free copy using this link.
You can also give us some feedback on the guide using this form.
Please bear in mind that the vast majority of people who read the 80,000 Hours website are not EAs. Rather, our target audience for this career guide is the ~100k young adults most likely to have high-impact careers in the English speaking world. In particular, many of them are not yet familiar with many of the ideas that are widely discussed in the EA community. Also, this guide is primarily aimed at people aged 18–24.
Here are the links to the guide again:
- Online version
- Printed book (buy it or sign up for our newsletter)
- Ebook (.pdf or .epub)
- Podcast series
Thank you so much!
(This post is a mildly edited cross-post from the 80,000 Hours website.)
We no longer say it's a mistake not to get transferable career capital. Instead, we focus on "getting good at something that's useful." We also updated the concrete options to be in line with our current views, and added "character" to the components of career capital. Finally, we added a section on which skills are likely to be automated.
The main reason we focus on existential risk is that our best guess is that working on existential risk has a higher impact on the margin than working on other areas as a result of the impact of existential risk on future generations. We try to explain why this is our best guess in the career guide, as well as our longer articles on our definition of social impact, longtermism, and existential risks.