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Summary

  • This is a summary of the post, but it’s not like that matters to you as an overanxious job seeker because you’ll just meticulously spend 3hrs reading the whole post several times.
     
  • Definitely spend too long thinking about the pros and cons of applying to every opportunity (e.g., all jobs, grants, degree programs, or internships). Assume the initial application will take you a lot of time, and they probably think you suck anyways, so you’re probably just wasting everyone’s time, so why bother?
     
  • If you somehow end up applying to stuff and have to choose whether to take it, you’ve already messed up, but we suggest multiple techniques to get you back on track to not actually making a decision in any reasonable amount of time.
     

Never apply to things!

If someone wants to test their fit for a given line of work or build their career capital, our key recommendation is to never apply to anything so that you never actually get a chance to test your fit. Remember that you’re only a failure if you actually get rejected from a job offer, and you can always maintain a self-image of being successful if you just never apply to anything. Why shatter this self-image?

Rather than apply, just spin your wheels endlessly reading up on an area, doing independent projects, taking little courses, etc! These things can easily take years, and everyone else you’d be competing against has already spent approximately thirty years reading everything there is to read on every subject, so it’s hopeless to apply to anything if you haven’t already done this, so why bother?

Also, recall that applications are just black box processes where there will be absolutely no relevant learning about yourself or the wider world of opportunities. And if you’re rejected once, that likely means you’ll be rejected from everything, so you should just stop right there.


How many things should I apply to, and how much time should I spend thinking?

Our rough suggestion is to:

  1. Apply for something like 0 opportunities per year when actively seeking work
  2. Apply for something like 0 opportunities per year even when planning to not leave your current role
    • Since 0 of those 0 things might turn out, on further reflection, to be worth changing your plans for, and/or you might learn a lot from applying or be able to defer an offer

       

How do I decide between multiple options?

Let’s say you do end up getting a job offer somehow, despite never applying to anything.

So now you’re asking – how do you decide whether to take it? Or how to decide between multiple options?

At this point, more analysis will be needed, such as doing a PhD-level 150-page paper about whether or not to do a PhD.

First, we recommend interviewing at least 40 people and just asking them “What should I do?” with no additional detail. While interviewing these 40 people, it’s often good to imagine their lives and what they would do in your situation. In fact, keep imagining their lives and just don’t stop, so you no longer have to experience what it is like to be you. This is often better.

Throughout this process, you should track where your preferences go over time, and always oscillate between 51% and 49% at an exact average rate. Another key thing you can do here is ask your current boss to make the decision for you but when she says “but it’s a life decision, you make this decision!”, just quit on the spot.
 

Decision matrix

Some people suggest using a decision matrix here to clarify your options. We suggest creating such a matrix with different factors, but be sure to change the weight of different factors so that all your options achieve exactly the same score, and thus you can continue to agonize over your options endlessly.

Also when designing the decision matrix, make sure to never take into account any personal factors, because you’re focused on IMPACT! Who cares if you’re depressed for the first two years of your new role?
 

WRAP method

A more specific method to use is the WRAP method from the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. This method has the steps: (1) Widen Your Options, (2) Reality-Test Your Assumptions, (3) Attain Distance Before Deciding, and (4) Prepare to be Wrong.

Here’s our advice on the implications of each step:

  • Widen your options: Are you sure you’ve considered the full range of options? Is it worth trying to get a job when you could be trying to hang out with the heads of various AGI labs and aim to marry them?
     
  • Reality test your assumptions: This step can often just be skipped, in favor of more overthinking. Never try to actually do the thing that you would do in the new role and instead always analyze only from first principles.
  • Attain distance before deciding: This of course refers to literal physical distance, so you should calculate the geographic midpoint of the offices of the organizations giving you job offers and then aim to get at least 3000 miles away from that midpoint. We especially recommend going deep into a forest and never returning.
  • Prepare to be wrong: This point is obvious because you will be wrong.
     

Most people at this point just WRAP themselves in blankets and play a little WRAP battle in their heads between Stuart Russell and Yann LeCun about AI timelines (see appendix) while eating a lot of WRAPs obsessively.

The remainder of this process is to agonize over your options over several months, change your minds every day, then make a decision on a whim in the middle of the night after having a nightmare about making the least optimal decision.

After all, recall that we’re optimizing for literally the “best decision possible” - it’s a totally achievable goal! And doing anything less than the best decision possible means you’re literally happy with killing people. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

This is why the best thing to do is just not apply in the first place. It’s a lot of stress, so just don’t bother.

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