14Joined Feb 2021


Thanks, Michael! It's taken me a while to respond to this because I'm still going through all the links you sent. I’m glad to have so many reading directions to explore. One thing that’s stood out to me so far is the section on mental health in 80K’s "All the evidence-based advice we found on how to be more successful in any job," which motivated me to rethink how much time and energy I should invest in that area.

As I mentioned in another comment, I think I have a good idea of the day-to-day of software engineering. Research not so much, and I do hope to get some experience in that direction soon. I’ll also be thinking about your other suggestions about exploring other career paths and adapting the paths I’m on.

Thanks! I hadn't read that post, and it's definitely related to what I'm thinking about.

I don't have any real experience with AI research, so I won't claim to know how interesting I would find that in particular. The thing that concerns me most is that as a kid I really enjoyed programming—and reading programming books—in a way I don't anymore, even when I do it for fun.

I have a tough time getting immersed in it now. It's hard to tell whether that's from my interests shifting elsewhere, or me accumulating more responsibilities/worries/stressors, or if it's just novelty wearing off.

Thanks for making this thread—I was waiting for something like this! I'm not sure if the advice I'm looking for is on career planning in the usual sense, but your many reassurances have convinced me to give it a go anyway :)

My story begins a few months ago, when I realized I had never actually read 80,000 Hours’ top recommended career paths, and a few of them were things I didn’t know about that would be good fits for me. Doh! That discovery sent me into career crisis spiral of doom.

The good news is that I have high-impact career paths available to me—I’m a computer science student, this is well-trodden ground—in AI safety research and earning to give as a software engineer.

I know what I need to do. The bad news is I’m intensely doubting my ability to do it.

When I think about the researchers and engineers I know who’ve succeeded a step above where I am, I’m doubtful that I can measure up to their intelligence; but I’m even more concerned that they seem to be more interested and motivated than I am. I feel viscerally excited about the goals of EA, but I can’t often transfer that into excitement for writing code or reading a textbook. And in the absence of excitement, I’m not sure I have the focus or perseverance that I’d need to either do meaningful research or succeed at the highest impact paths in earning to give.

Part of me thinks: I am not yet a god. Am I creating needless guilt for myself? Am I making a futile effort to force myself into doing something I will never care much about and so will never be good at? I do seem to be below-average at forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do. And, aside from its other good effects, being interested in your work sure is good for productivity—maybe I should just focus on trying to find work I can be more excited about?

Those are the thoughts that make it very difficult for me to take the concrete career steps that are staring me in the face.

Another part of me says:  The reality of work is that it's not something you do because it’s exciting, it’s something you do because it’s useful—surely everyone feels that way. And what better option do I have? The thing I am naturally excited to work on is usually art, and the paths I see to doing good in art are pretty shaky.

Every resource I’ve looked at—including the 80,000 Hours worksheet, on which I just yesterday threw in the towel—seems to be aimed at helping me identify high-impact career paths. I guess I'm looking for some sort of reassurance or accountability, and I feel like I’m stumbling in the dark. I was sad to see that EA Oxford’s career advising is temporarily closed, my own school’s is not yet open, and 80k’s career advising is quite selective and not aimed at students.

If anyone feels like they have some advice to share, or maybe is in a similar situation, I'd love to hear from you! Would be happy to share more details by PM.