80,000 hours, that’s how many hours we typically spent working over a lifetime, according to Benjamin Todd and the 80,000 hours team. They have published a book/ebook on how to make the best of it.
Their advice for a dream job: Look for
work you’re good at,
work that helps others,
supportive conditions: engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow; supportive colleagues; lack of major negatives like unfair pay; and work that fits your personal life.
The book discusses strategies to build a career plan, and a career. The main text closes with this summary:
Explore to find the best options, rather than “going with your gut” or narrowing down too early. Make this your key focus until you become more confident about the best options.
Take the best opportunities to invest in your career capital to become as badass as you can be. Especially look for career capital that’s flexible when you’re uncertain.
Help others by focusing on the most pressing social problems rather than those you stumble into – those that are big in scale, neglected and solvable. To make the largest contribution to those problems, consider earning to give, research and advocacy, as well as direct work.
Keep adapting your plan to find the best personal fit. Rather than expect to discover your “passion” right away, think like a scientist testing a hypothesis.
And work with a community.
In an appendix, the authors advise (potential) undergraduates to
aim for the most fundamental, quantitative option you can do i.e. one of these in the following order: mathematics, economics, computer science, physics, engineering, political science / chemistry / biology,
focus on developing communication skills in philosophy, history or English.
The best choice is a combination. There is high demand for people who can understand quantitative topics and communicate clearly.
Appendix 8 contains useful career review summaries with “facts on fit” and “next steps” (see also this link for updates). For example, the authors advise that
[a]n economics PhD is one of the most attractive graduate programs: if you get through, you have a high chance of landing a good research job in academia or policy – promising areas for social impact – and you have backup options in the corporate sector since the skills you learn are in demand (unlike many PhD programs). You should especially consider an economics PhD if you want to go into research roles, are good at math (i.e. quantitative GRE score above 165) and have a proven interest in economics research.
But they warn that an Economics PhD takes a long time and
[d]oing highly open‐ended research provides little feedback which can be demotivating.
A final appendix discusses areas where people who want to help others possibly can have a large impact. As very promising areas, the authors identify
- Climate change (extreme risks),
- Factory farming,
- Global priorities research,
- Health in poor countries,
- Land use reform,
- Nuclear security,
- Risks posed by artificial intelligence,
- Smoking in the developing world, as well as,
- Promoting effective altruism (the movement related to the book).