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A Nova way of making a difference with your career

July 8, 2021

Giving value to doing good

Should you go for a career in tech, management consulting, or a completely different thing? If you are like me, you might feel a bit lost in how to approach career planning. There are tons of resources online, yet you would like to approach it in a principled and grounded way. So perhaps a better way of starting to think about career planning is to make a list of things you aim to get out of your career: wealth, security, or even perhaps recognition…

In that list, some of you may have added  “doing good”, or “having an impact”. In fact, it has been empirically shown that being able to see that your job makes a difference increases overall job satisfaction [1]. Actually, the reason why I am writing this post is that I am driven by the idea of making the world a better place, especially since it’s what makes me work hard every day and gives me a sense of purpose (and I believe it can work for you too). Thus, here I aim to answer the question of how to use your career to try, as Dr. William MacAskill title says, “Doing Good Better”.

Moral values

Awesome, now that you’ve decided that you want to do good, the next question is how – doing what, and in what area – should I use my efforts? Again a lot of options may arise: cancer, climate change, education, poverty, inequality… All of them very valuable and worthy of your time. You could just pick the easiest one, but unless you want to stop reading here, let’s explore whether there is a better way: let’s see if we can think of a framework that helps us.

Establishing a framework

Firstly, I would recommend tackling“important” problems, which in the long run may mean helping more people or even maybe having a greater impact.

Secondly, I recommend that you develop your job in an area in which you can move the needle: the easier it is to make progress, the better. Then you can have more tractability of the problem and you will be able to do more.

Finally, the third factor to take into account is that you carry out a role in something where you are not “easily replaced”. And why would you do this? Because this is correlated to neglectedness. If the challenge or problem you will deal with in your job is neglected, then your job may have more impact.  In sum, if the role is not easily replaced and it is actually in an area that is neglected, you can have more impact.

In the next post, I will analyze what kind of careers can help you tackle problems that you consider important, tractable, and neglected.

This post relies heavily on research by, and on ideas by the effective altruism movement.


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