When it comes to evaluating different career options, we often rely on gut feelings. There are too many things to consider. Some of them are salary, potential to gain new skills, opportunity to work with certain people, work-life balance, etc. I will most likely finish my Ph.D. in about a year, so a good time for me to evaluate different career options in a structured way. In this post, I am going to describe a basic framework derived from the guidelines provided in the book 80,000 Hours. This should be helpful to students about to graduate and others who are considering a job switch. I also provide a template at the end that I created to evaluate job options.
Note that, I am not going to cover how to ‘find/list’ good career options. That is a relatively easy part.
This is the first factor we will consider while evaluating our job options. When it comes to happiness, after a point, more money stops being the biggest factor. It is indeed how much impact I can make with my career in the world. We go with the loose definition of impact as making others’ lives better in any way. I briefly summarize the 4 ways of making an impact I discussed in my previous post.
- Earning to give: Earn a lot of money and donate a big chunk of money to good charities.
- Advocacy: Don’t just do it yourself; convince others to make an impact as well. Typically, the advocacy potential is higher in jobs that involve leadership.
- Research: Invent new things or methods that can potentially change the world. Not a scientist? Well, then helping other scientists also counts.
- Direct: Does the job involve direct social services like teaching, working at NGOs, providing medical services, etc?
All jobs have the potential to make an impact. In my template, I assign a number between 0-10 for each job to evaluate the potential of making an impact on each axis. I take an average, and that is my overall impact score.
This is the term used in the book ‘So Good They Can't Ignore You’ by Cal Newport. A small summary in this post. The idea is to never stop growing. The job market keeps changing, so it is important to keep growing in order to not become ‘replaceable’. Besides, being good at our jobs, makes us enjoy it more. There are two factors I consider for career capital.
- Skills: Which skills will I get to improve in this job? How general are those skills? Etc.
- Connections: What kind of people will I have an opportunity to connect with in this job? This is important because connections help us get better jobs or even grow faster in the same jobs.
Same as before, I assign a number between 0-10 for both and take the average as my overall career capital score.
This is not so hard to explain. Most people anyway put high weight on job conditions like salary, vacations, benefits, etc. You can list your own metrics for evaluating job conditions. Here are mine.
- Salary: I would like to live a comfortable life.
- Colleagues: Kind of related to the career capital. Here it is more about how is the work culture. Are the potential colleagues smart? Helpful? Etc.
- Work-life balance: Does the job require more than 40 hours a week? What’s the employer’s overall take on the work-life balance? Are they making explicit efforts to maintain a healthy balance?
The total score is the average of all of the above.
This is the most important factor. You will see that in the final formula, this has been given higher weight as per the guideline in the book. The job option may have great impact potential, career capital potential, and amazing conditions. But, it is of no use if we are not going to do well in that job. The two factors that determine how likely we are to do well are:
- Interest (engagement): Are we super excited about the work? A good signal for this is if we have previously done this work and have experienced zones of high focus.
- Expertise: Based on our current skills, can we do this job reasonably well? Just interest is not good enough for a personal fit. We should have some expertise as well. If not, maybe use this job option as a hobby.
Same as before, the total score for personal fit is the average of above.
Putting it all together
For computing the total score, I use the same formula given in the 80,000 hours book. That is
(Impact + Career Capital + Conditions) x Personal Fit
Yes, personal fit is that important. It simply dominates everything else.
Now, this is not an exact formula. This is more like a starting point. It is better than evaluating the job options entirely in our minds and going with gut feelings. This gives a structure to that thought process. We can, of course, modify the weights for different components or even change the formula completely. I would like to hear some ideas if you have any.
I use this for evaluating a few options after my Ph.D. At this point, I don’t want to share the results. I anyway want to talk to a few people and some experts in those fields to see if they would agree with the numbers I put. But anyway, I think the framework is already worth sharing. So here is a template on google sheets. Make a copy of it and use it as it is or modify it!
I hope this is helpful. Many professionals give career advice in the air. This should hopefully give them a structure to make more convincing arguments. If you like what is presented here, do share it!
BTW, the 80,000 hours is a non-profit. They give this book for free (yes, hard copy shipping as well). Go check it out at https://80000hours.org/
Quote: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” — Stephen Covey