70% of GDP growth in the global economy between now and 2030 will be driven by the machines, according to PwC. This is a near $7 trillion dollar contribution to U.S. GDP based around the combined production from artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and embedded devices. This is the rise of a new machine economy.
For those not familiar with the machine economy, it’s where the smart, connected, autonomous, and economically independent machines or devices carry out the necessary activities of production, distribution, and operations with little or no human intervention. The development of this economy is how Industry 4.0 becomes a reality.
Visionary leaders will implement new technologies and combine them with capital investments in ways that help them grow, expand, diversify, and actually improve lives. These machine economy leaders will operate in a new intelligent systems world in thousands of companies that will drive new economic models globally.
Sounds good so far, but all of that autonomous machinery isn’t going to build and operate itself.
Not enough people to do the work
While most people would agree that manufacturing is an important part of our economy, they aren’t recommending their children pursue that line of work. It’s expected that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs created between now and 2028 will go unfilled. Key drivers for this change include the fact that 10,000 baby boomers retire every day without people to replace them.
The workforce is quickly losing the second-largest age group, and millennials (the largest group) have so far not been attracted to manufacturing jobs at large. Instead they tend to be drawn toward technology, engineering, finance. The underlying issue may be one of perception, as the future of manufacturing will in fact include a much higher degree of technology, engineering, and finance in order to function.
Different skills are needed
Manufacturing jobs are changing. The number of purely manual, repetitive tasks are shrinking as technology advances to handle those jobs with robots and automation. Fifty percent of manufacturers have already adopted some form of automation, and now they need people with critical thinking, programming, and digital skills. Tomorrow’s jobs have titles such as Digital Twin Engineer, Robot Teaming Coordinator, Drone Data Coordinator, Smart Scheduler, Factory Manager, Safety Supervisor, and so on.
The shifts in productivity are happening so quickly, humans can’t keep up with them
An unskilled position can be filled relatively quickly as the prerequisite qualifications are limited. It typically takes months to fill a skilled position, and in most cases much longer for an individual to develop the requisite skills before they even think to apply. One alternative is to lower requirements in terms of education, skill, and experience in order to get someone new in the position, but then companies have to absorb the entire expense of training them.
Meanwhile there is increased pressure to utilize existing people’s and teams’ times and skills as much as possible, which can lead to burnout. This is a tenuous cycle that needs to be fortified by making sure our workforce has the skills training they need, when and where they need it.
In order to thrive in the machine economy, we need to invest significantly in people as well as in infrastructure. Focusing purely on infrastructure might lead to short-term and maybe mid-term profits, but ultimately it is not sustainable, and everyone loses. One can’t simply say, “We couldn’t fill the positions,” while there are people who need work.
Level-up our workforce
The human capacity to learn is basically limitless when individuals are motivated and have access to something to learn. There are several ways to tap into that capacity. First, we need to capture the knowledge and experience of the employees we have, so that those relevant skills can be passed on to the next wave of workers. We also need to ensure relevant training is available for people at every level of the company so that new people get up to speed and tenured employees don’t get left behind.
While some technologies need to be learned on the job, there is a level of foundational skill to understand in the machine economy, in addition to the technical and vocational skills required within a given field. An investment in, and possibly partnerships with, local schools could be a wise move for many companies. Lastly, while college is a great path for many people, it’s not the only form of higher education. Investments in vocational training and apprenticeship programs will be critical for our society to thrive in the machine economy.
Just as workers need to rethink and develop new skills, employers need to rethink and develop new ways of nurturing and attracting talent. To fully realize the promise of the machine economy, it is incumbent upon us to ensure people have access to the training and the tools they need in order to not only be successful but thrive. After all, what’s the point of all this technology if it doesn’t make life better for everyone?
With more than 25 years of experience driving digital innovation and growth at technology companies, Kevin Dallas is responsible for all aspects of the Wind River business globally. He joined Wind River from Microsoft, where he most recently served as the corporate vice president for cloud and AI business development. At Microsoft, he led a team creating partnerships that enable the digital transformation of customers and partners across a range of industries including: connected/autonomous vehicles, industrial IoT, discrete manufacturing, retail, financial services, media and entertainment, and healthcare.
Prior to joining Microsoft in 1996, he held roles at NVIDIA Corporation and National Semiconductor (now Texas Instruments Inc.) in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East in roles that included microprocessor design, systems engineering, product management, and end-to-end business leadership. He currently serves as a director on the board of Align Technology, Inc. He holds a B.S.c. degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.
Digital economy refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies, although we increasingly perceive this as conducting business through markets based on the internet and the World Wide Web. The digital economy is also referred to as the Internet Economy, New Economy, or Web Economy.
Increasingly, the digital economy is intertwined with the traditional economy, making a clear delineation harder. It results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. It is based on the interconnectedness of people, organizations, and machines that results from the Internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT).
Digital economy is underpinned by the spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across all business sectors to enhance its productivity.Digital transformation of the economy is undermining conventional notions about how businesses are structured, how consumers obtain services, informations and goods and how states need to adapt to these new regulatory challenges.
Intensification of the global competition for human resources
Digital platforms rely on ‘deep learning‘ to scale up their algorithm’s capacity. The human-powered content labeling industry is constantly growing as companies seek to harness data for AI training. These practices have raised concerns concerning the low-income revenue and health-related issues of these independent workers. For instance, digital companies such as Facebook or YouTube use ‘content monitor’-contractors who work as outside monitors hired by a professional services company subcontractor- to monitor social media to remove any inappropriate content.
Thus, the job consists of watching and listening to disturbing posts that can be violent or sexual. In January 2020, through its subcontractor services society, Facebook and YouTube have asked the ‘content moderators’ to sign a PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) disclosure after alleged cases of mental disorders witnessed on workers.
OECD (2014-09-16). “The digital economy, new business models and key features”. Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy. OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project. Paris: OECD Publishing. pp. 69–97. doi:10.1787/9789264218789-7-en. ISBN9789264218772.
During the spring wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, almost half of all employees in the UK were working from home at least some of the time. Whilst this was, of course, a scary time for everyone, there was also a sense of banding together, battening down the hatches and maybe even a little excitement at being able to work from home for the first time. Many adapted well to this strange new set-up. Kitchen tables became digital business hubs and spare bedrooms make-shift Zoom boardrooms.
But that was nearly 10 months ago, and the short-term shift to remote working has gradually become a more permanent, fundamental change in the way we work. And many are now realising the potential pitfalls.
Driven partly by the resurgence of the virus following the summer, and also by shifting attitudes of employers who are now realising they can trust their people to get the job done and remain productive without their watchful eye, remote working is here to stay in some capacity. A recently released survey from KPMG showed how 68 percent of CEOs plan on downsizing their offices to reflect this shift, and it seems that what was the most popular employee benefit of the last decade has been fast-tracked some 20 years in the space of 10 months.
That’s all well and good for those who have adjusted well or have properties large enough to accommodate a home office. But not everyone wants to be working from home. Some miss the buzz of the office and the social aspect of a workplace. Others may miss the ‘me time’ that a commute afforded them. Indeed, many new members of the work-from-home community may have contributed to the startling increase in divorce rates and break-ups.
Maybe that open-plan family room wasn’t such a good idea after all. Regardless of which camp you’re in, remote working in some form is here to stay. So how can you make a success of it? Here are some pointers from someone who’s been a member of the work-from-home clan for more than two years now.
Create a dedicated space.
The biggest change that new work-from-homers will need to make as a short-term solution shifts into a permanent new reality is creating a space in their home that’s sole purpose is work.
Kitchen tables, the sofa or cluttered box room just won’t cut it anymore. Even for organisations that switch to a 3-2-2 model or a variation of it (that’s three days in the office, two working remotely and two days off at the weekend), it’d be a struggle in terms of professional mindset to move from office to sofa and maintain the same attitude, output and productivity.
A dedicated space helps create a more seamless transition between workplace and home working. It will induce a professional mindset when you enter and aid focus. This dedicated space should ideally be cut off in some way from distractions and general home noises.
I don’t think I would have been nearly as productive over the last two years if every morning was a trip to the kitchen to turn the laptop on and there I stayed until 6 p.m. That close a proximity to the fridge certainly wouldn’t have helped things either!
Play around with the ambience.
One of the big benefits that many would have enjoyed when starting their first few remote workdays is having total control over the office environment. Radio station? Pick your favourite. Too warm? No need to negotiate opening a window with an always-cold coworker.
For long-term remote working, it’s good to play around with the ambience of your home office to find what works best.
As an example, I always find talk radio is a great backing track for the morning rush to clear the inbox and check on campaigns. But the post-lunch lull requires a lively Spotify playlist at full blast to maintain productivity.
Others find that certain tasks, such as a blog or technical writing, can be easier to focus on with softer background noise such as rain sounds or even a YouTube video of general office background noise (I kid you not, and I’ve tried it, and it does work on occasion).
Have a play around with lighting too. Natural light is always best for alertness and attention, whilst for those who like to work into the evenings, softer lamp light may be less harsh.
Finally, have a think about the temperature of your room. Whilst it’s very tempting to create a snug office that’s always warm, research has found that we tend to lose focus and productivity in rooms that are too warm. After all, if you’re a bit tired after a long drive, you don’t whack the heating on – you open the window for some fresh air.
Force yourself to stay connected.
Remote working presents a challenge to both extroverts and introverts.
For the former, not being surrounded by co-workers, a lack of “real” conversations or office socialising are a real problem when it comes to working from home. They thrive on these interactions and, as such, working alone at home can become frustrating and isolating.
On the flip side, for introverts who likely gravitate toward remote working more naturally, there is a danger of slipping into a mindset that starts to resent or even fear the Zoom or MS Teams call sound after a few hours of peace. For the more introverted, the office forced social interactions. Remote working can quickly see you start to actively avoid the group chats and digital socials.
Whichever camp you may be in – and it can be a bit of both depending on your mood and how fatigued you are – forcing yourself to stay connected is critical for long-term remote working.
And force yourself to stop working, too.
This is probably the biggest problem for the WFH community. For a workforce that was increasingly becoming an ‘always-on’ workforce, working from home has exacerbated the problem – especially when the makeshift workspace was the kitchen table or living room armchair.
But it’s critical for the long-term success of remote working to force yourself to STOP. If your organisation has still enforced a 9-5 or equivalent working hours – just work those hours then shut up shop for the day. If your employers are really forward-thinking and allow for both remote working and flexible hours too, then make sure you’re pacing yourself too.
A recent survey from The Office Group found that working longer hours was the biggest contributor to burnt-out millennials, alongside the inability to separate work and personal life.
Remember, you’re no good to anyone if you burn out from overworking. And it’s detrimental to your physical and mental health. So take a break, try to switch off when your day is done and resist the late-night email check.
The best ways I’ve found to deal with this is actually leaving the house when a particular working shift is done, either to walk the dog or a trip to the shop. It breaks the work mindset and helps you to switch off. Give it a try!
Modus Project Manager Samantha Park sits down with Co-Founder Jay Garcia to discuss how remote life differs at Modus from other organizations, share some of their techniques to make remote work easier, and talk about some of the challenges they’ve experienced working in a non-traditional environment. Ms. Park elaborates on the flexibility and independence that remote work provides, and discusses the expectation and reality of remote work, how to create a work-life balance, and tips for staying focused and on track. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check out our open positions at https://moduscreate.com/careers Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and turn on notifications! https://mdus.co/subscribe Sam on Social Media: Twitter – https://twitter.com/sparkps126 LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/samantham… Blog – https://moduscreate.com/blog Timestamps: 0:24 – Working remotely at Modus 0:50 – Going fully-remote for the first time 1:38 – Dealing with loneliness 2:08 – Expectation vs. reality of remote work 2:33 – Drawing a boundary between work and life 3:29 – The flexibility of remote work 4:14 – Building an office space at home 5:16 – Leading Modus while remote Modus Create is a disruptive consulting firm based on the model of an open-source team dedicated to making the best software on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it. Together with our customers, we build products that empower people with breakthrough services and experience. Modus is always on the lookout for people who want to work in an environment where they are challenged to grow and do great things with awesome people. Think you have what it takes to work with us? Check us out at https://moduscreate.com/careers #workfromhome #remotework #employeeinterview #workculture #collaboration #collaborationtools #creativethinking
UAE Covid vaccine: 60% of education sector staff in Abu Dhabi get jab – Newshttp://www.khaleejtimes.com – Today[…] DON’T MISS: >> UAE Covid vaccination doses cross three million >> UAE minister urges teachers, education staff to get jab The Abu Dhab […] jab The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) said on Saturday that it hosted a vaccination drive in collaboration with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre […] Held between January 17 and 26, the vaccination drive was open to 222 private and charter schools throughout Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Al Dhafr […]6
2020-21 Field (or Remote) Research Assistant Opportunities | Stanford King Center on Global Development kingcenter.stanford.edu – Today[…] SPRING QUARTER Eradicating Cervical Cancer in West Africa (Nigeria) Through Enhanced HPV Vaccination by Employing Comic Book-Based Education (Cardinal Quarter eligible) The purpose of this researc […] The purpose of this research project is to develop and execute a comic book and media-based HPV vaccination education campaign in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country […] Given the COVID-19 pandemic, high quality education about vaccination and its safety and efficacy is even more important than ever, and this project may also investigate […]0
The Future of Convenience Store Design: openforbusiness.ab-net.us – Today[…] Someday, whether the result of vaccination or herd immunity, retailing will begin to look like its pre-pandemic self […]N/A
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URMC email suggested ‘major donors’ could jump vaccine line | WXXI Newshttp://www.wxxinews.org – Today[…] At that moment in time, nobody knew how vaccination would roll out […] Leaders of the Monroe County Vaccination Task Force repeatedly stressed the need for equity, equal vaccine opportunity, and an absence o […] URMC joins a growing list of medical centers across the country that have either offered special vaccination opportunities for donors or flirted with the idea […]130
Vaccination Portal available for over 84 as of 1 Februaryhttp://www.europe.easybranches.com – TodayHOME CYPRUS VACCINATION PORTAL AVAILABLE FOR OVER 84 AS OF 1 FEBRUARY As part of the implementation of the National Vaccination Plan for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health announces that during the 23-29 January week, 7,7 Vaccination Portal available for over 84 as of 1 February Vaccination Portal available for over 84 as of 1 FebruaryVaccination Portal available for over 84 as of […] Consequently, the number of people who have completed their vaccination is 5,551. As of Monday, 1 February, the Vaccination Portal will be available for appointments for people over the age of 84 who have not bee […]0
How Influencers, Celebrities, and FOMO Can Win Over Vaccine Skeptics hbswk.hbs.edu – Today[…] struggled, while many others, such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea, have not even begun their vaccination efforts […] To be sure, the stakes for COVID-19 vaccination are much greater than those for high technology products […] can serve as micro-influencers to other segments by posting pictures on social media of their vaccination cards or themselves actually getting the shot […]2
Getting SA vaccine readyhttp://www.iol.co.za – Today[…] health, Milani Wolmarans, explained that an online database system has been created to monitor the vaccination process […] The system will see healthcare workers being enrolled for the vaccination and application process […] this is done the health worker will receive an SMS and will go with their ID and medical aid to the vaccination centre […]1
Cervical Cancer wellness.metropolisindia.com – Today[…] Other preventive measures are cervical cancer vaccination, practicing safe sex and quit smoking […]N/A
COVID-19 vaccine FAQshttp://www.barnsleyccg.nhs.uk – Today[…] For more information about the COVID-19 vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine Last updated: 26/01/21 How will I be invited for my vaccination? Your GP practice will contact you by telephone or the NHS will contact you by a letter in the post […] You will be instructed which site you need to visit for you vaccination when you are contacted by the NHS. I have been invited to a large vaccination centre but I can’t travel there. Can I wait to have my vaccine in Barnsley? Yes. As more vaccination services become available, you may be invited to one that is outside Barnsley […]N/A
Everyone says it’s important to find a job you’re good at, but no-one tells you how to do so.The standard advice is to think about it for weeks and weeks until you “discover your talent”. To help, career advisers give you quizzes about your interests and preferences. Others recommend you go on a gap yah, reflect deeply, imagine different options, and try to figure out what truly motivates you…then chunder everywhere.
But as we saw in an earlier article, becoming really good at most things takes decades of practice. So to a large degree your abilities are built rather than “discovered”. Darwin, Lincoln, JK Rowling and Oprah all failed early in their career, then went on to completely dominate their fields. Albert Einstein’s 1895 schoolmaster’s report reads, “He will never amount to anything.”
Asking “what am I good at?” needlessly narrows your options. It’s better to ask: “what could I become good at?”
That aside, the bigger problem is that these methods don’t work. Plenty of research shows that it’s really hard to predict what you’ll be good at ahead of time, especially just by “going with your gut”, and it turns out career tests don’t work either.
Instead, the best way to find the right career for you is to go investigate – learn about and try out your options, looking outwards rather than inwards. Here we’ll explain why and how.
Your degree of personal fit in a job depends on your chances of excelling in the job, if you work at it. Personal fit is even more important than most people think, because it increases your impact, job satisfaction and career capital.
Research shows that it’s really hard to work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time, especially through self-reflection.
Instead, go investigate. After an initial cut-down of your options, learn more and then try them out.
Minimise the costs of trying out your options by doing cheap tests first (usually start by speaking to people), then trying your options in the best order (e.g. business jobs before non-profit jobs).
Keep adapting your plan over time. Think like a scientist investigating a hypothesis.
Being good at your job is more important than you think
Everyone agrees that it’s important to find a job you’re good at. But we think it’s even more important than most people think, especially if you care about social impact.
First, the most successful people in a field account for a disproportionately large fraction of the impact. A landmark study of expert performers found that:1
A small percentage of the workers in any given domain is responsible for the bulk of the work. Generally, the top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with around 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of the least productive workers can claim only 15% of the total work, and the most productive contributor is usually about 100 times more prolific than the least.
So, if you were to plot degree of success on a graph, it would look like this:
It’s the same spiked shape as the graphs we’ve seen several times before in this guide.
In the article on high impact jobs, we saw this in action with areas like research and advocacy. In research, for instance, the top 0.1% of papers receive 1,000 times more citations than the median.
These are areas where the outcomes are particularly skewed, but a major study still found that the best people in almost any field have significantly more output than the typical person. The more complex the domain, the more significant the effect, so it’s especially noticeable in professional jobs like management, sales, and medicine.
Now, some of these differences are just due to luck: even if everyone were an equally good fit, there could still be big differences in outcomes just because some people happen to get lucky while others don’t. However, some component is almost certainly due to skill, and this means that you’ll have much more impact if you choose an area where you enjoy the work and have good personal fit.
Second, even if you don’t want to contribute directly, being successful in your field gives you more career capital, which can open up high-impact options later. It also gives you influence and money, which can be used to promote good causes. Think of the example of Bono switching into advocacy for global poverty.
Third, being good at your job and gaining a sense of mastery is a vital component of being satisfied in your work. We covered this in the first article.
Fourth, as we saw earlier, the jobs that are least likely to be automated are those that involve high-level skills, and technology is increasing the rewards for being a top performer.
All this is why personal fit is one of the key factors to look for in a job. We think of “personal fit” as your chances of excelling at a job, if you work at it.
If we put together everything we’ve covered so far in the guide, this would be our formula for a perfect job:
If you’re comparing two career options, you can use these factors to make a side-by-side comparison (read more).
Personal fit is like a multiplier of everything else, and this means it’s probably more important than the other three factors. So, we’d never recommend taking a “high impact” job that you’d be bad at. But how can you figure out where you’ll have the best personal fit?
Hopefully you have some ideas for long-term options (from earlier in the guide). Now we’ll explain how to narrow them down, and find the right career for you.
(Advanced aside: if you’re working as part of a community, then your comparative advantage compared to other people in the community is also important. Read more.)
Why self-reflection, going with your gut and career tests don’t work
Note that after we wrote this article, an updated version of the meta-analysis we cite below was released. The results (in table 2) were similar except that work sample tests seem less promising (though ‘job tryout procedures’, ‘peer ratings’ and ‘job knowledge tests’ remain fairly good and are similar to work samples); and interviews seem more promising. This could suggest a somewhat greater focus on predicting your performance ahead of time by speaking to managers in the relevant path. We hope to do a more thorough review of this research in the future.
Performance is hard to predict ahead of time
When thinking about which career to take, our first instinct is often to turn inwards rather than outwards: “go with your gut” or “follow your heart”.
These approaches assume you can work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time. But in fact, you can’t.
Here’s the best study we’ve been able to find so far on how to predict performance in different jobs. It’s a meta-analysis of selection tests used by employers, drawing on hundreds of studies performed over 85 years.2 Here are some of the results:
Type of selection test
Correlation with job performance (r)
Work sample tests
Job knowledge tests
Job tryout procedure
Years of education
None of the tests are very good. A correlation of 0.5 is pretty weak, so even if you try to predict using the best available techniques, you’re going to be “wrong” much of the time: candidates that look bad will often turn out good, and vice versa. Anyone who’s hired people before will tell you that’s exactly what happens, and there is some systematic evidence for this 3.
Because hiring is so expensive, employers really want to pick the best candidates and they know exactly what the job requires. If even they, using the best available tests, can’t figure out who’s going to perform best in advance, you probably don’t have much chance.
Don’t go with your gut
If you were to try to predict performance in advance, “going with your gut” isn’t the best way to do it. Research in the science of decision-making collected over several decades shows that intuitive decision-making only works in certain circumstances.
For instance, your gut instinct can tell you very rapidly if someone is angry with you. This is because our brain is biologically wired to rapidly warn us when in danger.
Your gut can also be amazingly accurate when trained. Chess masters have an astonishingly good intuition for the best moves, and this is because they’ve trained their intuition by playing lots of similar games, and built up a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
However, gut decision-making is poor when it comes to working out things like how fast a business will grow, who will win a football match, and what grades a student will receive. Earlier, we also saw that our intuition is poor at working out what will make us happy. This is all because our untrained gut instinct makes lots of mistakes, and in these situations it’s hard to train it to do better.
Career decision-making is more like these examples than being a chess grandmaster. It’s hard to train our gut instinct when:
The results of our decisions take a long time to arrive.
We have few opportunities to practice.
The situation keeps changing.
This is exactly the situation with career choices: we only make a couple of major career decisions in our life, it takes years to see the results, and the job market keeps changing.
This all means your gut can give you clues about the best career. It can tell you things like “I don’t trust this person” or “I’m not excited by this project”. But you can’t simply “go with your gut”.
Many career tests are built on “Holland types” or something similar. These tests classify you as one of six “Holland-types”, like “artistic” or “enterprising”. Then they recommend careers that match that type. However, we can see from the table that “Holland-type match” is very weakly correlated with performance. It’s also barely correlated with job satisfaction. So that’s why we don’t recommend traditional career tests.
What does work when finding out where you’ll excel? Trying things out.
In the table above, the tests that best predict performance are those that are closest to actually doing the work (with the interesting exception of IQ). This is probably what we should have expected.
A work sample test is simply doing some of the work, and having the results evaluated by someone experienced. Peer ratings measure what your peers think of your performance (and so can only be used for internal promotions). Job tryout procedures and job knowledge tests are what they sound like.
So if you’re choosing between several options, it’s helpful to do your research ahead of time. But eventually you need to actually try things. The closer you can get to actually doing the work, the better. For example, if you’re considering doing economics research, actually try some research and see how well you do, rather than just think about how much you enjoy studying it – studying a subject is very different from actually doing research.
This is true whether you’re at the start of your career or near the end, and whether you’re planning what to do long-term, comparing two offers, or considering quitting your job.
So, if there’s a job you’re interested in, see if there’s a way to try it out ahead of time. If you’re considering three long-term options and aren’t sure which to take, see if you can try out each of them over the coming years.
If you’re choosing which restaurant to eat at, the stakes aren’t high enough to warrant much research. But a career decision will influence decades of your life, so could easily be worth weeks or months of work.
In your early career, exploration is even more important
Early on you know relatively little about your strengths and options. Once you’ve spent a few years learning more, you’ll be able to make better decisions over the coming decades. It’s better to do this exploration early, if possible, so you can use the lessons later.
Also consider trying one or two wildcards to further broaden your experience. These are unusual options off the normal path, like living in a new country, pursuing an unusual side project or trying a sector you would have not normally have worked in (e.g. government, non-profits, social enterprise).
Many successful people did exactly that. Tony Blair worked as a rock music promoter before going into politics. As we saw, Condoleezza Rice was a classical musician before she entered politics, while Steve Jobs even spent a year in India on acid, and considered moving to Japan to become a zen monk. That’s some serious “exploration”.
Today, it’s widely accepted that many people will work in several sectors and roles across their lifetime. The typical 25 to 34-year-old changes jobs every three years,4 and changes are not uncommon later too.
Trying out lots of options can also help you avoid one of the biggest career mistakes: considering too few options. We’ve met lots of people who stumbled into paths like PhDs, medicine or law because they felt like the default at the time, but who, if they had considered more options, could easily have found something that fit them better. Pushing yourself to try out several areas will help you to avoid this mistake. Try to settle on a single goal too early, however, and you could miss a great option.
All this said, exploring can still be costly. Trying out a job can take several years, and changing job too often makes you look flaky. How can you explore, while keeping the costs low?
How to narrow down your options
You can’t try everything, so before you explore, we need to cut your long-term options down to a shortlist. How best to narrow down? Since gut decision making is unreliable, it helps to be a little systematic.
Many people turn to pro and con lists, but these have some weaknesses. First, there’s no guarantee that the pros and cons that come to mind will be the most important aspects of the decision. Second, pro and con lists don’t force you to look for disconfirming evidence or generate more options, and these are some of the most powerful ways to make better decisions. It’s easy to use lists of pros and cons to rationalise what you already believe.
Here’s the process we recommend for narrowing down. It’s based on a literature review of decision making science and what has worked well in one-on-one advising. You can also use it when you need to compare options to shortlist, or compare your current job against alternatives.
1. Make a big list of options.
Write out your initial list, including both what problem you want to focus on and what role you want e.g. economics researcher focusing on global health; marketing for a meat substitutes company, earning to give as a software engineer.
Then force yourself to come up with more. You can find ideas in our previousarticles. But here are some questions to help you think of more:
If you couldn’t take any of the options on your first list, what would you do?
If money were no object, what would you do?
What do your friends advise?
(If already with experience) how could you use your most valuable career capital?
Can you combine your options to make the best of both worlds?
Can you find any more opportunities through your connections?
2. Rank your options.
Start by making an initial guess of how they rank.
If you have more time, then score your options from one to five, based on:
Supportive conditions for job satisfaction
Any other factors that are important to you.
Career capital, if you’re considering options for the next few years (rather than your long-term aims).
Then, try to cut down to a shortlist. Eliminate the options that are worse on all factors than another (“dominated options”), and those that are very poor on one factor. You can add up all your scores to get a very rough ranking of options. If one of your results seems odd, try to understand why. For each option, ask “why might I be wrong?” and adjust your ranking. This is a very useful way to reduce bias.
3. Write out your key uncertainties
What information could most easily change your ranking? If you could get the answer to one question, which question would be most useful? Write these out. For instance, “Can I get a place on Teach for America?”, “Would I enjoy programming?” or “How pressing is global poverty compared to open science?”.
If you’re stuck, imagine you had to decide your career in just one weekend – what would you do in that time to make the right choice?
4. Do some initial research.
Can you quickly work out any of these key uncertainties? For instance, if you’re unsure whether you’d enjoy being a data scientist, can you go and talk to someone about what it’s like? Or is there something you could read, like one of our career reviews?
At this point, you might have a clear winner, in which case you can skip the next part. Most people, however, end up with a couple of alternatives that look pretty good. At that point, it’s time to explore. But how best to do that?
If you want a more detailed version of the process just above, try our decision tool:
We often find people who want to try out economics, so they go and apply for a Master’s course. But that’s a huge investment. Instead, think about how you can learn more with the least possible effort: “cheap tests”.
The aim is to get as close as possible to actually doing the work, but with the smallest possible investment of time.
You can think of making a “ladder” of tests. For instance, if you’re interested in policy advising, here are the steps you might take:
Read our relevant career reviews and do some Google searches to learn the basics (1-2h).
Then the next most useful thing you can usually do is to speak to someone in the area. The right person can give you far more up-to-date and personalised information than what you’ll be able to find written down (2h).
Speak to three more people who work in the area and read one or two books (20h). You could also consider speaking to a careers adviser who specialises in this area. During this, also find out the most effective way for you to enter the area, given your background. Bear in mind that when you’re talking to these people, they are also informally interviewing you – see our advice on preparing for interviews in a later article.
Now look for a project that might take 1-4 weeks of work, like volunteering on a political campaign, or starting a blog on the policy area you want to focus on. If you’ve done the previous step, you’ll know what’s best.
Only now consider taking on a 2-24 month commitment, like a short work placement, internship or graduate study. At this point, being offered a trial position with an organisation for a couple of months can actually be an advantage, because it means both parties will make an effort to quickly assess your fit.
At each point, you’d re-evaluate whether policy advising was one of your most promising options, and only continue to the next step if it was.
How to explore: order your options well
You can gain more opportunities to explore if you put your options in the right order.
1. Explore before graduate study rather than after
In the couple of years right after you graduate, people give you license to try out something more unusual – for example starting a business, living abroad or working at a non-profit. You’re not expected to have your career figured out right away.
If it doesn’t go well, you can use the “graduate school reset”: do a Masters, MBA, law degree, or PhD, then return to the traditional path.
We see lots of people rushing into graduate school or other conventional options right after they graduate, missing one of their best opportunities to explore.
In particular, it’s worth exploring before a PhD rather than after. At the end of a PhD it’s hard to leave academia. This is because going from a PhD to a post-doc, and then into a permanent academic position is very competitive, and it’s very unlikely you’ll succeed if you don’t focus 100% on research. So, if you’re unsure about academia, try out alternatives before your PhD if possible.
2. Put “reversible” options first
For instance, it’s easier to go from a position in business to a non-profit job than vice versa, so if you’re unsure between the two, take the business position first.
3. Choose options that let you experiment
An alternative approach is to take a job that lets you try out several areas by:
Letting you work in a variety of industries. Freelance and consulting positions are especially good.
Letting you practice many different skills. Jobs in small companies are often especially good on this front.
Giving you the free time and energy to explore other things outside of work.
4. Try on the side
If you’re already in a job, think of ways to try out a new option on the side. Could you do a short but relevant project in your spare time, or in your existing job? At the very least, speak to lots of people in the job.
If you’re a student, try to do as many internships and summer projects as possible. Your university holidays are one of the best opportunities in your life to explore.
“80,000 Hours has nothing short of revolutionised the way I think about my career.”
When Jess graduated from maths and philosophy a couple of years ago, she was interested in academia and leaned towards studying philosophy of mind, but was concerned that it would have little impact.
So the year after she graduated, she spent several months working in finance. She didn’t think she’d enjoy it, and she turned out to be right, so she felt confident eliminating that option. She also spent several months working in non-profits, and reading about different research areas.
Most importantly, she spoke to loads of people, especially in the areas of academia she was most interested in. This eventually led to her being offered to study a PhD in psychology, focused on how to improve decision-making by policy makers.
During her PhD, she did an internship at a leading evidence-based policy think tank, and started writing about psychology for an online newspaper. This meant that she was exploring the ‘public intellectual’ side of being an academic, and the option of going into policy.
At the end of her PhD, she can either continue in academia, or switch into policy or writing. She could also probably go back to finance or the non-profit sector. Most importantly, she’ll have a far better idea of which options are best.
Apply this to your own career: how to explore
Use the narrowing down process above to cut your options down to a shortlist of three to five.
For each option in your shortlist, write out one or two cheap tests that you could do over the next three months.
Then, if you wanted to try out your remaining top options, what would the best order be? Consider just spending several years trying out different areas.
When you need to make your final decision, you can use the narrowing down process again.
If you’d like to find out more about how to make good decisions and predictions, we recommend Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, and Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock.
We like to imagine we can work out what we’re good at through reflection, in a flash of insight. But that’s not how it works.
Imagine that you’re meeting someone for the very first time. Perhaps you’re reaching for the same appetizer at a dinner party. Or maybe you’re seated next to each other on an airplane.
After a little bit of polite chit chat about the charcuterie board or the lack of legroom in your non-exit row, the inevitable question pops up: So, what do you do?
We’ve all answered it, and we’ve all asked it. It’s one of the most oft-repeated conversation starters, and for good reason. Our careers make up a major part of our lives, and this question is a seemingly straightforward way to get a grasp on what makes someone who they are.
But, is it really?
Do You Work To Live, Or Live To Work?
While asking what someone does for a living has become as natural as shaking hands or asking, “How are you?,” is it truly the best way to start an interaction with a stranger?
Or, is it just adding pressure to define ourselves solely by how we earn a paycheck—in a world where our jobs are already bleeding beyond normal working hours?
It seems like the latter might be the case, especially for the younger generations of the workforce. In a survey of more than 2,000 millennials by the Illinois psychiatric center, Yellowbrick, 70% of respondents agreed that they identify themselves only through their jobs.
Some skeptics might think, “Hey, what’s so wrong with that?” You invest a lot of energy and effort into your career, and if you’re beaming with pride about how you make your living, what’s the problem with leaning on that as a concise summary of who you are?
These professional definitions do wonders for your LinkedIn profile, but may be damaging your self-identity.
More Than Just A Job: The Dangers Of Defining Yourself By Your Career
In all honesty, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being proud of your career choices. But, as it turns out, using only your profession as the core of your identity does present some potential risks and pitfalls.
1. It Pigeonholes You Into One Identity
When I was in my freshman year of college, I had an experience that really stuck with me.
I began my education as a musical theatre major. Up to that point, performing was all I had ever done—I never played soccer, joined student council, or written for the school newspaper. I was the girl who did theatre. It defined who I was for as long as I could remember.
After making it through one semester of the musical theatre program, I started to realize that maybe that wasn’t what I wanted to do for a long-term career. The thought alone was terrifying. I vividly remember lamenting to my mom on the phone. “Mom, if I don’t perform anymore, what do I have left? Who am I?”
I found myself trapped in a full-blown identity crisis—all because I dared to think about trying something new.
Maybe you won’t be quite as melodramatic as I was (ahem, there was a reason I was in theatre), but I think a really similar dilemma can hit you in regards to your career.
What if things aren’t going well at work? What if you’re laid off? What if your company shuts down? What if you’re itching to make a change and want to shift to an entirely new position or industry? Then what? You’re left without an identity entirely? That hardly seems fair.
It’s also worth noting that your profession might be a big piece of your life, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of it. Continuously relying on our careers to summarize who we are means we end up robbing people of other interesting pieces of identities.
Just look at Kristen Bell as a celebrity example. She’s a well-known and accomplished actress. But, she’s also a passionate animal rights advocate and the co-founder of a line of eco-friendly baby products. Only describing herself as an “actress” time and time again barely scratches the surface on what makes her who she is.
After all, you might be one heck of an amazing software developer. But maybe you’re also a dog owner, a marathon runner, a dedicated conservationist, and an amateur photographer.
Simply pointing to your career (and only your career!) as a definition of who you are pins you into one category, and then fails to complete the picture.
2. It Doesn’t Leave As Much Room For Connection
A team member at Trello recently attended a dinner party where everyone was required to introduce themselves without mentioning what they do for work.
Sounds tough and even somewhat awkward, right? But the results were impressive.
This team member mentioned that the challenge opened up genuine conversations, as well as an opportunity for real connection over shared hobbies, passions, and experiences.
Without relying on that age-old conversation starter, people were able to bond over topics that probably never would’ve bubbled to the surface had they stopped at, “I’m a financial advisor!” and “Oh, cool. I’m a customer care representative!”
That’s another benefit of defining an identity outside of your career.
It forces you to think outside of your day job and pinpoint other ways you can describe what makes you who you are—and doing so gives you chances to connect with other people who might not know anything about your chosen profession.
Expanding your horizons (and your network!) outside of people who already seem familiar on some level can lead to numerous benefits for you, too—especially when it comes to evolving your own perspective and forging beneficial new bonds.
Just look at this study that was done at Harvard University, where incoming freshmen are assigned their roommates. As a result of these seemingly random assignments, people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and more are put together to live together for the academic year. Tanya Menon, one of the study’s co-authors, explains:
“Some students might be initially uncomfortable, but the amazing thing is, by the end of the year, many of them choose to keep living with their roommates, showing that these random connections between diverse people can result in positive relationships”
3. It Can Lead To Burnout
If something is going to be your source of identity, you understandably want to be phenomenal at it, right? Just think: You’d probably be less likely to tout that you’re a digital marketing analyst to a room full of people if you’re constantly late to the office, barely meet minimum expectations, and are practically on the verge of getting fired.
Don’t get me wrong—wanting to knock your job responsibilities out of the park is positive and admirable. But, doing so just to affirm your identity can be a slippery slope.
Needing to invest so much into your day job means that your career can quickly overtake your other interests, and add increased pressure to be switched into “work mode” at all times (even during evenings, weekends, and vacations!). And, unfortunately, that’s becoming a pervasive problem for most of us.
One 2016 study found that participants spend an average of eight hours each week dealing with email when they’re off the clock. A separate Gallup study found that 23% of the 7,500 employees surveyed report feeling burned out at work very often or always. Another 44% say they feel burned out sometimes.
When your job is your primary source of identity, it’s easy to feel guilt-ridden about investing time and energy into anything else that doesn’t ultimately serve your career progression—as if your hobbies and passions deserve way less importance and emphasis.
That’s a dangerous precedent to set, especially when you need interests outside of the office in order to recharge and lead a balanced life.
So… How Can You Help Change The Conversation?
Here’s the thing: We’ll probably never do away with the “what do you do?” question entirely. It’s ingrained in Western culture and—let’s call it like we see it—your career really does make up a big part of your life (nobody is saying you need to kick it to the curb entirely!).
However, I do think we could all benefit by challenging ourselves to forge identities outside of just how we earn a paycheck.
Fortunately, this is something that you can take action on ASAP—and doing so is actually pretty easy. The next time you’re meeting someone for the first time (whether you’re at a dinner party or trapped in the close quarters of an airplane seat), try to avoid immediately asking a question about their profession, and instead opt for something more open-ended and less career-focused like:
How do you like to spend your free time?
What’s something recent you’re really proud of?
Do you have anything planned for this weekend?
You might just be surprised by the authentic and interesting conversations that blossom from there. Because after all, our careers might be an easy representation of what we do, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story of who we are.