Lessons from the beginning of my career
I did my first software development internship at a tech company when I was 15. Since then, I have invested in myself to improve. During high school, I found a programming society and attended a coding school. Also, I gained more work experience and decided to major in CS. Nevertheless, I still actively question my path. Therefore, I felt the need to learn more about planning my career ⏳
Considering the lack of career education in schools and how essential it is, I thought there must be at least a few more people concerned about it. Fortunately, I was right and I learnt about 80 K hours.
It was introduced to me by Robert Praas. He co-founded a student organization at Erasmus University in Rotterdam that launched an 8-week programme of workshops based on the 80 K philosophy. Together with 4 other international youngsters, we were writing essays, creating plans, but most importantly — scrutinized 80 K concepts and discussed each other’s career decisions and strategies.
Now, that you understand where the idea for an article came from — let’s get to the point. I’ll summarize some concepts from the 80 K book  in connection with my personal context — experience, opinion and understanding. Bon voyage 👋
I have always seen impact as one of the most important components of my career. However, it was never clear what is it and how to measure it.
80 K clearly shows that sometimes instead of working directly for an NGO, you can make even more impact by financing NGOs. Or, you could go for a high-paying job and donate for instance 10% of your income to an effective charity.
Your approach to working on an issue should have correct metrics for expected results and be as less subjective as possible. Let’s take a look at the approaches given by 80 K.
Earning to give
For example — giving 10 % of income to the world’s poorest people. You’ll have the flexibility to choose any problem, hold on to any career path and maybe have more money at the end of the day.
Though, there are concerns — can people stick to it? What if I wouldn’t be motivated to do a high‐earning job? Don’t many high‐earning jobs cause harm?
I think for young people this shouldn’t be the main option. However, it should be a good fit as a backup option.
On the other hand, individuals who are already deep down in their career paths and not in a position that allows them to take risks, could consider that.
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. This action sparked a protest which led to a Supreme Court ruling that segregated buses were unconstitutional.
Advocacy is neglected because it’s uncomfortable to stand up to the status quo, and it’s often difficult to see the effect of your efforts, which makes it less motivating than doing good directly.
Advocacy is also an area where the most successful efforts do far more than the typical efforts in the field.
To focus on advocacy full-time, one should consider political and policy positions, positions with a public platform, positions in the media, also managers and grant‐makers at influential organizations.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that having a way to make impact and measure it in terms of change is vital. For example, if your career is related to medicine, a way to think about your impact could be QALY.
But, the concept of impact can be counter-intuitive. GiveWell estimates that donations to Against Malaria Foundation save a life for only $3,000 (along with other benefits) .
Or one can accidentally save the planet as Stanislav Petrov in 1983, who was on duty in a Soviet missile base. He disagreed to push the button to send a missile strike and saved hundreds of millions lives, as well as potentially averted a nuclear war. 
Think about the worst problems in the world. What are those? And what problems will be the most critical in 2035?
If you want your career to be impactful, those questions should concern you.
But in the modern-day world, where disinformation has never been easier to spread, one can fail to trust correct sources.
80 K offers a framework — a pressing problem can be imagined as a geometric setting measured by 3 values:
In 2015, Bill Gates predicted the pandemic. Back then, global health risks were on a similar scale as climate change, yet it received much less buzz. And, we all know how it all worked out.
Also, due to diminishing returns — people take the best opportunities first, so once a lot of resources have gone into a problem, it becomes harder and harder to make a difference.
Usually, neglected issues are the ones that affect less affluent countries, have a low probability of happening or very few people know about it.
Standing for a problem that is abandoned can be indeed challenging. During the last years of my high school, I’d been quite worried that education in the regional parts of Lithuania is shit.
I started an initiative to push IT education forward. But, I had to be confident that it is actually is a problem and that I can communicate about it. It may feel safer to go with more prevalent problems, as it has more media attention, funds and so forth.
It can be hard to measure the scale of the problem. For example, BBC once suggested that to decrease Britain’s usage of electricity, everyone should unplug their phones when not necessary, which later turned out to save only 0.1 % of the whole energy production.
Scale is important because the effect of activities on a problem is often proportional to the size of the problem.
According to David Anderson, most (perhaps 75 % or more) social programs that have rigorously been evaluated turn out to produce little or no effects, in some cases negative.
So, before you choose a social problem, ask yourself two questions:
- Is there an intervention to make progress on this problem with rigorous evidence behind it?
- If not, can you test new interventions to learn about what works?
If the answer to both of these is no, then it’s probably best to find something else, unless the problem is exceptionally big and neglected.
Also, when designing solutions to a problem, I always think it’s vital to talk to people who work in the field directly and can provide feedback. This can be as easy as typing in some keywords in LinkedIn and start messaging people.
Building/maintaining a career is a skill
I am still trying to cure my anxiety to become the next Mark Zuckerberg and change half of the world. But, studies say most people reach the peak of their impact in their middle age — the average age of a departing S&P 500 CEO was about 60 years old.
Therefore, 80 K argues that two easy-to-make mistakes are:
- Ignoring opportunities to invest in yourself
- Not building flexible career capital that will be useful in the future
I was amazed by the concept of flexible career capital. It’s about — skills (transferable skills, knowledge and personality traits), connections, credentials, runaway (how long you could comfortably live with no income) and so forth.
Moreover, having built a capital allows you to transfer from one path to another smoother and probably ensure a safe future because who knows what the future holds (definitely not people in 50's).
There’s more that I wanted to write about:
- Personal fit and priorities
- Do not trust “People plan. God laughs.”
Therefore, I may also write a follow-up post in the future to discuss these topics.
: 80,000 Hours book
: Full story about Stanislav Petrov — https://www.vox.com/2018/9/26/17905796/nuclear-war-1983-stanislav-petrov-soviet-union