80,000 Hours is a non-profit that provides research and support through evidence-based research to help people switch into careers that effectively tackle the world’s most pressing problems. This checklist was created using their career guide from 2017, some of which has changed post COVID-19 but all they do is built on scientific research.
Who's this for?
This checklist is for anyone aged 20-35, or those who are considering a new career (let's be real, that's a lot of us right now!).
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How To Be Successful In Any Job - Evidence-Based Advice by 80k Hours
1. Take care of yourself
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a well-balanced diet of fresh food
- Maintain your closest friendships
- Say no to requests unless you can spare energy and time
2. Make health your first priority
- Consider evidence-based health advice
- Exercise every day
- Set up your desk for proper posture
- Learn how to sit correctly
- Stay active and regularly change positions
3. Apply scientific happiness research
- Rate your happiness at the end of each day.
- Start a gratitude journal
- Learn and use your signature strengths.
- Learn basic cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- Practice mindfulness
- Do something kind each day, like donating to charity, giving someone a compliment, or helping someone at work.
- Practice active constructive responding to celebrate successes with others.
- Adopt the growth mindset. If you believe you can improve your abilities, you’ll be more resilient to failure and harder working. See the book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, which reviews this research and discusses how the mindset can be learned.
- Craft your job. In an earlier article we covered the ingredients of a satisfying job. Often it’s possible to adapt your job so that it involves more of the satisfying ingredients, and less of what you don’t enjoy. It could be as simple as trying to spend more time with a friend at work.
- It can also be possible to find more meaning in your work. Adam Grant did a study of fundraisers for university scholarships. He found that introducing them to someone who had benefited from the scholarships made them dramatically more productive.8 This is especially important if you’re pursuing a more abstract way of doing good, like earning to give. How can you make it seem more vivid?
- Job crafting exercises have been evaluated in trials and found to have positive effects. Here is a review of some of the research. Here is a more practical introduction.
4. Improve your basic social skills
- Succeed Socially.com | Free Social Skills Guide For Adults
5. Surround yourself with great people
- Practical tips on how to build connections
6. Consider changing where you live
7. Use these tips to save more money
- Save automatically. Set up a direct debit from your main account to a savings account, so you never notice the money.
- Focus on big wins. Rather than constantly scrimping (don’t buy that latte!), identify one of two areas of your budget you could cut that will have a big effect. Often cutting rent by moving somewhere smaller or sharing a house with someone else is the biggest thing.
- Beware of swapping money for time. Suppose you could save $100 per month by moving somewhere with an hour longer commute. Instead, maybe you could spend that time working overtime, making you more likely to get promoted, or earning extra wages. You’d only need to earn $5/hour to break even with the more expensive rent.
- Until you have six months’ runway, cut your donations back to 1%.
- For more tips, check out Mr Money Mustache and Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You to be Rich. Unfortunately, the tone of these is not for everyone, but they have the best tips we’re aware of.
8. Try out this list of ways to become more productive
- Use “implementation intentions”
- Imagine yourself failing to achieve the goal
- Work out why you failed
- Modify your plan until you’re confident you’ll succeed.
- Set up a system to track all your small tasks, like a simplified version of the Getting Things Done system
- Do a five-minute review at the end of each day.
- Each week, take an hour to review your key goals, and plan out the rest of the week.
- Batch your time
- Be more focused by using the Pomodoro technique.
- Build a regular daily routine
- Set up systems to take care of day-to-day tasks to free up your attention, like eating the same thing for breakfast every day.
- Block social media
9. Learn how to learn
10. Be strategic about how to perform better in your job
- How can you perform better in your job? As we covered earlier, being good at your job brings all kinds of other benefits – you’ll have better achievements and connections, boosting your career capital; you’ll gain a sense of mastery, making you more satisfied, and you’ll have more positive impact.
- Working harder helps – if you can go 10% beyond what everyone else is doing, that’s often all that’s needed to stand out. But it’s better to work smarter rather than harder.
- One key question to ask is “what is really required for advancement in this position?” It’s easy to get distracted, but there are often only a few things that really matter. For a salesperson, it’s the revenue they bring in. For an academic, it’s how many good papers they publish.
- Talk to people who have succeeded in the area, and try to identify what this key thing is. Don’t just trust what they say, work out what they actually did. Then, using the material in section 10, figure out how to master it. Try to cut back on everything else.
11. Use research into decision-making to think better
- Another example of a skill that’s useful in every job, but not usually discussed, is good thinking. Recent research suggests that intelligence and rationality are distinct – perhaps that’s why smart people make so many dumb decisions – but fortunately, rationality is easier to train.
- Clear thinking is also especially important if you want to make the world a better place. As we show in the rest of our guide, having a big social impact requires making lots of tough decisions and overcoming our natural biases.
- So, how can you become more rational?
- Partly it involves building up better habits of thinking. Decades of research have shown that we often make bad decisions due to cognitive biases, such as those mentioned here. You can read more about this research in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
12. Consider teaching yourself these other useful work skills
- Which skills are best to learn?
- Analysis, including decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving. https://80000hours.org/career-guide/how-to-be-successful/#12-use-research-into-decision-making-to-think-better
- Learning new skills and information. https://80000hours.org/career-guide/how-to-be-successful/#10-learn-how-to-learn
- Udacity - Free Online Classes & Nanodegrees | Udacity
- Coursera | Online Courses & Credentials by Top Educators. Join for Free
- Social skills, including spoken communication, active listening, social perceptiveness, and persuasion. https://80000hours.org/career-guide/how-to-be-successful/#5-improve-your-basic-social-skills
- by Neil Rackham. It sounds terrible, but it’s actually the most evidence-based resource we found.
- Influence by Robert Cialdini aims to summarise what psychology research can tell us about persuasion.
- To Sell is Human by Dan Pink also looks at what research can say about how to sell.
- Getting Past No by William Ury is one of the classic books on negotiation techniques.
- Management, including time management, monitoring performance, monitoring personnel and coordinating people.
- A good introduction to basic management is the Manager Tools “Basics” | Manager Tools
- Good management is based on coaching, and a good introduction to that is Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore
- There are lots of useful management processes, including The 4 Disciplines of Execution
- Which combinations of skills are best?
13. Take these steps to master a field and make creative contributions
- To become an expert you need four things
- Talent for the area.
- The right training techniques and mentorship.
- 10 to 30 years of focused practice.
- So how should you choose where to focus?
- Find out what most motivates you. Being motivated is necessary for success (although not sufficient).
- Find out where you improve fastest. Rapid improvement is one of the key signs of talent.
- Speak to experts and ask for an honest assessment of your potential.
- If available, look for objective predictors of success, e.g. getting into a top PhD programme is a predictor of success in research; in some sports you need to start by a certain age. Apply the material on making better predictions that we covered in section 12 above.
- Once you identify an area where you have unusually good potential, it may be time to commit. At that point, apply all the research about how to learn effectively that we covered in section 10 on learning how to learn.
- Be prepared for years of hard work, but bear in mind that your interest in the area will probably grow as you gain mastery, and you start to use your skills to help others.
- More about how to develop expertise
14. Work on becoming a better person
- Take time to reflect on your values and goals
- Learn about what else has been written about being a good person
- Buddhism and Modern Psychology | Coursera
- Build character day-by-day
- The Two Adams | Bill Gates
- Occasionally, really challenge yourself – change job to help others, give more, or take a stand for an issue. You could set yourself one big moral challenge each year.
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