Your most impactful options probably aren’t conventional

Your most impactful options probably aren’t conventional

Don’t be limited by only considering conventional options

Conventional career paths — the ones everyone knows about, like “doctor,” “engineer,” or “lawyer”— often feel dependable, since they’re familiar and presented as high-status.

But these jobs tend to be quite standardized and allow for less autonomy; the paths to them are set, the hierarchies are established, and the patterns are unbreakable.

The fact that people know about conventional jobs also means that more people are applying for them. Since there are so many applicants for each role, people like early-career doctors are replaceable (from the point of view of their employers) and have no bargaining power; they can’t ask for better conditions or opportunities.

And it’s harder to have a huge impact in a conventional path because these jobs are more entrenched. Even if you’re one of the world’s best doctors, you’re unlikely to radically change global health systems. But working in healthcare policy gives you more flexibility – you might be able to find levers that allow you to push for major overhauls and serious improvements in healthcare or medicine.

Taking risks for higher payoffs

We should be altruistically risk neutral, and personally risk averse. (Definition.)

Being altruistically risk neutral

That means that if you had the option of rolling a dice with a 55% chance of doubling how many lives you could save, or the option to keep what you had (), you should choose to roll the die (since it’s ).

Being personally risk averse

In contrast, being personally risk averse makes sense because if you had $1 million, you might not be so quick to gamble that with the same odds as above

Reach high, with a backup

Instead, be ambitious when making career plans and make sure that you have a safe Plan Z — the thing you’ll do if everything else fail.

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