Career exploration: when should you settle?

Suppose you’ve researched different career paths, and now need to make a choice:

  1. ‘Settle’: commit to the path that seems best now.
  2. Explore: try other paths with the hope of finding something even better.

What should you do?

Steve Jobs liked to say you should “never settle,” but there’s a real balance to be struck between exploring and committing.

Many hope to be able to find and commit to their career calling right away, but this is rarely possible because it’s so hard to predict where you’re going to succeed in the long term.

Rather, you should approach your career like a scientist doing experiments. This means you should be prepared to test out several paths, if possible.

While everyone would ideally do some career exploration, the interesting question is how much you should plan to explore, and how best to balance the costs of exploring with its upsides.

There’s been plenty of research in decision science, computer science, and psychology that can help us answer this question. In this article, we combine these findings with what we’ve learned from advising people one-on-one, and summarise some of the bottom lines.

We’ll argue that if you want a career that’s not only satisfying but has a significant positive impact — our focus at 80,000 Hours — then the value of exploration is even higher.

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