Writing about your job is (still) great — consider doing it

Many of us know very little about what people in different roles actually do or how they got there. There’s a good chance that you have experience that other Forum users would be interested in; so consider writing about your job! (Especially since Career Conversations Week is starting.)

Here are some existing “job profile” posts that you can explore.

(This post is somewhat redundant with Aaron’s, but I hope it’s a useful reminder.)

Why write about your job

Jobs are mysterious, and it’s pretty hard to get good information about jobs that you don’t happen to know about already.

I can present my experience as evidence for this claim. When I was finishing college, I was pretty clueless about my post-college options and kind of defaulted to graduate school (which was the main thing I knew).[1] I had realized my lack of knowledge was a problem, so I asked friends for advice. Someone told me to go on LinkedIn and check people’s backgrounds — and to reach out to people and ask for meetings. I did the former and found it helpful, but it could only do so much; I still didn’t understand the day-to-day of what an “analyst” did and whether it would be a good fit. And I was too worried about wasting people’s time to reach out for calls (except in my more limited personal network, which was heavily skewed towards academic mathematicians and adjacent crowds). I still had a picture-book understanding of jobs. The thing that really helped was talking to people at conferences and informal events later — asking about their backgrounds, what they liked, etc.

A page from Kellen Hatanaka’s Work: An Occupational ABC (see a review)

The fact that jobs are mysterious to you (especially jobs that are somewhat plausible given your values, strengths, etc.) hampers your career.

You probably won’t apply to jobs you know little about, won’t know how to build relevant skills, might end up in jobs you dislike, etc. And I expect jobs that EA Forum users have are often more likely a good fit for another Forum user than a random job would be (if only because many Forum users share some values, like wanting to use their careers or resources in significant part to have a positive impact on the world), so hearing about other Forum users’ careers can be particularly helpful.

Some specific ways an “about my job” post can help:

  1. Improve someone’s longer-term career plan

    1. You might write about a job that’s a great fit for one of your readers (or that they hadn’t realized was very useful), but that they hadn’t even considered as an option.

    2. You might share that you think certain skills are particularly useful for your type of career, and interested readers can try to test those skills.

    3. You can share what you like and dislike about your job, and how much you care about those things, which can inform someone who’s not sure if they’d enjoy a certain type of work.

    4. Etc.

  2. Make someone feel a lot better

    1. When someone can’t see themselves in the jobs that they’re familiar with, they can feel like they will never “fit” a job, or like they’ll never have an impact.

      1. For instance, before I encountered EA, I was probably on an academic path, but pretty sad about this fact. My skills were much more generalist than those of some of the mathematicians I knew, and I knew few real generalists. I thought that my lack of highly specialized interests/​skills (or my generalist quality) was almost entirely a disadvantage (until I worked at Rethink Priorities and talked to people there).

    2. Impostor syndrome and fear of failure also grow because we rarely talk about the lower points in our past; “about my job” posts can provide useful and encouraging context (e.g. by showing that “successful” people have felt like they weren’t succeeding in the past).

  3. Connect with someone

    1. For instance, a reader could be interested in collaborating with you and might reach out after you post.

    2. Or people in your network will just develop a better understanding of what you do, which can lead to future partnerships or more efficient interactions.

Notes & tips on writing about your job

  1. For which jobs are “About my job” posts useful?

    1. I’d be surprised if you reached out to me to ask whether I thought that it would be useful for you to write about your job, and I said no. (Feel free to reach out, though.)[2]

    2. Example careers I’d be excited to hear about: someone working in a non-EA think tank, a research manager, people earning to give in various professions, someone who does “outreach” of various kinds, donor coordinators, etc.

  2. Does a post like this have to be long?

    1. No (and people can ask questions if they want more information).

    2. Here are some “job profile” posts that are short and still useful:

      1. Data scientist

      2. CLR grantee/​visiting researcher at CSER

      3. This “quick take” from me is basically a job profile (I’d be happy to see a post like this go up!)

      4. (Note: I think Job Profile posts can be even shorter!)

  3. What are some good things to include in a post like this?

    1. Aaron covers a lot of this here. I’d lean towards including:

      1. A bit about what your job actually entails

      2. Your background — how did you get here?

      3. Reflections on your job, if you have any — what do you value about it? What’s hard? Who do you think would do well at it? Etc.

  4. There are lots of examples here!

    1. And I’m hoping to post about my job ~tomorrow.

This post is part of the September 2023 Career Conversations Week. You can see other Career Conversations Week posts here.

  1. ^

    For pure math, which I then deferred and didn’t go to.

  2. ^

    You might want to check the existing set of Job Profile posts for something that’s very similar, but I wouldn’t worry about it (except to save yourself time); jobs have changed over time, people’s experiences in similar jobs are very different, and the fact that a post is coming now and from you might be relevant & useful information.