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  • When I graduated from university,

  • I didn't know what career I wanted to choose.

  • I had a lot of interests,

  • but which interest should I pursue and try and turn into a job?

  • So, back then, I was really interested in martial arts.

  • Here's me.

  • But I didn't want to turn that into a career.

  • Here's my face.

  • (Laughter)

  • I was really interested in, and I was studying philosophy,

  • but one of the philosophers I most enjoyed reading -

  • late at night, in my dorm room -

  • recently said,

  • "Philosophy is a bunch of empty ideas,"

  • and there's no job in philosophy, anyway.

  • So that was out.

  • Being a slightly weird kid,

  • I was really interested in investing and finance,

  • and I had even taken a portion of the small savings I had,

  • and invested them into gold when I was a teenager.

  • I knew that following the finance root would be a really well-paid career,

  • but I was wondering, like,

  • maybe I wouldn't make as much difference as I could in that,

  • it wouldn't help society,

  • so in the end, it wouldn't really be that fulfilling.

  • I was left with the question,

  • "How could I choose a fulfilling career?"

  • And, maybe many of you have asked yourself the same question.

  • I thought about this question,

  • I realized I didn't even know how to go about choosing a career,

  • and I, you know, read books, I went to careers advisors,

  • I just couldn't really find the information I really needed:

  • what would I be good at in the end?

  • What skills should I learn now?

  • Which areas is there a great social need where I can make a difference?

  • These unanswered questions led me to,

  • kind of, delay the decision by a few years.

  • Instead of actually settling on a career,

  • I founded an organization dedicated to researching the question

  • of which career to choose.

  • And this organization is called "80000hours,"

  • that's the number of hours you have in your working life,

  • that's a long time,

  • so, it's worth really doing some serious research,

  • and try to work out how best to use them.

  • We help you do some of this research,

  • and we publish all of our findings;

  • it's part of a free online careers guide: 80000hours.org.

  • Here's some of the team today,

  • surrounded by laptops and whiteboards, as normal.

  • So, you might at this point be thinking to yourself,

  • "Well, you hardly look like you're above the legal age to drink,

  • what could you tell me about choosing a career?"

  • Well, it's true that one of the main things we discovered

  • is that we have a lot to learn.

  • Choosing a career is a complex problem and not enough serious research

  • has been done into how best to do it.

  • But we have spent the last three years

  • doing research with academics of University of Oxford,

  • and most importantly,

  • we've coached hundreds of people on how to make real career decisions.

  • All this research and thinking has led us to the conclusion

  • that careers advice today focuses on the wrong thing.

  • Throughout most of history

  • people basically did what their parents did.

  • Some people in the 1980s thought,

  • "The greed is good,"

  • and they focused on making money.

  • But our generation grew up with some different careers advice,

  • and that's that you should follow your passion.

  • You can see that use of this phrase

  • increased dramatically from the mid-nineties.

  • But today I think need to move beyond "Follow your passion,"

  • as the career advice to focus on,

  • and instead of asking what our own interests and passions are,

  • we should be focusing much more

  • on what we can do for other people, and to make the world a better place.

  • Ok, so let's go back to my decision,

  • how would "follow your passion" apply to me?

  • I think what "Follow your passion" tells you to do is three things:

  • the first is to identify your greatest interests;

  • second, find careers that match those interests;

  • thirdly, pursue those careers, no matter what.

  • Finding a fulfilling career

  • is just a matter of having the courage to pursue your passion.

  • In my case,

  • I was interested in martial arts and philosophy, remember?

  • So, which career should I pick?

  • Any ideas?

  • I should obviously become a Shaolin monk -

  • Buddhism and martial arts, together.

  • What's the theory behind this advice?

  • You get passion match,

  • then you really enjoy your work, you're really motivated,

  • so you're more likely to be successful,

  • and if you are successful doing something you're passionate about,

  • then you have a fulfilling career.

  • And, spelled out like that,

  • this really does sound like pretty reasonable advice, right?

  • I can maybe get behind that.

  • But let's just think about it in a bit more depth.

  • Turns out if you follow your passion, you're probably going to fail.

  • Why do I say that?

  • Let's look at the data.

  • A survey of 500 Canadian students found that their greatest passions

  • were ice-hockey and dance.

  • Ninety percent of them were passionate

  • about sports, arts, music, something like that.

  • But if we look at census data we can see

  • that only three percent of jobs are in art, sport, and music.

  • So it just has to be the case

  • that even if only one in ten people followed their passion,

  • still, the majority would fail to be successful.

  • So this first step just doesn't work.

  • I think the second step is also not reliable.

  • In that, even if you match your passion with your work,

  • and you're successful,

  • you can stlll quite easily fail to have a fulfilling career,

  • that's because you might not find the work meaningful.

  • This was a bit like me deciding not to go into finance,

  • I thought, well, I was interested in it,

  • maybe I could be successful but I wouldn't make a difference,

  • maybe it would still end up not being fulfilling,

  • so I think the second step doesn't work either.

  • Now, at this point you might be thinking,

  • "Sure, passion isn't the only thing that matters,

  • if I follow my passion, it doesn't guarantee that I'll succeed,

  • but maybe at least makes me more likely to succeed,

  • and to have a fulfilling career."

  • As a career advice, this is the best we can do.

  • But I think that is wrong as well.

  • Picture to yourself now, the most assertive person you know,

  • who' s really passionate about selling and persuading,

  • and they're really extroverted.

  • Surely someone like that should go

  • and become an advertising accounts manager, like in Mad Men,

  • or they should become a car salesman, or something like that,

  • something which involves selling, being extroverted, and talking to people.

  • Well, it turns out that would be a really bad decision:

  • analysis of a determined study showed

  • that really passionate sales people really persuasive, assertive types

  • who went into those kinds of sales jobs

  • actually ended up more likely to burn out and in fact died younger

  • than normal people who take those jobs.

  • Following their passion actually made them more likely to die.

  • (Laughter)

  • And more generally, researchers have tried to show for decades

  • that there's a strong relationship between interest match

  • and how successful and happy people end up in their work,

  • but so far, they failed to show a strong connection between the two.

  • I think this isn't because your interests just don't matter,

  • but it's just that when it comes to real career decisions,

  • your interests are just not a decisive factor,

  • other things matter much more,

  • like what your skills are, and what your mindset is.

  • Indeed, we think our interests matter a lot more than they do,

  • because we really underestimate how much they change:

  • just think about your own interests five or ten years ago,

  • and how different they are from today.

  • I mean, back then, you're probably this tall,

  • and you're probably interested in completely different things.

  • Five or ten years time,

  • you will be interested in totally different things again.

  • All this means that your present interests

  • are just not a solid basis on which to chose a career.

  • So, if we're not going to focus on interests,

  • what should we focus on?

  • If you're not just going to follow your passion,

  • what should you do instead?

  • If I had to sum up careers advice as a single slogan,

  • here's what I would choose: "Do what's valuable."

  • By this I mean

  • focus on getting good at something that genuinely helps others,

  • and makes the world a better place.

  • That's the secret to a fulfilling career.

  • Now, obviously doing what's valuable is going to be better for the world,

  • you're going to do more good like that,

  • but people have also thought for millennia

  • that helping others is the secret to be personally fulfilled and happy.

  • I've just got a representative couple of quotes here

  • just read out the first one:

  • "A man true wealth is the good he does in this world."

  • Today we actually have hard data to back this up.

  • Professor of Psychology Martin Seligman in his 2011 book: Flourish,

  • aimed to sum up the last couple of decades of empirical research

  • into what really causes people to be satisfied and happy in their lives.

  • And two of the key ingredients he identifies

  • just are doing what's valuable.

  • The first of these is achievement, or sometimes called mastery,

  • and this means getting really good at something,

  • working hard and getting good at something.

  • The second is meaning, also called purpose,

  • and this means striving to do something greater than just make yourself happy,

  • so it means making the world a better place.

  • Put the two together,

  • get good at something it makes the world a better place,

  • do what's valuable.

  • I think, doing what's valuable has lots of other personal benefits as well.

  • For instance,

  • even if you work in a charity, the people who have the greatest impact,

  • do the most valuable things,

  • find it easier to raise fundings, and therefore pay their bills,

  • and that's important, too.

  • I have at least found in my own experience,

  • if you focus on helping others, then lots of people want you to succeed,

  • so it's actually easier to be successful as an altruist

  • compared to just being in it for yourself.

  • So, it now turns out that actually the advice "Follow your passion,"

  • just gets things backwards.

  • Rather than start from what we happen to be passionate about now

  • and then hope that success and a fulfilling career will follow,

  • instead, it's much more true to say

  • that we should focus on doing what's valuable,

  • and then that will lead to passion and a fulfilling career.

  • I've definitely found this in my own experience.

  • If when I was 16, you had given me this careers test:

  • "Would you like to give career guidance to people?"

  • I'd have clicked the "Hate it" button.

  • I was pretty shy and into science,

  • and the idea of giving careers advice to people was not appealing at all.

  • But now I spend all of my time thinking about careers advice,

  • and am absolutely obsessed and fascinated by it.

  • Focusing on doing what's valuable

  • has given me clear, concrete, meaningful goals,

  • and that's made my life a lot better.

  • There's no more endless reflection

  • on which of my interests represents my true calling,

  • which doesn't exist anyway.

  • So, how can you actually do what's valuable in your careers,

  • what practical steps should you follow?

  • This is what we spend most of our time

  • trying to work out at 80000Hours,

  • I'm just going to give you a super-quick summary

  • of three things we'd say that you can do.

  • The first of these is to explore,

  • learn what you can about the world,

  • and test yourself out in different things.

  • If you want to do what's valuable,

  • you have to discover that out there in the world,

  • you can't figure it out just by thinking about your own interests.

  • Secondly, go after some skills, and try and get good at them,

  • these are skills that are really in demand,

  • and can be used in many different areas.

  • I might pick computer programming as an example for the next decade.

  • This bit is where your passions do come in,

  • thinking about your passions does come in.

  • Because what you're passionate about now

  • can give you clues about what you can get really good at in the future,

  • so that's worth thinking about,

  • but they're not the only thing that matters.

  • And then when you get those skills,

  • go and find the biggest, most pressing social problems