A List of Things For People To Do

A re­cent post on this fo­rum made it com­mon knowl­edge that it is re­ally hard to get em­ployed at an EA or­gani­sa­tion. This has kick­started dis­cus­sion of what peo­ple should do (see also dis­cus­sion on Cause Y). I thought it might be use­ful to gather var­i­ous sug­ges­tions to­gether and add a few of my own:

Broad­en­ing the Range of Jobs Con­sid­ered: Per­haps peo­ple are be­ing too nar­row in the range of jobs that they are con­sid­er­ing? Aaron points out that the 80,000 hours job board con­tains hun­dreds of jobs, many out­side of the tra­di­tional EA orgs. Beyond that he sug­gests look­ing Tom Wein’s col­lec­tion of job boards. He notes that even jobs that might not be the most effec­tive in and of them­selves still adds ex­per­tise into our com­mu­nity. Th­ese jobs may also provide the kind of ex­pe­rience that al­lows you to get hired at an EA org.

Earn-to-Give: There has been a lot of dis­cus­sion about EA be­ing tal­ent rather than fund­ing con­strained. How­ever, this seems to mostly ap­ply to es­tab­lished orgs; big donors are re­luc­tant to take risks on newer pro­jects un­less the founder has already de­vel­oped a track record. Smaller scale donors can help fill this gap by fund­ing pro­jects in­volv­ing peo­ple who they know per­son­ally and who they are hence in a bet­ter po­si­tion to eval­u­ate. This sug­gests that a rea­son­able num­ber of peo­ple should earn-to-give even if their po­ten­tial dona­tion is smaller rel­a­tive to the big­ger donors.

One of the key is­sues with ETG is that many peo­ple don’t find it mo­ti­vat­ing. One solu­tion I’ve heard sug­gested is to make fun­ders more of a part­ner in a pro­ject, such as by in­clud­ing them so­cially and list­ing them on the team page (see The Re­v­erse Job).

Profit­ing-To-Give: Another sug­ges­tion was that EA should start its own for-profit or­gani­sa­tions as this would al­low in­di­vi­d­u­als to di­rect more money to char­ity than work­ing in a reg­u­lar or­gani­sa­tion. Per­son­ally, I think the great­est im­pact here would be when such or­gani­sa­tions can do some pro-bono work—ie. an EA con­sult­ing firm do­ing some con­sult­ing for EA orgs or an EA law firm filing pub­lic in­ter­est cases.

Niche Skil­lsets: Khor­ton sug­gests that there are many skills that 1-5 EAs should de­velop skills in. This would provide in­for­ma­tional value in terms of whether more EAs should de­velop those skills, as well as re­duc­ing the chance of EA miss­ing key con­sid­er­a­tions.

Start­ing your own pro­ject: You might want to con­sider ap­ply­ing for the EA Ho­tel, EA Grants or Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship. See also: Pro­jects I’d Like to See

Join­ing early stage pro­jects: Rae­mon ar­gues that the ma­jor con­straint on EA is be­ing net­work-con­strained. Early stage orgs have to work with peo­ple that they know be­cause they don’t have the time to en­gage in an ex­ten­sive search and they tend to be limited in their abil­ity to provide com­pen­sa­tion. They of­ten need to rely on vol­un­teer or part-time labour; and pay low salaries when they fi­nally can af­ford to bring you on full time. He ar­gues that the bar­rier to join­ing an early stage pro­ject tends to be lower than when they are less es­tab­lished.

Vol­un­teer­ing: Aaron lists some sug­ges­tions for where to vol­un­teer. You may also want to look at EA Work Club. Some peo­ple mightn’t find some of the sim­pler tasks like edit­ing en­gag­ing, but I imag­ine that there are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for web de­vel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing and graph­i­cal de­sign.

Part-time vol­un­teer­ing: It can be hard to make time to vol­un­teer on top of a full-time job, so an­other op­tion would be to find part-time work and work on EA pro­jects for the rest of the time.

EA move­ment build­ing: One of the great­est ways to have an im­pact is to re­cruit some­one as im­pact­ful as your­self. If your city already has suffi­cient or­ganis­ing ca­pac­ity, you might want to con­sider mov­ing to a city that could use a com­mit­ted vol­un­teer.

Hier­ar­chial Net­works: Jan sug­gests that we might be able to achieve more with vol­un­teers if we were able to in­crease the level of co-or­di­na­tion. In­stead of pro­jects be­ing limited in size to what one per­son can achieve, some­one could be re­spon­si­ble for co-or­di­nat­ing and di­vid­ing up an area into sub-prob­lems. If enough peo­ple want to join, the area could be fur­ther sub-di­vided. I would love to be proven wrong, but I worry about our com­mu­nity’s abil­ity to achieve this (see the challenges Givewell has had with vol­un­teers and the shift of .IMPACT/​Re­think Char­ity from vol­un­teers to paid staff).

Earn to Save: Even if you aren’t im­me­di­ately able to find a po­si­tion that is highly im­pact­ful, you can build up run­away so that you can take ad­van­tage of any op­por­tu­ni­ties that arise in the fu­ture.

In­tro­duc­ing EA val­ues into your field: If you don’t have a re­al­is­tic shot at one of the very limited num­ber of EA po­si­tions, why not at­tempt to in­tro­duce EA ideas into what­ever field you are cur­rently in­volved in?

Please con­tribute ad­di­tional sug­ges­tions in the com­ments: