Until yesterday, I was under the impression that aside from EA community-building, getting a job directly working on some of 80,000 Hours’ top causes was really difficult and would not be a reasonably likely option for most people. This was because of posts like:
The cost of rejection (Oct 2021)
My mistakes on the path to impact (Dec 2020)
These posts above are about getting a job at an EA organization, but I thought the same applied for non-EA organizations for fields like technical AI safety, or biosecurity, or policy.
My belief of how hard it was to get a direct impact role changed dramatically after speaking with Kuhan Jeyapragasan yesterday. I learned that EA organizations are hiring a lot more compared to two years ago, and he also pointed my attention to some other types of jobs that are more generally accessible, such as operations, communications, and people management. Kuhan mentioned that to it’s not easy to get an EA job if you’re not willing to work that hard, both working hard during the job and preparing to get the job.
Here’s a message I wrote recently to my university EA group, reflecting my current beliefs:
Hey everyone, a couple notes about [the content of Week 8 of the Effective Altruism Fellowship]: If your list of top causes includes a good amount of 80,000 Hours’ top causes, especially ones aimed that improving the long-term future, those causes generally aren’t as funding-constrained as they are talent-constrained. That’s because support from foundations such as Open Philanthropy is generally enough to cover their modest funding needs. For these causes, I recommend considering direct work options, not just earning to give. (In contrast, global poverty and animal welfare are more funding-constrained.) And there are more accessible direct options than I had realized! You don’t need to get a PhD in biology or CS or anything. For example:
Operations: overall a pretty generalist role. Some example job postings: https://www.fortifyhealth.global/associate-director-of-operations.html, https://jobs.lever.co/Anthropic/ce1b27da-c9ed-43c0-aa2d-d59e4e7e0ee1
Communications: e.g., for The Life You Can Save – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TzwYge6RGYo8ViAq-znz1C5Y4PDZ71TWOTvZM2S68fs/edit
Management or project management
EA movement-building: running an EA university group or campus center full-time. Personally, I find it really sad that Princeton University, home to Peter Singer(!), doesn’t even have anything like the Effective Altruism Fellowship there, just because all the EA students at Princeton are too busy to run it. The Centre for Effective Altruism has a goal of launching 200 EA uni groups and dozens of campus centers within the next few years (somehow??), so there are a lot of openings here.
Software engineering: e.g., for Our World in Data – https://ourworldindata.org/full-stack-engineer or for AI safety – https://jobs.lever.co/Anthropic/436ca148-6440-460f-b2a2-3334d9b142a5. Also, if you’re good at software engineering, you can probably pick up ML engineering within a few months, so that’s another option to help with AI safety.
You can also do independent research or work on a project with funding from the Long-Term Future Fund or EA Infrastructure Fund.
EA organizations have been hiring a lot more compared to 2019, when it was more difficult to get a job at an EA organization. Apparently they’re having a bit of trouble hiring as much as they’d like – one reason is that they generally prefer to hire from within the EA community, rather than people who don’t really care about the mission of the organization.
So if you were struggling to find job options that were directly relevant to your list of top causes, hopefully this helps with considering direct work options.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend applying for career advising from 80,000 Hours! https://80000hours.org/speak-with-us/
Was my message here accurate?
Is it the case that if you’re hard-working and motivated and aligned with the values of the organizations you’re applying for, then it’s not that hard to get a job that works on a top cause? Are organizations desperately looking to hire people willing and able to do fill positions, or is it that they’re only talent-constrained in the sense that they’re looking for top-notch talent rather than second-tier talent?
Another question I have is, if you’re say, an industrial engineering major, would it be worth it (in terms of expected impact) to try to get a generalist role in operations at an EA organization, rather than a regular industrial engineering job (maybe something helping with climate change) for earning to give? I’m wondering how seriously longtermist group members should consider options that don’t seem to match their specialty, instead of earning to give.
These are some pretty broad questions, and I would appreciate just hearing general thoughts, whether from applicants or people in charge of hiring. It’s likely that the answer depends on the role – e.g., maybe EA community-building is less competitive than operations (or vice versa).