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Much of 80,000 Hours' career advice seems primarily directed at people in their early 20s or teens. This makes sense, but I think there's value in beginning a discussion specifically for people who have been in the working world and are being guided by the "important, tractable, neglected" framework toward a career change. I invite anyone else in the same boat to respond to these questions or raise others. My hope is that out of those who respond, we can form a community for mutual support, identify common problems and potential solutions, and normalize career change for older people who might think it's not for them.

It may be that if 10 people invest 75 hours a year in a mutual aid support group, they'd collectively increase their chance of making a successful career change by 1%. Considering the stakes - 600,000 hours of future career work for a group of ten people who've been working another job for a decade - this kind of investment seems well worth it.

Here is a link to the Google Forms survey version of these questions. Hope you'll take the time to answer!

What have you been doing for work thus far, how do you feel about it, and why are you changing careers?

I've been working as a private music teacher, which is enjoyable but gives me little money or career capital. The "argument against education" makes sense to me, and my intellectual abilities, autodidacticism, and social competence make me think I'm cut out for scientific or policy work. 80k's analysis of pressing issues and careers with leverage basically makes sense to me. It swayed me to study math and economics rather than pursue my initial career change plan of becoming a doctor.

At what stage is your career change?

I'm at a community college, planning on a year of math and econ classes. By that time, I'll make a decision about whether to pursue a PhD in statistics or economics, or a master's in policy.

How has your age influenced your process?

It makes me leery of pursuing a PhD, because academia is already hard enough to work in without being older. I may pursue work in industry or government for that reason, but I'm hoping that a strategic choice of degree and program, top grades, test scores, and some independent research accomplishments will give me a chance at walking through many doors. Most of my family members neg me subtly or openly for not getting a teaching certificate, buying a house, and starting a family; I anticipate this will continue until I have been admitted into a graduate program. I'm becoming practiced at justifying my choices to get people off my back, because most of the anxiety they project onto me is only going to be an emotional burden rather than a useful critique of the reasoning guiding my choice.

What do you think would make this process easier, more attractive, or more normal for you?

My community college has a post-bacc pre-med program, and I found it very helpful when I was working toward becoming a doctor. It was a strong source of community, and helped me feel normal, motivated, and supported. We had an adviser who focused on developing the program, biweekly seminars that brought in speakers from medical schools and successful graduates and helped us with career planning, and biweekly social lunches. I did a rough calculation that full involvement with this guidance program took about 75 hours a year. Having this program made my otherwise ordinary community college a draw for interested students from two states away.

I wish there was something equivalent for 80k-oriented post-bacc career changers.

What do you think gets left out of the conversation when we focus exclusively on the "important, neglected, tractable" framework for issue or career evaluations?

I think I'm not alone in having "selfish" desires and "irrational" emotions. I want financial security and children someday. I'd miss home if I moved, worry about the toxic environment of corporate America or our government that I've thus far largely avoided by working for myself, fear accumulating significant debt and then failing to find a job, and like where I'm living and would be sad to move away from friends, family, and the beautiful environment of my region. I'm also afraid that I'm being forced to compartmentalize these negative emotions and that they'll sabotage me down the line. We look not only altruistic work, but issues that are neglected, meaning that they are probably especially likely to be low-paying or non-paying, while also seeming very strange to our loved ones.

I wish there were more discussion of how we can deal with these issues. Often, it seems as though these emotional concerns are simply set aside - often by writers who have already achieved significant career success working in the EA-sphere or academia, and who seem therefore not to share this struggle.

What are your ideas for how a group of EA-aligned older career changers could best support each other?

Video conferencing social meetings, organizing some form of career-planning seminar, meeting up if they live near each other, sharing struggles, opportunities, and successes online, exchanging contacts and networking, and serving to normalize this process for themselves, the EA community, and our friends and family who may not always be entirely sympathetic.

Would you like to be involved in an older EA-career changer community, and if so, what kinds of projects are you interested in and what's your availability?

Yes, and I could probably devote 1-2 hours per week to this.





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Thanks for writing this post! I especially liked your acknowledgment of pressure from family; that can be a major factor in career choice even for people who are trying to focus on impact, and it's often difficult to talk about.

A note: You should consider adding your questions here to a survey and linking to it. Right now, the only way anyone can respond is through a private message or by writing out long-form answers in public, which will reduce the number of people who reply to you.

Thanks for the idea, and for reading. Are you imagining me using some independent survey service and linking to it in this post, or does this forum have its own survey feature?

I was thinking of a survey from a third-party website.

Google Drive has a simple survey function that lots of people use and is pretty convenient and can dump the results in Google Sheets for export. For example, it seems to be good enough for Scott's monster SSC reader survey.

Followup post: Open for comment: EA career changer questionnaire

Link to Google Docs questionnaire (open for comments)

As per title, I'm working on a questionnaire for EA career changers. The goals are to help individuals better manage their deliberation process, and to provide structure for productive community networking among career changers. Right now, I have a number of concerns:

Is it too complicated?

Missing important questions?

It's untested.

Is it an inferior version of another questionnaire?

It's meant to stimulate public discussion yet asks about private information.

It may result in a giant text blob that becomes hard for the user to process.

Could it be more specific to EA?

I originally meant to create a checklist, but don't see a way to do that right now in a way that preserves the general applicability of the device. If you have thoughts on any of these questions, please comment below or in the doc!

My post here and on the Facebook Effective Altruism Career forum attracted a lot of "likes" and, on FB, quite a few responses from interested people. I'll be thinking about next steps and updating next week both here and in a separate post.

Seeking EAs to Interview on Career Change Resources

Hi everyone! Vaidehi Agarwalla and I (Benjamin Skubi), are collaborating on a project to develop career resources for the EA movement. We believe that a pressing issue is enhancing the resources for people newer to the movement and in the earlier stages of a career change. Existing EA resources focus on job placement for already-qualified individuals, and on broadcasting the results of cause prioritization research. While these are extremely useful projects, the movement as a whole struggles in some regards with coordination of other efforts, providing user-friendly and up-to-date resources, and integrating interested people into pre-existing communities. For many people whose involvement with EA might be mutually beneficial to them, the movement, and the world, the challenge of making sense of all the information (if there are relevant resources) may be a significant barrier to taking the next step.

Our plan is to conduct exploratory (video) interviews, lasting perhaps 30-40 minutes, with EAs who are in the early stages of exploring a career change. We hope that we can benefit interviewees by helping connect them with relevant people and resources, and better understand the challenges they face.

If you would like to be interviewed, please fill out our contact form. We hope to interview as many people as possible, although we will begin with only a few interviews for the initial round. We will also be providing updates as the project advances. We look forward to hearing from you!