I'm a great admirer of the 80000hours initiative, ever since I've learned about it. And that's the thing, I was introduced to EA and 80kh relatively late in my life imo. I'm not a student, graduate, or even junior in the field. I'm two decades older senior-level employee without a chance to switch to an impactful career.
I've learned about EA 3 years ago, it took me 2 years to stop fantasizing that there is anything I can do with my career path so my "last resort" was earning to give program. I took the pledge last year and almost immediately felt the pressure to not go down with my salary but to make it as high as possible. There are million other factors at stake, personal and professional, and I need to say it, I feel completely lost at times. I only know I need to move forward, but I can get so critical about my decisions that it paralyzes me.
Am I the only one? I'm sure there are other people in a similar situation. Mature in age and career, that found EA/80kh too late to adjust life road and struggle in being efficient and impactful.
There is great wisdom in onboarding young people and preventing them from similar struggles later in their life. But there is also untapped potential in mid-life and senior members of the community who are not politicians, researchers, scientists, economists, or entrepreneurs and still want to pitch in. Their, our salaries are probably much higher than when we started, and we might have a bit more influence on our positions. And yes, we still need guidance. I need guidance.
So I wanted to challenge this idea today. 40000hours sounds great. 20000hours sounds even better. I realize that it's much harder to advise senior employees, but the gain might be much higher and more immediate at the start. Worth considering I think.
Hey Martyna, might I suggest getting in contact with High Impact Professionals? In addition to your financial contributions, they might be able to suggest opportunities to donate your skills.
Is there any chance you could share what field you are in? It might be worth asking around to see how many EAs are in that field and forming some kind of group or network. For example, there is a network of EAs working in supply chain and logistics, which I found surprising given how niche the area is, but I suppose the thing about these communities is that they often just need a single person driving them.
Thank you so much! I didn't know of HIP, I'll definitely try it out.
Wow, what a great idea with the group, I would love that. I'm a user experience designer, more of a generalist due to several circumstances. I just found out there is a EA Creatives and Communicators Slack - that's a start but I'm not a content creator, artist, or communicator, I'm much deeper in corporate IT and I'm aiming at hi-tech companies for a number of reasons. If there would be any UX researchers/designers/writers interested in climbing the ladder of hi-tech IT I would be unspeakably happy to join it!
You might want to look at Software, Data, and Tech Effective Altruism.
Joined, but truth be told, I don't have high hopes. From my experience, most of SW-related groups/slacks/discords are rather related to AI, high-impact startups, or ngo projects. I haven't met any uxd's there yet. But thank you!
I don't know if Sendwave has anything like this currently, but it wouldn't surprise me if they do at some point. https://www.sendwave.com/careers#
Thank you so much! They have nothing for me atm, but I'm adding them to my watchlist.
GiveDirectly is looking for a UX designer.
Look for Senior UX/UI designer at GiveDirectly on LinkedIn.
(Unfortunately there's a technical glitch which prevents me from sharing the link.)
No worries, thank you so much for the tip. I have not expected to receive so many hints, it's a bit intimidating, but I'm very grateful. :)
Definitely agree that you are onto something here. I was thinking of starting a 40K about a year ago and I have heard others echo the same sentiment, even with the same name (40K) as well. I ended up recently co-founding High Impact Professionals instead, focussed on all EA working professionals, regardless of age. We are trying to get this group to have the most impact they can given their unique resources. One initiative we have in the pipeline is to cross-pollinate the knowledge, skills and experience that e.g. 40Kers have with EA orgs who need them.
Although I do occasionally personally take calls with mid-career EA professionals looking to have more impact, this isn't a focus of HIP. I think with these calls I can provide value in 1) basic coaching and encouragement and 2) helping the person make connections in the EA community and understand some tenets of EA. In terms of helping them get a specific job, this is often quite difficult as the skillsets are often quite specific and older folk tend to have more constraints (can't move, require a certain salary, etc).
That being said, I think there is a lot of room for someone to push this initiative forward and that with a solid plan something like a 40K could succeed. There are many EAs in your position and they can use the support!
I am happy to chat more if you are interested, just ping me on the forum and we can set something up.
Hi Devon, it's great that you had time to respond. I love this initiative! I'll dive into HIP as soon as I finish my responses.
In terms of constraints - salary level is definitely one of the factors, but not the only one. I can move to the moon and back if needed for the right offer, that's how mobile I can be. I kind of developed a framework for what I expect from my next job, but companies' expectations are another story. When you have job, volunteer, have personal duties and obligations it's hard to even complete the resume, and not to mention career strategy.
I'll ping you in a moment! Thank you for offering that.
Thank you for posting this! I'm in my mid-40s and it took me some years to get more into the EA movement due to the age difference and my not being sure what I could contribute. So I can very much understand this and also think supporting mid- and late-career people can be very helpful. For me, EAGs were the place to find and connect with other senior people and I now see many more possible ways I can play a growing role in the movement. Currently, I'm volunteering in a role I have much experience with and I see there is a need for this kind of work.
I'm happy to see that High Impact Professionals (mentioned in another comment already) is taking on parts of this space. Giving What We Can also is adding more general advice around donations that could address some of your questions around donations. At least joining GWWC meetups helped me see that many people have anxieties around driving themselves to donation and income levels that may not be sustainable in the long term.
Less than 9% of respondents in the 2019 EA survey said they are over 45 and the 2020 survey seems similar. Missing out on a big part of the population that includes many people with high salaries, career capital, large networks and also more free time as children grow up seems like a waste. It also seems to me there are more people with grown children looking for meaning while having fewer financial obligations for whom more engagement in EA could be a good fit.
I'd be happy to chat and will send you a message.
Oh my, thank you so much for your voice, you've outlined the problem very nicely!
Yes, exactly. I volunteer in my local/country - EA PL - within my field of expertise which is UX design. I redesigned our website, and I help with user or even marketing research - but honestly - I can do so much more good with my money donation and climbing the ladder in my profession. I just feel it in my bones - as un-scientifically as it sounds. I even came to the point where I ask myself questions like "Do I volunteer there to actually make any impact, or is it just for me feeling good about doing something". And usually I don't like the answer that pops in my head, because I don't want to abandon my community. But I have only one life, and I want to make the best of it.
So If I can't/wont change a career I'm happy to accept ETG as my only option, but how to increase impact there? There are so many possible steps, and I have no one to brainstorm about it.
I'm writing "me, me, me" all the time, and the struggle is real, but honestly, I came here to discuss the realm of neglected mature EA's. Because if they, if we don't fit into any of high impact jobs, there are no available strategies for us, and no one-fit-all solution most likely. And that leaves us idle, while we could absolutley rock in donations and brining EA to so many different corners of the world.
Hey Martyna, I am also a mid-stage career UXD earning to give and volunteering my UX skills for EA causes (currently operating as Giving What We Can's Director of Design while working at Lyft in NYC)
If you ever want to connect about UX or EA (or combining the two) I would love to chat email@example.com :)
We're in touch! :)
Thanks for writing this, this is definitely something that I have heard before in EA groups that I have been part of.
I don't know your situation but I think that EA is probably, particularly in need of value-aligned mid/senior people in quite a few areas.
I don't work at 80k but my sense is that they have chosen to work with early-stage people as they have more flexibility in career direction and more malleable views. Crucially, I don't think that 80k chose this demographic because young and inexperienced people are likely to have a comparative advantage in most roles over mid/late career people, they are just excited about influencing young people's trajectories.
As I don't know your background I don't have much of a sense of what high impact roles could be a great fit for you, but when I meet people who are mid-career + are very value-aligned + are happy to move into a different job and are proactive enough to write a forum post (or engage with the community in other ways) I am generally pretty optimistic about them finding a high impact role somewhere (in or outside an EA org). Or if you don't want to move you might be able to advise/mentor younger people informally or through WANBAM or add a lot of value in another way. Maybe some patience and resilience are required here and I totally understand if you don't have the energy (I've certainly felt like this before).
If I were in your situation I think that I would try to speak to a few mid/late career people doing work that you admire and pick their brain on roles that might be a good fit for you (if you haven't already done lots of this). You could also try and attend an EAG or EAGx. If you don't want to move to a different role it looks like Giving What We Can want to invest quite a lot in building their community so I'm hopeful that there will be more support/resources for E2Gers soon.
OK, me back! As for the part about 80k objectives, it's hard for me to tell. I haven't done enough research to have an opinion on that matter. But I guess, influencing anyone with EA values gives a lot of positive returns.
- That's the thing, I don't fit any of them. I'm a ux/ui designer (I'll post my links on the bottom) and after 2 years of (let's call it) research I realized two things:
In regards to mentoring others, that's complicated too. How can I advise others if I can't even move on with my own goals that I defined so clearly for myself? That's rhetorical of course. I struggle with impostor syndrome a lot and I've been looking for a job more actively since November (I want to move up and upskill). Being declined over and over again doesn't help with the syndrome. But I'm not saying "no", only "not now".
I've done some brainstorming with senior IT people, but I'm not very good at cold emailing them, so I haven't had as many insights as I wish to.
EAG/x - I am signing up for 5 events this year, this is a great way of meeting people smarter than me and in every age!
Thank you a lot @calebp!
Links: https://www.linkedin.com/in/martynatomaszewska/ - feel free to connect.
https://eahub.org/profile/martyna/ - let me know if it's available, if not I'll make it public.
Thank you so much for that, I'll get back with my response in a few h if you don't mind.
Definitely agree that there's a big need to engage more experienced professionals. It seems that talent is a core bottleneck for EA, particularly super good entrepreneurs and operators who can found and scale highly effective orgs.
Funny enough, I've been working on a project that I've been facetiously calling "40k" ... which has mostly been me working 1:1 with several people from the tech startup world (where I work as an investor and founder) to make career shifts toward building EA projects.
If anybody here is interested in chatting feel free to shoot me a DM.
Thanks for your support Bingo, this sounds great!
Seconded. I am surprised that in EA so much attention is paid and resources are devoted to people with relatively little life experience and professional experience. I often find myself a bit confused when I see someone in EA who is a COO or a VP or a director or a senior manager and who also has 0-3 years of work experience.
I'm in my 30s and I feel it is hard to get involved in EA other than "earn to give" because the career paths tend to either A) involve taking an entry level position in an EA hub city (such as Boston or San Francisco) or B) involve having a bachelor's degree in a particular field.
I hear you. We all struggle. Young people have it so much harder to enter the job market after graduation., it makes sense to me still, 80k makes sense. But it just shouldn't stop there.
I have the same observations for A) and B). I'm a self-taught UX designer, my masters only loosely correspond to what I do. It's intimidating to see offers for senior positions asking for 7-8 years of experience in the field, while UX studies have only begun to appear in Unis in Poland like maybe a decade ago...
I'm not sure why several of the responses to this post are suggesting to take the conversation private. I am in a similar situation with Martyna and would like to read these conversations to get some perspective and advice via eaves-dropping. I'm confident there are others.
That's a valid point and as my comment also had the offer of a private conversation I will try to add a few thoughts here. Generally, if someone asks me about EA career advice when mid-career I would suggest following:
See the end of this page
80K career advisor Michelle Hutchinson also found it useful as I found in this comment
You have a valid point, but I guess from my subjective standpoint, it's much less intimidating to discuss my situation in private rather than in public. I started a general thread and now it would turn into self-help off-topic. Already did a little, bit embarrassing to me.
On the other hand, I think it's totally reasonable to continue a discussion of supporting mid/senior EA's with career choices here. Because one-on-ones can help one person. But an actual initiative would help many.
Feel free to PM me too. I'll be happy to chat, brainstorm, share findings from my discussions too. Whatever you might find useful.
I keep on thinking about your comment today. Any chance you could outline your situation, struggle or view on the subject of 40kh? It could actually add a lot of value to hear the perspective or specific situation from others.
I outlined mine in one of the first responses. At first I though it's meaningless in general topic discussion, but now I think that those specific circumstances are making the case.
Please share if you will.
I deleted this comment because it had too much personal info
Thanks for sharing your thinking, @Tyner. Will DM you, but had one thought related to these two bullets:
Rather than committing to a durable pay cut by leaving your full-time job, you could see if there are bite-sized bits of work that well align with your skillset that you can spend a few hundred hours a year on (for pay). You could consider taking a "little bet" by seeing if you could take a 1-3 month leave of absence — or go to 60% or 80% time in your current job for a few months — while supporting an EA project that could benefit from your skills.
There's a good chance the EA Funds team would fund a well-scoped project where you would invest several hundred hours a year advancing a line of work that currently is under-staffed or missing your technical expertise.
Oh, this is great, I'm loving so many points, we have similar struggles indeed.
I went through all stages of grief with my occupation. I struggled with burnout for 7 years. I passionately started to hate a job I loved so much in the beginning. The reason was projects and the sector, maybe similarly like in your case.
In my case I think the trigger was when I was asked to design a mobile app for a burger restaurant, with the goal to tune up "up-sales", to generate more revenue for the franchise. I was a vegetarian at that time, thinking of going vegan (which I also am already). That's what I identify as the beginning of my burnout and prelude to depression.
That's the exact reason why I outline the story of my burnout. The guilt. It cost me a few years of total inactivity, which wasn't a big deal because at that time I was focusing on very ineffective volunteering (helping animal shelters). But if I'm to go through it now - with my current mindset and need of maximizing my impact - I'm certain this could be much harder and more dangerous for me. And the movement needs well-functioning members, right?
My husband often repeats - "Just squeeze any penny at your current job, and do side sanity projects on a side" - and it's really wrong approach. I tried that for years, even now involved with EA, and it's not doing me the favour. I still struggle with depression, not as severe as in past, but still disturbing. It needs to go. I have about 8 years to optimize my path, I don't have time for breakdowns.
The bottom line is there is no selfishness in addressing your needs, especially when you feel the urge to do so much more good.
What is ACC training?
In my specific case, it wouldn't, but like I wrote in the post - I stop fantasizing about getting into an impactful EA job. I recently got an offer with a cut of 25%, but the possibility of some upskilling, that could potentially give me back this 25% salary and more in the future. The thing is, the upskill was not of about 25% (subjectively of course), rather a 5-10%. I declined. I'm able to take cuts, but the return (even hypothetic) needs to balance the cut because I'm dead serious about ETG and ETS commitment.
Agree. I got declined by one of EA related startups and it was much more painful than any other declination.
Yes and no, in my very subjective opinion. For example (and it's only a hypothesis for the sake of explanation) - in my case, it doesn't make sense to make give directly page more intuitive, because the donors are people so well aligned with EA values that a slightly less intuitive interface will not make them back out from donating. But. It makes sense for me to do a usability study on the website of Effective Altruism Poland because the main purpose of this website is to recruit so far unrelated people and incept them with the EA framework.
Will your productivity skills be used in the most optimal way in those organizations? If you are to optimize the server performance, will it be a better contribution than a donation from 70% higher salary? Or are you able to influence the speed of research done on healthcare/alternative protein 20 times? I'm shooting blanks, I'm just trying to make a point here.
Can you pivot to different industries taking your position, salary, and skills unchanged? That's what I'm trying to do.
I work for a pharmaceutical company. It's much more rewarding and meaningful than doing burger apps, but. I have never worked in a field that I feel passionate about, and until my discussion with EA mentor about 3 years ago, I never even allowed myself to have passions or dreams. I'm done with that. It might not be possible, but I want to "have fun" and earn big before I turn 50. Because I have philanthropic goals and I need to be a well-functioning person to meet them, and that means to care more about my mental health and allow myself to have ambitions. The healthy dose of egoism.
Depends. The whole idea of helping neglected causes until they are will stop being as neglected as other ones on the list resonate with me strongly. That's why I trust in GiveWell and Animal Charity Evaluators. But it's much easier to change your donation flow than to change a career dedicated to cause.
True. But they can's solve all the problems with those donations. If they could, we wouldn't have EA and cause areas. Potentially every few bucks is a life of a person that can be saved. We might not see it, but it makes a difference for that person.
It's long for me too, but I just want to highlight one last thing. This kind of support we can give to each other, it doesn't cost a penny to give subjective advice, especially on the philosophical ground. It might help a tiny bit to clear things up in the head. But there is a much harder level to address: how to literary get from point A to B. That's when solid counseling should step in:
>This kind of support we can give to each other, it doesn't cost a penny to give subjective advice
I wanted to follow up now that a couple months have passed and see if you were able to get more clarity on your path forward? I can also share what I have decided for now.
By the way, AAC training is Animal Advocacy Careers.
Small suggestion: I recommend putting a comma in the thousands (20,000) as reading 20000 has too many zeroes and can be misinterpreted as 200,000
Adjusted. Thank you!
Hi Martyna, maybe this post and its comments can interest you.
Also, something else that comes to mind: Andrew Critch thinks that working on Human-Robot Interaction may be very useful to AI Safety. Note that he isn't solely talking about robots, but also human-machine interaction in general (that's how I interpret it; I may well be wrong):
Not sure whether other AI Safety researchers would agree on the importance of HRI, and not sure if your current career path is very relevant to this. Anyway, just sharing something that might be useful :)
Thank you so much! I'll reach out to Lotte next week, seems like we will have a lot to discuss!
Human-robot-interaction is something I never considered, but it sounds very interesting. HMI is basically the ground for my work, but it is applied very widely, from physical design (elevators, printers, cars) to SW design, and I'm in the second sector atm. But boy, do I dream to get to the first one.
Do you know of any companies that are hiring HRI designers?
Glad to hear that you found this useful!
Sorry, I know nothing about the HRI space :(
Martyna, I'd be happy to chat with you -- just send me a PM. Like you, I'm about halfway through my career, and I executed a major career shift to move my work in a more impact-focused direction over the past several years. I'm happy to share what I learned in case it's helpful to you.
In addition, you might be interested to get to know the improving institutional decision-making community and field. I agree with calebp that EA could benefit from having a stronger network of mid-senior people in a variety of professional settings, so depending on what you do you might be able to help with that.
Hi Ian, thank you a lot. I would be very curious to learn from our experience. I heard of the improving institutional decision-making concept, you are right it might be very beneficial for people with similar situations to mine. I'll look into it, and I'll PM you in a moment!
We might also need 160,000 hours if humans live much longer in the future!
Very glad you wrote this! As I'm feeling the same way, most of the 80,000 hours site is aimed at the much younger (and affluent) crowd. There are a lot of people (me included) working day jobs in their fields that want to make a difference as well, but are probably not going to move to pursue a PhD in AI and move to London, cause you know....life and stuff.
I hear you! This is a far larger group of EA's than I initially thought. Encouraging and worrying at the same time. Worrying because of possibly missed potential.
Hi Martyna. The problem you mentioned resonates a lot! There are some great initiatives I could see in the comments as well, which is good since it shows people in EA do recognize this as a problem. If I may suggest, you might also want to take a look at Inflection Point as well. It's a project to help people resolve the bottlenecks they are facing in trying to move into more high-impact careers. I'm also a part of the team and we've talked to 50+ participants already ranging from ages 20-50, with background in Engineering, Media, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Biotech, Machine Learning, Animal Welfare, Global conflict studies (China-US in particular) etc. The bottlenecks that have come across the most for the people we've talked to so far have been:
We're working on helping our participants with these aspects by acting like a personalized concierge service, atleast for our pilot. We are currently alpha testing the service, and are looking for people at professional inflection points who want to work on something value-aligned, but are having trouble finding a project or people to work on that project with. If you're interested, please fill in this form (takes less than 5 minutes): https://forms.gle/9hoS9v6NkQwXnLso9 or you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org !
TL;DR: Maybe post your situation and we'll try to reply with something useful?
It would be more like getting custom advice from 80k rather than reading their generic career guide that might maybe not fit you (I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying custom advice would probably be better).
Also, as a community, I think it would be better to make sure we can give useful advice to some concrete people before we try to generalize into a written career guide that might miss important considerations or details
I wrote some context in this reply and in a few others, but in general:
I made some very bad decisions in the past in regards to my career, because I never had the smallest support or anyone as a mentor. Took a flat mortgage. Struggle to survive 2008 depression in Poland - companies were either fireing or bankrupting and I end up working for 6 months for free until I was let go. Got into money problems with a mortgage and spiking inflation. Migrated to the Czech Republic. Followed the money to get rid of financial dependencies and never be unemployed or hungry again. Paid off the mortgage, get rid of the flat, joined EA, started to rethink my career. Started to build up savings that I'm learning to invest and multiply. Signed up for GWWC pledge.
Because I followed the money mainly, I end up in companies that do not understand the value of design, and applying for the ones that do is really hard. I invest in my growth privately, I have some plan, ideas, and goals, but I never know if I'm betting on the right card to get me where I want to be.
In terms of EA, unless something really dramatic will happen to push me off, I plan to donate the majority of my life savings. I'm ok with ETG/ETS by now, it actually gives me the freedom to choose a career path unrelated to EA but corresponding with my interests.
That's my life in a pill!
OMG this sounds so annoying.
I would be very happy to see you get out of this if I can
May I ask, do you have something like a "dream job" that you'd transition to if you could?
If I could give you a pill that would teach you any profession and you'd be good at it, what comes to mind?
I do, but it's too embarrassing to write it in public ;). I have a few that would make me happy too, less embarrassing because a bit more realistic. ;D. I'm a movie maniac, wouldn't mind at all working on streaming services or educational entertainment, or on so-called FUI's. I have a wicked fixation on learning new circumstances of HMI: infotainments are currently on my radar. AR/VR anything! Cyber security, web3, democratizing access to services, and privacy-owning tools - sign me up.
I still want to follow the money, for the actual relevant reasons like ETG, but I make choices now based on totally different criteria, ones that make me better at what I do.
The magic pill question is a challenge! Already deleted a few answers. Need to do value assessment here. :D
My DM is open to you if you choose to use it, but no pressure
Do you have preferences on what would be your profession (or in other words, what kinds of tasks you'd like to do) ?
Meaning professions you already know, yes?
It's there for you if it sounds like a fun challenge :)
I'm also asking it to elicit more information about your desires (which you know and I don't). From that aspect, it would also help me if you'd give partially-wrong answers. For example, for myself, I might enjoy being a doctor because I'd be close to the people that I help but I don't handle blood so well and I don't want to work 26+ hours' shifts (as they do where I live). That kind of answer, now that I told it to you, teaches you something about me
I'm so sorry for this delay, but this week was ultra mad, and your questions demand more brainpower than I have left after those few days. :3 I'll make sure to answer this weekend, asap.