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:

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Thanks for making this list!

An additional set of suggestions I've just made, a year and a day after your post, are to:

  • Make a link post to a summary of useful ideas/topics, if a decent summary exists but isn’t already on the EA Forum or LessWrong
  • Write a summary of the idea/topic themselves, if no decent summary exists at all, or one exists but doesn’t quite capture how EAs want to use that thing more summaries of useful ideas, and more collections of quotes, sources, definitions, terms, etc.
  • Post a "collection" of quotes, sources, definitions, terms, etc. on a useful idea/topic.

I suggest this particularly for people who are just learning about or researching a topic anyway, and happen to spot a gap. Collections in particular can be very quick to do, in that case. And I think that both summaries and collections can make the road easier for those who follow.

Posting such summaries and collections is more like an incidental extra thing people can do than like a thing people could primarily focus on. But it could perhaps serve a similar role to something like occasional volunteering.

Imagine a virus called "NiceKill" that is harmless... unless you're a very nice person, in which case it kills you. Releasing a virus like this would be very bad, right? Now imagine a virus called "HalfNiceKill+60" which silently spreads to everyone in the world, then 60 years later, it kills 50% of the very nice people. Still sounds pretty bad, right?

Research indicates altruism likely has a genetic basis. The Effective Altruism meme could act like HalfNiceKill+60 if it causes very nice people who would ordinarily have kids to focus on their careers because "that is what's most effective". From a long-termist perspective, elimination of the very nice people seems very bad. So if you want kids, but you've been holding back because "that is not what's most effective", I suggest you add parenting to your personal Things For People To Do list. It is a perfect Task Y... very hard for one person to have 100x as many kids as another. (Outside of sperm and egg donation at least.)

Note: This analysis is flawed if you believe the Singularity is going to happen in the next couple decades. I think it plausibly will, but I believe in hedging my bets.

I love all the self-reflection that has been happened in EA recently regarding what should everyone be doing. I agree that earning to give shouldn't be the person's primary involvement in EA.

I think EA needs to further develop cause areas to encompass wider domains e.g. as a resident in SF I want to know what are the most effective causes and solutions for the USA, for California, and for my city. I think having these domains will both grow the tent of people in EA and also opportunities to contribute. Things like global catastrophic risk is probably always going to be a niche field for direct work.

Such a structure would also form a natural hierarchy from localized issues -> universal issues.

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