update [2023-09-11]: my criticism here is mostly resolved following changes made to the 80k job board
I’ll describe the poll in words, mainly for listeners of the Nonlinear Podcast:
The poll says “The 80k job board isn’t “a list of impactful jobs”, it also has other jobs meant to build career capital, and there’s no way to tell which is which. 1: Did you know this? 2: Is it important?
55% of the poll respondents didn’t know this is the situation, and they think it’s important. The other answers got about 15% of the votes each. There were 140 votes in total.
Why I think this is important
Many professionals in EA want to move to the stage in their career where they have a lot of impact, and they want to pick a job for that, and want something like a job board with high impact jobs.
I always thought 80k’s job board was that.
I recently learned that 80k don’t even try to be “a list of high impact jobs”, they also list some roles for mainly career capital reasons, plus some other problems listed below.
Sad emoji 😿
Caleb, head of EA Funds, posted a shortform titled “The 80k job board has too much variance”.
In the comments, we discuss problems like the 80k posting jobs that might be actively harmful, and there being no [reasonable in my opinion] way to push back on that.
- Have a job board that aims to only include high impact jobs.
- Let people comment and discuss whether jobs are high impact.
- Better communicating the current situation seems positive (and is a big reason I think posting this is good), but I don’t personally think it’s enough.
I’m not elaborating in order to keep this post short, but we can discuss in the comments, or maybe someone has a better idea.
In the job board page:
They have a big title that says “Some of these roles directly address some of the world’s most pressing problems, while others may help you build the career capital you need to have a big impact later.”:
80k’s website, on promoting some roles at potentially harmful organizations
80k have a FAQ called “You're promoting a role at an organisation that I think is causing harm. Why is this?”, where the answer is (in my words), that this might be useful for building career capital or for helping improve the org from the inside:
Criticism: “Improving the org from the inside”:
- A lot of 80k’s audience are not highly involved in the EA community, these are simply people who reached 80k through 80k’s amazing SEO and marketing. These people are not who I’d pick to “improve the org from the inside”
- This isn’t mentioned in the org’s job description! I might take a job that 80k thinks could have a high impact if I improved the org from the inside - but I won’t know about this - and I’d just help the org with its current agenda
- I think it’s questionable whether “improving the org from the inside” (if the org is doing harm) is positive or negative expected value, and I’m tempted to elaborate on how I’d analyze this question, but my short version is “this is complicated and needs to be discussed” especially for someone going to take such a job.
Regarding taking a harmful job in order to build career capital:
80k’s article on taking a harmful job
Their post was updated recently, not years ago.
I would say that it might sometimes be ok to take a harmful job in order to do more good, but it is not ok to send other people to a harmful job without them knowing about it (plus, hopefully, thinking about the pros and cons of their situation for a few minutes).
Criticism on closed door push backs:
80k suggests that the way to push back on a job is to send them a private message:
I think this is problematic - they might forget about such a message, or miss it because of too much work, and so on. I think this problem is bigger than I am actually writing explicitly, but I’m leaving it at this for now.
80k’s response on the forum:
Niel Bowerman (who’s great and kind of changed my life) (Director of Job Board, manager of Kush, head of the 80k job board) in this comment said:
Giving our guess of the extent to which each role is being listed for career capital vs impact reasons isn't feasible for various reasons unfortunately.
Kush (the new Head of Job Board at 80k (best job in the world!)) explains Niel’s answer:
What he meant in this comment was that we can't assign scores for career capital or direct impact as all roles are: (1) an opportunity for someone to have direct impact against a problem and (2) an opportunity to develop skills to work on that problem in the future, and splitting this out is hard!
I’m discussing and collaborating with Kush (head of job board)
We are talking publicly and one on one. As one example, we collaborated on making the 80k full stack developer job post better. I’m a big believer in that role btw, and if you’re a fullstack developer with a product mindset, I encourage you to apply and join Kush to work on this together.