This post is a response to Jeff's post here, and the genre of post it represents. I think Jeff's post is valid and valuable, and that thinking through this sort of thing is a good idea. I also think that necessarily, personal testimonies are going to be more common from more engaged EAs. So I'd like to give the perspective of a GWWC pledge taker more toward the periphery. N=1, so have your salt shaker ready!
EA status is unimportant at a certain distance
I've done freelance editing work for EAs and EA-related organizations for over five years, including (at various times) CEA, LessWrong, AI Impacts, BERI, PIE, and probably others I'm forgetting. There have been times - the longest was a little under a year - when this editing work was my primary source of income. I read a lot of EA content and occasionally wade into the discourse. So among non-inner-ring EAs, I think I'm probably unusually engaged by most metrics, perhaps among the most engaged 10% in the reference class of people who might skim the EA newsletter now and then.
All this being said, my relative status as an EA is just not very important to me at all. I took the Giving What We Can pledge several years ago. I've been donating 10% of my income to the Against Malaria Foundation since then. I care approximately 0 if EA bigwigs think I'm a bit dim for this decision, or if they think "ok well, a direct worker is worth about 30 Justis equivalents on the margin." My grandparents were religious and tithed; it feels nice to "do my part" not in an abstract EA community cred sense but in a vague, "being a morally decent person" sense, and no amount of focus on direct work by people across the country/world is likely to make me feel inadequate or rethink this.
Really! I will maintain my pledge with a similar level of pride and joy no matter what the official recommendation to current Yale students in EA student groups is (not to undermine them - they are very important, just approximately irrelevant to my life). I am in Florida. Most of my friends work at restaurants or for the state government. Sure, it feels nice when people across the country want to include me or rank me well, but it's not in a crucial spot on my hierarchy of needs. I suspect the same is true for most pledge-takers.
It's possible to regard EA roles as desirable without regarding them as morally necessary
I've applied for a few jobs in EA over the years. I didn't get them. This was painful. In one case I was doing 25+ hours a week freelance work for an org for several months, it went really well, they put up a job posting with precisely my current duties and invited me to apply, then hired someone else. This was very painful, and strongly discouraged me from applying to full time EA roles in the future.
However, at no point did I think "oh no, now I can't have all the impact I might have had counterfactually, so I'm a bad/worthless person."
Here I think it's time for another interlude: I've got moderate OCD and a lot of that manifests as scrupulosity. My most common negative emotion is guilt. I'm confident that I worry about being somehow ineffably "bad" significantly more than the average human being. I read Peter Singer in high school and it rocked my world - I got on the phone with Oxfam to donate something, anything, but realized I didn't actually have any money I'd earned myself yet and hung up. I'm confident that I am among the most vulnerable people to feeling distress from the notion that I've not lived up to an ethical obligation. But no, none of my EA-role-failure pain has really been in that direction. I am giving 10% of my income. This is much more than basically anyone I know, including virtually all my friends and all my family. I will probably never think I'm not altruistic or impactful enough. And I strongly suspect most pledge-takers are also like this. On my read, it's just a very, very inner-ring thing. Not that that means it's not a problem! Protecting people's mental health is important! But people out on the periphery are probably not putting much of their moral self worth in this basket; we're perfectly happy to be by far the most effectively altruistic person we know of within dozens of miles.
Would I be happy to take an EA job someday? Sure! If the salary was good for supporting my family, it would potentially be great! But it'd be great for normal job taking reasons first, and impact reasons second. It'd feel good to have smart peers who share one of my interests, and spend my time doing something I care about a lot. But failing to do this and just working in industry for money is also completely fine. I don't lose sleep over it, and I doubt many other people who aren't highly immersed in EA hubs do either.
Geography probably matters a lot
Again, I live in Florida. I have little doubt my feelings would be appreciably different if I lived in San Francisco, London, or New York. But I expect a great number of pledge-takers also do not live in major hubs. But if you're worrying about alienating people in the periphery, and you're in the center, it's worth considering that people in the periphery probably just aren't paying much attention to how much status you are assigning them. Their status games are mostly going to be local to them.
I think I am among the most engaged "peripheral" EAs. I think I also have a much stronger instinct toward scrupulosity than most people, including most people with at least a fleeting interest in EA. Despite this, current EA fashions and cutting-edge messaging has very little impact on my attitudes or behaviors. If my experience is typical, it's probably fine not to worry very much about the effect of central-to-EA status allocations on people like me; it's a rounding error.