[ Question ]

Examples for impact of Working at EAorg instead of ETG

by agent18 1 min read14th Mar 202020 comments


What is the actual evidence (examples) in favor of Working at an EAO instead of ETG? Options I am considering are becoming a GR, working in AI safety or Strategy and policy fields and management positions. Relevant examples/sites are much appreciated.

I do not want claims (hiding under "We believe Y is true"). I am really looking for evidence (such as, Working as a GR at open phil would = XX impact. So ETG more than 150k will produce the same XX impact.)

I would hope the evidence to include factors for replaceability, donor contribution vs EA org contribution etc... Also evidence based links for these factors are much appreciated

So far the only example I have is from @milan griffes here: https://80000hours.org/2016/08/reflections-from-a-givewell-employee/


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OP posted this question, worded slightly differently, on Facebook as well. I answered there, and they asked me to repost here.

[TLDR: I don't think that anyone can give you the examples relevant for you. You need to find and speak to the relevant people, outside of EA as well. It is very doable, but there are also workarounds if you can't decide right now. Action creates clarity.]

I think 80K is actually saying it is better for most people to do direct work (including but not limited to neglected roles at EA orgs) than ETG. So don't just consider EAO vs ETG. Direct work most likely will /not/ be at an EA org, but would be within a field important to a top EA cause area.

The preference for roles outside of EA makes sense to me, because, while an EA org is likely to find a few good top candidates they consider value-aligned, acting in the wider world using EA principles is a much more reliable (and even stronger) counterfactual. The counterfactual hire at a non-EA business/org/foundation is unlikely to operate with EA in mind.

This is similar to how earning to give is more of a reliable counterfactual than working at an EA org, in that you are almost certainly adding 100% extra money in the pot--the candidate who would have gotten your high-paying job would almost certainly not have donated to an effective charity.

In the end, though, the path for you depends on a lot. You must consider your personal fit and your EA comparative advantage. It also depends on how you expect your favored cause areas, funding, and EA as a movement to evolve. I recommend brain dumping and drafting out as much as you can regarding those 5 things to clarify expectations and cruxes! If you can find cruxes, then you can investigate with expert interviews. Reach out to individuals, not orgs.

Regarding direct work options, reach out to individuals in roles that you could see yourself in (within or outside of an EA org). Even if you are stuck with half a dozen possible roles, that is narrowed down enough that you can ask people in those roles:

-If they feel they are making an impact

-What other options they were deciding between and why they chose what they did

-Where they think the field will go and what will it need

-If they think you would be a good fit.

Now you can compare ETG to what you learned about direct work. You can interview people earning to give in the field you'd work within and people related to philanthropy in the space you'd be donating to. That could look like:

-Fundraisers for an org you love

-Grantmakers in the space

-Relevant foundation researchers, coordinators, and others

Then see if they expect extra annual donations of A-B to be better/worse than direct work of X, Y, or Z.

If you need to further clarify ETG advantage, you can speak to hiring managers or heads of people at EA or non-EA places you'd be excited to work at. Ask them how much better their best candidate tends to be than their second-best candidate.

On the whole, informational interviews are priceless.

You can find all these people using this method or by asking others if they know someone who is doing a certain role.

Here is a recent forum post on how to prepare for informational interviews (keep in mind you might want to be more formal toward non-EAs). Don't forget to say thanks and cement the bond afterward. If you can help the person in any small way, you should.

And here are two blurbs from 80k encouraging informational interviews and other types of exploration.

So, long story short, you will need to find those people, examples, and evidence that are relevant to you. I get that it is really not easy... I'm in the middle of it too. But just keep getting things down on paper and things will start to become clearer. Take it bit by bit, and try to get more (not necessarily complete) clarity on one aspect per day.

Also, you don't have to have your path figured out now. If you can narrow it down to 2-3 options, see what next step you could take that would be relevant to both/all paths. If you are at the exact branching point today, then try out a role for a year in a way that should give you pretty good career capital for the other option(s). Then switch to try out another role in a year's time if it still is not clear. Most likely, a couple of key cruxes will arise while you work.

Action creates clarity, so don't worry about getting things perfect for now. You actually just need to learn enough to take your immediate next step with confidence.

Good luck and feel free to PM

I mean, it's kinda intertwined, right? Presumably you are earning to give to fund people to do stuff. So someone needs to do that stuff. That person could be you. Or you could be the one funding. I think it really comes down to comparative advantage / personal fit (how good are you personally at doing vs. earning?) and marginal resources (of the orgs you would donate to or work for, how much do they want a talented person versus more money?).

In short, I think getting general examples of people having a high impact by working in an EA org would be misleading for anyone actually making this kind of career path decision.

I suppose I'm not directly answering your question, but I think it might be pretty hard to answer well, if you want to try to account for replaceability properly, because many people can end up in different positions because of you taking or not taking a job at an EA org, and it wouldn't be easy to track them. I doubt anyone has tried to. See this and my recent post.

From this older article:

This may apply, for example, to taking a job with Givewell, who likely follow a process more akin to ‘threshold hiring’.In this case, it seems likely that taking this job may increase the number of overall jobs by close to 1.

Not very good evidence, though, without word directly from GiveWell.

More on threshold hiring here, but no EA-specific examples.