tl;dr: create an equivalent of GWWC for building career capital. We've thought about this idea for ~15 minutes and are unlikely to do something ourselves, but wanted to share it because we think it might be good.

  1. Many people's greatest path to impact is through changing their career
  2. But for a lot of these people, particularly those earlier in their career, it doesn't make sense to immediately apply to impact-oriented jobs. Instead, it's better for them to build career capital at non-impact-oriented workplaces, i.e. "earning to learn"
  3. It would be nice if there was some equivalent of the Giving What We Can pledge for this
  4. It could involve something like pledging to:
    1. Spend at least one day per year updating your career plan with an eye towards impact
    2. Apply to at least x impact-oriented jobs per year, even if you expect to get rejected
    3. And some sort of dashboard checking people's adherence to this, and nudging them to adhere better
  5. Some potential benefits:
    1. Many people who have vague plans of "earning to learn" just end up drifting away after entering the mainstream workforce; this can help them stay engaged
    2. It might relieve some of the pressure around being rejected from "EA jobs" – making clear that Official Fancy EA People endorse career paths beyond "work at one of this small list of organizations" puts less pressure on people who aren't a good fit for one of those small list of organizations
    3. Relatedly, it gives community builders a thing to suggest to a relatively broad set of community members which is robustly good
  6. Next steps:
    1. I think the MVP here requires ~0 technology: come up with the pledge, get feedback on it, and if people are excited throw it into a Google form
    2. It's probably worth reading criticisms of the GWWC pledge (e.g. this) to understand some of the failure modes here and be sure you avoid those
    3. It also requires thinking through some of the risks, e.g. you might not want a fully public pledge since that could hurt people's job prospects
    4. If you are interested in taking on this project, please contact one of us and we can try to help
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I agree that it seems good for EA to have a career-focused pledge, and I wrote up a similar idea here on the Forum two years ago, which had mixed feedback then. I think some people thought it was a bad idea because of the "maximizing" language in the pledge's name and the post though, but they may still be sympathetic to the idea of a career-focused pledge. I now think that a "do the most good" pledge is not an ideal name, and I've updated the post to say this.

One difference between your pledge idea and mine is that yours doesn't sound like a lifetime pledge - it sounds focused on being taken and adhered to during the phase where they're building career capital. Maybe that's intentional and good, but possibly a lifetime career-focused pledge might be better?

I'm someone who is "Earning to Learn" while doing some community building on the side and I think this is a fantastic idea!!

Some thoughts:

  • I agree this shouldnt be a public pledge (like GWWC) since this may signal a lack of commitment to current employers but I'm not certain on this.
  • One thing that I think is underrated in this is building a network of people who are doing this so there is social pressure and commitment.
  • the EA consulting network already has some great infrastructure here at major consultancy firms so this can probably be leveraged here
  • However I think this would give opportunities for "cross corporate" collaboration on community building for "earn to learners"

Thanks for this post. I particularly agree with points 2 and 5. A related idea I've seen written about, though I've never actually encountered it in conversation, is "Earning to Skill":

Something I [Ruby] am not hearing really at all, though it has been advocated before, is that people seek out regular industry jobs where they will grow and learn a lot. My name for this is Earning to Skill.

Even if you predict short timelines, I'd wager that for many people, 1-3 years spent in a good industry workplace environment will cause them to have greater lifetime contribution to the world than if they scrounged around for a direct impact job that wasn't that good.

This isn't a universal prescription, of course. The best thing for people will immensely depend on them, their circumstances, and opportunities, but I'd at least like to hear people who are very uncertain of what to do considering Earning to Skill.

Which industry jobs should I maybe seek out?

I think which particular domain matters less than that the job is hard and the company is competent on at least some dimensions. By hard I mean "solving hard problems like running a startup" rather than "you have to wake up at 5am".

What if people experience value drift and don't ever switch to impactful work?

I think it's a risk worth taking, but also something that can be mitigated by staying socially tied to EA.

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