In his speech at EAG London 2021 Benjamin Todd, the Founder and CEO of 80,000 hours, said that EA organisations tend to have talent bottlenecks in some roles, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily easier to find a job. Unless you are very lucky, you’re likely to go through multiple application rounds and spend at least a couple of months before you get an offer you’re happy with. However, for some reason, the moment we get a job we forget just how hard it was to land one. When we decide to look for another role a couple of years later, it takes us by surprise. No wonder – job search is a skill that everyone should improve and keep up-to-date, as practices change every year.
I've recently been through a job search process which, admittedly, was a lot harder than I thought it would be. 3,5 years ago, I was super lucky to get my Veganuary job – it was the first and the only application I made as at that point I wasn’t planning on changing jobs. I naively thought that this time I’d too just walk straight into my next awesome role, but the reality was very different. It wasn’t only hard because I applied and got refused. I found myself having to reassess completely what I actually wanted from my next role and being lost in all the jobs that were being offered. I also wasn’t sure I actually wanted to leave my current job, which added extra complexity to the decision.
For your reference, I applied for about 10 jobs with targeted personalised applications and got responses, interviews and trial tasks for 5 of them. The whole process took about 5 months of relatively active search (with a couple of weeks off here and there) and I got my first and only offer in the fifth month - to be the Managing Director of Rethink Priorities’ first incubated charity, Insect Welfare Project (provisional name). I’m super pleased with this offer and can’t wait to get started in January. I think the resources and techniques I used contributed greatly to my getting it.
In this blog, I’ve written about all the resources I’ve used and any crucial information I’ve learnt while job searching. Partly in the hope that it will help someone, partly also for myself to remember what I went through. I’m going to be leading an organisation, so it would be great to keep in mind just how hard this is from a job applicant perspective. As it’s more like a library of steps and resources, it’s quite a long post - feel free to skip to the sections most relevant to you!
1. You need to figure out what kind of role you actually want to do
There is no point in applying for jobs if you don’t actually know what you want from a job. For example, I applied for a couple of first-level management position that fit my description really well. However, the reason I started thinking about a new job was because I wanted to be challenged and have more responsibility. If you fit 100% of the job description and literally doing the same or a slightly different job, you may find yourself being bored within 6 months (unless you want a stable job with slow progression).
Resources I recommend:
- A Job To Love and How To Find a Job You'll Love are great books to understand what kind work is best for you. I had done a lot of thinking in my life about careers before but these books still offered good tools and food for thought.
- Squiggly Career book is about different ways to think about job progression and they also have a podcast.
- 80,000h career course– This is an 8-week self-paced course aimed at EA-aligned professionals. I really recommend going through this, you'll get an invite to a FB group where you'll be able to find a course buddy so that you can hold yourself accountable to finish and it's always good to get other people's input. At the end of the course, you'll have a thorough multi-page career plan. I'd recommend sending it to a couple of people to have a look and leave comments and suggestions. The website also has great content that will serve you well in other aspects of your career.
- Animal Advocacy Careers course for those who want to have a career in farmed animal welfare sphere - it's not always available, but it's worth signing up for updates to find out when it next runs.
- I am by no means a YouTuber, but I made this video a while back about how I found my Veganuary job using a dream job list. It’s a really useful exercise and it’s worked twice for me now so maybe worth checking out!
- That said, don’t be too rigid in your “dream job” list. Some jobs that already exist may be beyond your imagination, so be open to different opportunities too. My rule of thumb is that if it interests you at least a little bit, you should apply.
- I really recommend this book Surrounded by Idiots. Really good to understand what kind of person you are and what kind of work you need + will be easier to understand other people. I love it, it changed my life!
- Getting a mentor on platforms like Pushfar and Magnify Mentoring will come in useful in your job search, specifically in understanding what kind of jobs you’ll be good at, and will help you to think outside the box. It was certainly the case with me - I was lucky that my mentor from Magnify Mentoring suggested I start my own organisation which otherwise I wouldn’t ever think about. As far as I know, career coaches can be quite expensive so a mentor who has more experience in job search will be very beneficial to you.
2. You need to have the right attitude
Once you’ve roughly figured out what you want to do, you need to get into the right mindset as it’s something that shines through in all your applications. So, before you start looking, it’s really important to understand a couple of things:
Job search is normally a very lengthy process and it is emotionally draining. Applications take a long time to prepare; interviews can be nerve-wracking and waiting for an answer is probably the worst part of it all (followed closely by job rejection). I always say that job searching is a full-time job in itself! There are ways to make it a bit easier, but just get ready for it to be difficult and then you won’t be shocked at how hard it is.
You don’t know your value on the job market before you apply for a couple of roles. Don’t assume you’re the best, but also don’t assume you’re the worst. You’ll have to work in the dark when it comes to applications, and a sense of ambition mixed with genuine curiosity and humility is a great attitude to have. It’s important not to feel entitled to roles just because you’ve got a great degree or experience – remember that there are other people there on the market looking at the same time as you. The best tip I was given recently by my mother-in-law is “Let them decide if you’re qualified or not”.
Rather than trying to convince the employer that you have to be chosen, you can flip it and concentrate on helping their employer to find the right fit for the position. If you have ever hired people you will know how hard it is to find the right person and many people are afraid of making hiring mistakes. Try and think of the main concerns of the potential employer about your candidacy and use your application to reassure them that the risk of these concerns is low.
Don’t take the job search personally – your value as a professional is not a reflection of your value as a human being. Also, just because you got a rejection doesn’t mean you are not good as a professional – it just means that the hiring manager thought someone else was a better fit. There may have been multiple people who could have done the job successfully, and because there was only a limited number of roles, you weren’t chosen.
Rejections are just a redirection – if I didn’t get all the job rejections I got in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now. They sting when you get them, but in the end, you can’t know if that was a “dream job” without actually doing it. I always think to myself “this wasn’t meant for me” and “that means something else that’s better is coming”. More on this in point 10 below.
3. You need to show that you're EA-aligned.
The most important quality EA employers are looking for is being mission-aligned and passionate about the cause. Hiring managers often tell me "It's so much easier to hire someone from the movement as they already understand everything" or "They speak the same language". Even if you've never had an EA job, you can always talk about your motivation in your CV, Cover letter, all comms with the hiring manager, all your social media pages (most importantly LinkedIn). Write a really good bio about the impact you want to make in the world and talk about it throughout your application, including interviews. It's worth reading up on core concepts of EA, such as cost-effectiveness and impact evaluation (you can start with the EA Handbook). Some additional ideas include writing a blog post on this forum or doing some volunteering for an EA organisation.
4. You need to be creative about the places you look
Contrary to most first-time job searchers’ belief, there is no single place to look for a job. You can’t set all the alerts to your email address to cover everything. Here are some job boards I used (farmed animal welfare and EA jobs) and some tips on where else to look:
- I'm sure you're already familiar with AAC job board and Vegan Jobs (I recommend setting up alerts for the latter and subscribing to AAC emails and social media updates). AAC now have a LinkedIn group for animal advocacy job search.
- 80000h also have a job board and it covers multiple EA areas.
- There are other job boards you can find online for your area of interest - go beyond the first few Google pages and you'll find good results. Also, ask around!
- Subscribe to the newsletters of all the organisations you potentially would like to work for. If you don’t yet know many organisations, use the job boards to find out about them.
- Do some research for businesses and charities in your area of interest and subscribe to their comms. Check their job boards – do they accept speculative applications if they don’t have roles? Message their employee on LinkedIn and ask if they’re looking for someone like you.
- Consider making speculative applications. They are cold emails that you send to organisations that can potentially be interested in hiring you. Some charities actively encourage people to send such applications, some charities discourage applicants from sending them. In my experience even when the charity says on the website that they are not interested in receiving such applications, you can still send them if you can get hold of someone’s email address and if you have some information about what this charity may be looking for. I wouldn’t spend too much time on these applications as you may never hear back, however I have had some response from such emails. The key thing to remember is these applications are not protected by application confidentiality, so the recipient can potentially contact your employer to ask for feedback. If you don’t want your current employer to find out that you’re looking for a job, make sure to ask to keep this conversation confidential.
- If you're interested in in a specific topic, such as alt protein, I would really recommend reaching out to people and asking how you can get involved (apart or as well as speculative applications).
- Consider posting on LinkedIn about your job search with some concrete things you’d like to do (“I’m looking for a project management role in the vegan, alt-protein or animal advocacy sphere. I have a wide range of skills including marketing, operations and multiple languages and I’ll be happy to learn more”). You can also message people and ask them to repost it.
- Some unique opportunities: you may want to apply to be a founder at Counterfactual or a founder at Charity Entrepreneurship.
Don’t just download any template and fill it out. No matter how good you think your CV is, as the job market changes and as you grow, there are always things to improve. I recently had to review over 500 CVs on behalf of a hiring manager and only a couple of them were really clear and did the job of getting these people short-listed. I really recommend getting the book Knock-out CV and spending some quality time with your CV. Make sure you get someone’s feedback on your CV too - I would ask at least three people. Someone in recruitment/HR, someone who has experience of being a hiring manager, and someone with a successful career. If you are still at uni or have access to your uni alumni services, they are likely to offer free CV feedback sessions.
Generally with CVs, err on the side of simplicity (don’t use design programs, a simple word doc will do), and keep your CV under 2 pages and your Cover Letter under 1. Make sure your CV uses KPIs (google examples) and has lots of white space to direct the hiring managers' attention to the right things. Remember that you should adjust your CV for each job - my top tip for this is to have a folder for each job where you’ll store a version of your CV for that application + your Cover letter (that should absolutely be tailored to each application). I now got into the habit of updating my CV every month based on the work I did in that month, as we tend to forget our achievements quickly. Thus, I almost always have a CV ready to send - it should be a living document, not just what you update before your job search (otherwise it will take you a long time and you’ll miss important information). CVs can also be used for mentorship applications!
6. Take interview preparation seriously, even if you think you are a great interviewee.
I had the pleasure of sitting in quite a few interviews on behalf of the employer these past few years and it was interesting to see how many people don’t prepare properly. While there is no such thing as a perfect interview, there are so many big “to-dos” and “not to-dos”. It’s worth investing between 5-20 hours in general interview preparation even if you haven’t gotten an invitation yet. Usually, you will get an invitation to an interview that will happen in a couple of days, which is really not enough to prepare from scratch. My top resource recommendations are the books Why You (which contains the most common 111 questions) and The Interview Expert (mostly advice but also some question examples). I used them to get three jobs already and I will continue using them for interview questions inspiration in the future. They have no-nonsense advice on what to say, what not to say, when to ask certain questions, and how to behave generally. I would recommend reading the above books as well as any profession-specific questions online and on YouTube (which has a wealth of interview advice). Don’t just read/listen to them though - get lots of practice on answering questions. If you are not very confident about speaking in public or are particularly nervous about talking to interviewers, it’s a good idea to practice with a friend or a mentor.
It’s worth remembering that interview preparation includes reading up on the new organisation and also on your interviewers. I interviewed people who didn’t know what the organisation was about at all. What does the organisation do, what values/mission/vision do they have, what wording do they use to describe themselves? What are their most recent or biggest achievements to date? Extra points if you identify their challenges and how you can help address them.
7. Your job success will depend a lot on your network and how you can leverage it.
The offer I ended up getting after this particular job search stint was for a job that I learnt about through EA networking. You really never know where that right connection is going to come from, so talk to as many people as you can. As a rule of thumb, aim to connect to someone new every week, whether it’s a meaningful intro on LinkedIn or a casual informational interview. I am quite extraverted and I love talking to people, so I do it without thinking. If connecting to people is not what you’d normally do, I’d recommend setting up a spreadsheet/project to track who you spoke to and when, and what kind of information you’ve learnt. Before you speak to anyone, develop a short pitch about yourself and what you’re looking for - people will always say things like “Have you spoken to X” or “You should check out the book Y”. Actively ask your network for any job search recommendations: are they a member of an invite-only network? Do they know anyone who’s looking for employees? If you tell them exactly what you’re looking for, they may send opportunities your way - you never know!
8. If you can’t get a paid role, consider doing skilled volunteering temporarily
(I wrote a blog about it here too where I talk about it in more detail). It’s really good for connection building, not just getting better at what you do + of course, you are helping the movement. I've found that organisations I volunteered at gave back a lot, in terms of helping me to connect to people in the movement and I even got a reference for my next job from one of them! You can even get hired as a permanent employee.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a spreadsheet, a Notion or an Asana project where you track all your conversations and the results. I have a spreadsheet in Notion where I tracked all the jobs I applied for (and wanted to apply for) and what happened. It's really hard to track everything without a system. In addition, without this data, you may feel that there is no progress while you’ve already done a lot. Remember that while an offer is your goal and is most likely the end of the journey, it’s not the only metric. Some ideas for your own metrics: Note how many people you spoke with this month, how many interesting suitable opportunities you’ve found, any interview prep work you’ve done.
10. Protect your mental well-being
Job search is mentally really hard to deal with: the prep, the waiting, the rejections. What helped me a lot:
- Having a job search diary - I wrote weekly how I feel and what progress I've made in terms of applications, even if it was just spending half an hour on job search. No offers doesn't mean no progress!
- Having a break from search even if it's just a couple of days. Preferably a week or longer especially if you feel you've had enough.
- If you feel stuck in your current job and feel like you just want to get out, I would recommend sticking it out (unless it’s an abusive environment). Job search almost always takes longer than we expect and it’s always easier to get a job when you already have a job. This way you will be able to be picky and won’t take the first job just to pay the bills. To make things more bearable at your existing job, keep a low profile and just concentrate on getting work done. Let the frustration drive your enthusiasm for a new role!
- Adding to the previous point, don’t put a timeline on your job search. Nowadays job applications are 2-3 months long, and on average people don’t get the first job they apply for, so you may be looking at a 6-12 months search period. It’s really bad for your mental health to constantly be in a state of waiting and impatience for such a long time, so just adopt the attitude “It would be nice to get it but I already have a job”. If you don’t have a job, find something to distract you - like volunteering, sports, personal development, a temporary part-time job etc.
- Limit checking your emails to a couple of times a day - a watched pot never boils! It really doesn't help and only makes you more stressed. My top tip is removing the email app from your phone.
- The best job application tip is to pretend you didn't get the job and just enjoy the process. It's super hard to do but it helps a lot even if you apply it a little bit. The waiting is just the worst, so it's good to mentally move on after each step rather than hoping you'll be selected. For example, once you’ve had an interview, don’t wait for an invitation to the next one or for a job offer - pretend you already got a rejection, get over it, and think “what can I do next?” Concentrate on another opportunity or, if you’re having a break, on doing something you love. This way, if you do get invited, it will be a nice surprise, and if you don’t, well, you’ve already moved on, so it doesn’t feel as bad. Also, having this attitude prevents you from coming across as desperate, as you may really want the job, but if in your head you already pretended you didn’t get it, you can be a lot more at ease.
- Having someone to talk to, like a friend or a family member just to listen to you and chat it through is super important. They don't need to be a career advisor or give you any useful tips - just lend an ear and listen to your thought process can make you feel like you’re not on your own. I have a therapist I speak to once a week, we discussed job applications as well and it was great to have that space where I could just voice all my concerns. A fellow job search buddy is even better!
11. Please apply for jobs even if you're not sure you're qualified.
I can’t stress this point enough - even if you’re in the least intrigued by the job, please apply for it. Don’t think that just because you don’t meet 50% of the criteria you won’t qualify. Sometimes hiring managers change their idea of the role and hire different people with different skills. Don’t reject yourself before they reject you. Some people tell me “but I’m not sure I can do the trial task required” - you can just figure it out by googling (that’s what I’ve done and that’s what everyone does). If you meet 100% of the criteria, that means that you’ll unlikely have room for growth. In your application, don’t say “I can’t do this” or “I know I don’t have this experience” - talk about what you will do to compensate for it instead. For example, in my Insect Charity application, to compensate for the lack of experience in managing an organisation, I’ve put “I’m highly skilled at project management and this will come useful in managing this organisation, as every project needs planning, control and execution”.
12. An offer is not the only positive outcome from job applications
Don’t just view job hunting as a means to an end - they are also good for connection building. People will notice your CV and eventually will put you on the map. They may even recommend you to apply for another role in a similar organisation. I know a couple of people who were a runner-up and got a job at the same organisation later when the new person left or a new position was created. No one is going to laugh at you because you applied - hiring managers don't have the time for that. Even if you’ve applied for a senior role that, in their opinion, you’re not qualified for, they may offer you a more junior role, or they may even adjust the role to fit you. If you get rejected, write a nice message to the hiring manager thanking them for the opportunity to apply or, if you had an interview, to speak to them. Say that you hope your paths will cross again somehow. Interestingly, I got some good connections out of this job hunting, as everyone knows everyone in our movement, so this will help me in my next job.
13. Always be a couple of steps ahead in your application prep
I find that even though the job application process is really long, it progresses quickly once something happens. You can get an invitation to send your CV or to interview and only have a couple of days to prepare. When you get an offer, usually the organisation expects an answer in the next couple of days. So it’s a good idea to prepare for all these steps ahead of time so that you can act quickly. Start preparing to interview questions before you get offered interviews. Only very few organisations will send questions in advance. However, most won’t, so you can prepare common questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” well in advance. So when you get an interview invite, all you have to do is look up organisation-specific info and prepare for specific questions.
14. Cultivate your references regardless of whether you’re looking for a job or not
Usually, when you get a reference request (either before or after the final interview), it’s well past the time of getting in touch with people you haven’t spoken to for a year or longer. Create a spreadsheet listing all the people you can ask to be a reference for you. Reach out when you begin your job search, check-in, tell them about your plans and ask if the person would serve as a reference for the kind of roles you’re applying for (ideally of course you should be in touch periodically, not just when you’re job searching). Always have significantly more than just 2-3 people, as they may be unavailable or refuse to give a reference for a particular role. Being strategic about your references will pay off - don’t ask someone who has never seen you in a management role to give you a reference for a leadership position. You want all your references to be absolutely glowing rather than just standard (it’s about what they don’t say). It’s good practice to speak to your references before they provide the information to your potential employer and check what they are planning on saying. It’s not that you want them to alter the information, in fact, you want them to be as authentic as possible, but some people just haven’t seen you in the roles that you may need to perform next. The stakes are too high to just provide their email addresses without checking this.
Also, it goes without saying that with the length of current reference forms you don’t want to just ask one person to be a reference for all the jobs - have at least 10 trusted contacts you can rely upon (some of them managers, some of them peer colleagues). If you don’t have them, consider starting to cultivate them now.
15. Always be ready to receive an offer
Partly so that you know how to react (like whether you would actually like to take the job or not) and partly not to undersell yourself. I know I said that it's good to pretend you didn't get the job, however, to actually decide if the job is right for you you need to imagive yourself doing the job and think of the logistics such as salary etc. When you get an offer you usually get under a week to accept it at most, so it's not enough time to do analyse everything. Read up on offer negotiation techniques and generally what constitutes a good offer. Sometimes you’ll get a call rather than an email - it’s probably not a good idea to accept the offer right on the spot, as the excitement can cloud your judgement (you should of course thank the employer for the offer and show excitement). No matter how pleased you are with the offer, take some time to think it through (the employer will usually have a deadline). Have a look at the salary benchmarking, benefits, calculate everything and make a list of things you’d like to discuss/negotiate. If the organisation really wants you, they are likely to give you the best offer, however, some will low-ball you and are ready for negotiation. Remember that now is the last time in the following year you can talk about your salary, once you’ve accepted, that’s it! If you're having trouble deciding between multiple options, I can recommend this blog from 80,000 hours which helped me a lot.
16. Continue to upskill even after you get your dream offer
Don’t let your job hunting skills get forgotten. You never know when you’ll decide to look for another job again. I would also really like to recommend this blog - Ask a Manager - it’s about all things career + tons of advice for job seekers and hiring managers. It makes for a very entertaining read too!
Did you find these tips useful? Anything resonated with you/was different for you? I would love to hear about your experience and hear some extra tips - I think the readers will appreciate different perspectives.
Let me know if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help fellow EAs with job applications ;)
Thanks for reading and again, and if you’re in the middle of job search: you can do this!