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Or at least, how we did it at EA Finland. You probably need to modify the approach according to your group’s situation.

Our career advising service started running in this structured format in May 2022 and has been slowly growing ever since.

Why provide your own career advising?

Your career advising does not need to compete with 80 000 hours or Probably Good (or Animal Advocacy Careers or any other cause area specific career advising service). It is probably best understood as a complementary service, and this is how we thought about it at EA Finland as well.

We have some advantages which might lead people to contact us instead of any of the other organizations:

  • Availability. We can provide multiple sessions to the same advisee, possibly with a different advisor, and either as a series of sessions or to help a previous advisee in a new urgent decision situation.
  • Language. We can provide advice in Finnish.
  • Local knowledge. We understand the local Finnish (or Nordic) situation, sometimes to a great detail (eg. when the advisor has attended the same university than the advisee).
  • Local connections. Could be to the local EA community (for advisees new to EA) or to local professionals.
  • Lower threshold to apply. Some of our members don’t feel confident to apply for 80k’s advising, wondering if they are effective or outstanding enough. In this case we could use the call also to encourage them to contact 80k as well.
  • Familiarity. In some cases, especially for urgent decisions that our community members have to make, they might get more out of scheduling a call with a person who is broadly aware of their situation than someone in EA they don't know.

Career advising can also be a way for local new people to get interested in EA, in addition to intro programs and other newcomer-friendly activities.

Ultimately, we believe that most people don’t spend enough time planning their career, so most efforts that go to supporting altruistically motivated people to reflect more on their career plans are probably a good use of volunteer time.

Setting up the career advising system


We wanted EA Finland’s career advising to be a service where altruistically motivated people get compassionate help in thinking about their career choices in a structural way with the help of volunteers who are equipped to help them by their knowledge of EA tools and frameworks.

This means our services are open to everyone who is interested in doing good, regardless of their agreement of EA principles - but we are open about coming from an EA background ourselves and being able to help better if the advisees are more in agreement with us. For example, if someone is mostly motivated to help Finnish children be healthier, we can try to help come up with personal career steps to make this happen, but we won’t have that much information on eg. the effectiveness of different organizations working on that.

Some people in our advising team have felt we should in some cases try to “talk people over” to a more EA-like prioritizing, because from an utilitarian point of view it is valuable to have more people spend their time on the most effective causes. I however think being a trusted service that people safely can come to with their own values and ways of thinking is too valuable to be traded against the quite limited possibility of persuading someone to a huge change in their values. We do direct people to EA materials but they can decide themselves what they think about them.


I started setting up our career advising system when EA Finland got its first funding, starting in May 2022. This allowed me to work 1 day / week for the organization, with a focus on career advising. Most of the necessary set-up to actually start advertising our career advising services was ready after a couple of months (corresponding to 2–3 weeks of full-time work). Then I spent the rest of the funded months iteratively developing the service, on other career-advising related things, and on other community building things.

It helped to have someone who can actually dedicate time to think about how to run the service – I think we would be worse off if the whole set-up had been done on pure volunteer work. At the same time, we knew that we might not get continued funding, and that I personally might not be able to continue doing paid community building work. [1]

This is why one important design principle was to make up a system that can be run on volunteer-basis only and that can easily be handed over for others to manage. I didn’t want a set-up that works by having me doing all the advising calls, or otherwise would depend on me personally to a large extent. 

Another reason to emphasize the role of volunteers was that we didn’t want paid employees to take over volunteer roles but to make volunteering easier, thus amplifying our organization’s impact. Of course this was only possible since I knew we had many motivated volunteers interested in giving career advice.


The career advising training sessions were open to all interested EA Finland volunteers. In addition to the people I organized the training for, there were some individuals who had advising experience from other sources, and with whom I only talked through the principles of our advising system, but didn’t make them practice advising in the same way as the less experienced advisors. As a result, EA Finland currently has 13 people available for giving advising sessions.

There are some benefits in having many advisors:

  • People from different professional and backgrounds
  • People with interest and expertise in different cause areas
  • People with different advising styles
  • More flexibility; more likely somebody is always available
  • Presence in some different geographic locations can be a plus for in-person advising
  • Sustainable and resilient to having some people drop out or become low availability for a while

There are also some downsides on having many vs. few advisors:

  • Some advisors don’t get to do that much advising and might grow uncertain in their ability to give advice
  • With less practice, it takes longer to learn from your successes and mistakes
  • Requires a person who is responsible for coordination (picking an advisor to each person who has applied for advising) since the advisors won’t be able to negotiate that on the spot every time a advising request comes in

We are countering the learning aspect by asking people to share a couple of sentences of how their advising session went after each session in a group chat where all advisors are present.


Most of our volunteers went through a 1-day training organized on a weekend day. The training has a theoretical and a practical part.

The theoretical part includes stuff like:

  • The purpose and philosophy of the career advising service at EA Finland
  • Personal reflection on good moments of advice you have yourself gotten (if possible, related to career stuff) and why it was important to hear that at that time
  • The concrete outline of a 1-1 session
  • How the whole EA Finland career advising workflow works
  • What are some things to do when giving advice (such as active listening)
  • What not to do when giving advice (such as downplaying the advisees concerns)

The practical part, which I think is the most important part, is trying to give advice to a “practice advisee” on the spot. This works in the following way:

  • Find a person (or if possible, several, so that you can repeat the exercise) who is up to taking the role of a model/practice person receiving advice on their career. A perfect person for this is someone who is vaguely aware of some EA principles, but not very involved and does not know all the jargon and has not spent tens of hours reflecting on their career already, since that’s also what your typical advisee is going to look like. They should also be willing to talk about their real career situation in this kind of a weird setting. We have found that friends of organizers who state they “don’t want to bother your advisors by applying to the actual advising because they aren’t really EA” make great volunteers for this exercise.
    • If you can’t find anyone (or they get sick on the same day), you could also role-play as an advisee, but it’s much better if you can find a real target person.
    • The practice advisee should not expect to get that much out of the advising session, since it’s going to be a bit different from usual – but all our practice advisees have said participating was actually useful for them as well
  • Have one of the advisors in training try to give advice to the practice advisee for around 5–10 minutes while others observe the interaction
  • Pause and analyze how the advising session is going
    • Let other advisors in training try to give feedback first
    • You can also ask the practice advisee directly how they felt about a certain piece of interaction – sometimes all the future advisors think something was a great comment or exercise, but the practice advisee didn’t actually understand or like it
  • Switch advisors so that everyone gets to practice
    • It’s better to do multiple short rounds if only a few people are present
    • Around 1,5 hours is a good maximal total time for this exercise, limiting the maximal amount of advisors in training to ~6
  • After letting the practice advisee go home, recap the whole advising “session” with the future advisors

I recommend having 2 different practice advisees if you can just find volunteers for this exercise. It shows how different things work for different people, and that no two advising sessions are the same.


Currently, our career advising system is maintained completely by volunteers – that is, we can take in advising requests and give advising sessions completely on a volunteer basis when needed. However, it has been valuable that Vesa Hautala has been able to spent paid work hours for occasionally helping with maintenance (in addition to other career activity related responsibilities, mostly related to development) and that both he and Karla Still has been able to do advising calls on work time when needed.

We have one volunteer whose only responsibility is to follow the sign-up form and redirect the advisees to advisors based on their application form answers. The advisors are responsible for making sure they are actually available or if they aren’t they need to decline the request to give advice. If they accept, they contact the advisee themselves, decide on a time, have the session and log the session in our logging sheet. Afterwards, they share something about their experience in the advisor group chat, so that we can learn from the experiences of others.


People usually find us

  • by already being an active member of EA Finland. (These calls are sometimes about making a specific career related decision, sometimes about general long-term career planning.)
  • by being interested in EA and noticing it mentioned on our website/newsletter/social media or getting a direct recommendation of an active member. (Here the topic is often “I would like to come up with some ways of having an impactful career”.)
  • by noticing the advising our website or getting it mentioned in an event where EA Finland advertises (These calls are often about “I work/want to specialize in X and care about causes Y and Z, how could I have a job that does more good than harm”.)
  • by just trying to find career advising – luckily for us, we come up on the first results page when someone searches for “uraneuvonta” (Finnish for “career advising”) on Google

The last two groups are quite likely (my estimate is 30%) to never answer the scheduling email, even if they have taken the time to fill in the application form, which is not trivial although not super heavy either. We have a policy of contacting them 2 times, after which we drop it. On the other hand, we don’t have almost any last minute cancellations, so when we actually manage to schedule a call, our advisees tend to show up.

We currently have more capacity than advisees, so it seems clear that advertising (and maybe also interest) is a bottleneck. Things we have done to get more attention to our services:

  • try out 15 minute speed career advising calls where you don’t have to fill in the form, just book a time
  • keep mentioning the career advising service in our newsletter and on our Telegram channel
  • attending events and marketing our services to secondary school study advisors (teachers responsible for helping youngsters to figure out their way towards a career or their next place of study)

We’ve been a bit wary of trying a very broad outreach to people who haven’t heard of EA before, because if advisees have a very different understanding from “doing good” than us, we are also less likely to be able to help them.


Aside from various advertising strategies, we sometimes try to develop the advisors’ skills in advising. Part of this is also just upkeep to ensure advisors stay motivated and learn from each others’ experiences.

Doing advising helps us identify spots where we’d need more knowledge to help our advisees better. For example, not many of our advisors know a lot about effective ways to fight climate change, but it is a common area of interest for our advisees. We have tried to counter this by sharing information and just generally being open about our weak spots to each other. 

We are also experimenting with additional training for advisors, but it is often hard to get many advisors to attend at the same time. In this sense asynchronous communication seems to work better for us.

When is it better to not have your own career advising system?

  • if you don’t have members who are able to give compassionate and educated impact-oriented advice - this could be both hard for people who are very prone to being overconfident or underconfident
  • if your members cannot reliably reply to career advising requests in a reasonable time

But other than that, I think a career advising system can be valuable for many groups. I believe students are perfectly able to provide career advice to others, especially other students, since even without in-depth knowledge of different career situations you can help others by giving them space to reflect and asking clarifying questions.

What I find difficult in EA career advising

The most scary part in giving advice is the fear of giving unhelpful or straight up wrong advice, especially to people who are quite young or otherwise uncertain about their situation but put a lot of value on EA type of thinking. I’m afraid they put too much weight into “EA career advice”, while it’s actually just me, a normal person trying to give advice to them. I try to mitigate this by being very open about my own uncertainties, and sometimes I explicitly say that there are no secret EA truths, and even if the career advising comes under the EA Finland “brand” it still represents my personal knowledge and understanding.

Another difficulty falls almost in the opposite direction: it’s the complexity of keeping up with the difference between my personal opinions, some opinions popular in EA materials and the advisees opinions in the context of an advisee who is relatively new to EA. The typical example here is a recent intro program graduate who has heard that AI safety is an important topic and would like to explore it further. I want to be open about the fact that I personally have significant uncertainty regarding AI safety, but I also want to encourage people to read more about it and form their own opinions. However, just stating this can sometimes confuse advisees, and I worry about both discouraging them from getting more interested in AI safety and seeming dishonest with my own views on the topic. 

Feedback we’ve gotten and what makes us stand out in comparison of non-EA career advising services

Estimating how people actually like our career advising is sometimes difficult, because we don’t get almost any negative feedback, even if probably not all advisees largely benefit from the advising session. We both collect informal feedback by just asking advisees how they felt after a session and also ask for structured feedback by sending them an anonymous feedback form and lately also another follow-up form after 6 months.

I guess most people get a lot of benefits from just taking 45 minutes or 1 hour to think about their careers and discuss it with somebody, almost regardless of the advising quality level (unless the advisor says something upsetting or discouraging).

Some people we have advised seemed really excited towards the end of the session and said things like “this is the best career advice I’ve ever gotten” and “this was way more helpful than the advice I received at [university / public career services / etc]”. Culturally, these kinds of reactions are not expected in Finland, so I think these feelings are genuine.

This is obviously flattering but also kind of alarming with regards to those other non-EA career advising services. I am not a trained psychologist or educator of any kind, much less with expertise in career guidance, so by default I would expect people who are motivated to try out many different services to get the best service from someone with the right education and who gives career advice as their full-time job. 

On the other hand, anecdotally, it seems many people also don’t benefit from public/university career advising services at all. In some ways, our job is easier and more tailored towards our audience. We don’t have to offer advice to people in all kinds of situations (even if we really rarely turn down requests in practice), and in each session, we already know that both the advisor and advisee share the passion for doing good. This gives us a common point of focus even if we’d have very different views on the best ways of doing good.

How I run a career advising sessions in practice

Or “what I think might be the thing making us different from other career advising options”. This is more a description of the mindset I find useful for giving career advice than a list of concrete tips. For a very good introduction of concrete tips and timing, see this post. The mindset as described in the post is similar to what I use. 

First of all, I always trust the person seeking advice to be the expert of their own situation. I often start the sessions by outright stating something like: “I don’t know that much about your field of study/work, could you explain typical options for a person in your situation to me”:

  • I find this helps the advisee also to shift their thinking to a wider perspective
  • If the answer seems too narrow or surprising to me, I’ll follow with asking further questions, such as “is working in the academia really the only option for people with this interest”
  • I learned to do this after once spending a lot of time trying to figure out impactful job options for a person with disability I didn’t know much about, only to later realize I should have started with asking “what kind of jobs are people with this disability usually able to do”, only to have them answer “most people with my disability are not able to work at all, however I expect to get slightly better in several years”. This information of course helped me to narrow down the feasible short-term options for the advisee significantly, since the options available right then were quite limited.

I try to identify points of uncertainty and hopefully figure out ways to get more information to reduce uncertainty:

  • This is nothing novel and to my understanding 80 000 hours advising is mostly based on this, but it is surprisingly rare how many other career advising services spend time doing this
  • Sometimes the uncertainty is something we can just figure out on the spot. A concrete example was “I’d maybe be interested in research but I’m not sure if being a PhD student pays enough to cover my living expenses”. We did a small napkin calculation of their living expenses, googled typical salaries for PhD students and figured out the money was enough. The advisee seemed slightly embarrassed for not having done this earlier, but I reassured them that people often just don’t think about verifying their assumptions, so it was very good we had done that now.
  • Sometimes the advisee comes with a question that seems really big for them, such as “should I take X as my major and Y as my minor subject or vice versa”, and when I try to ask them what influence the decision actually has, they figure out it probably doesn’t matter that much for their later plans.
  • As a counterexample to trying to reduce uncertainty, I recently got good feedback for explaining to an advisee that my analysis of their situation is that there is real uncertainty involved and that I also cannot see any obviously right or wrong decisions they could be making in their current situation. I think this reduced the pressure of “figuring out the right choice” and just trying out reasonable options to see what works, which was in some way comforting. 

I generally try to be encouraging and reassuring:

  • Most people come to career advising because of some uncertainty, otherwise they’d just do whatever they want to do anyway.
  • I am by nature not a very optimistic or positive person, but most people I speak with underestimate their potential, especially in the long term. So most of the time I can just try to be realistic about it with them.
  • Most people we advise who are newer to EA have not really considered that they could actually try to impact the issues they care about. Often this is because they don’t see many options for landing in a job that has real effects right away, so they just think it would be impossible for them to do so in the future either. In these cases I try to talk about long-term career planning or sometimes outside-of-work impact options (if both me and the advisee cannot figure out how to connect their current field to any of their preferred cause areas and bigger career changes don’t seem possible in the foreseeable future).
  • Some people who are very involved with EA are worried about their impact compared to others and often look for ways to optimize their impact in every decision they are making, including minor ones. I think for some people this kind of early optimization can become harmful if it comes at the cost of exploring low-cost opportunities that the advisee finds interesting. In these cases I often encourage the advisee to just spend some time doing fun things (such as taking a minor subject just because it seems interesting), because that also gives them information on what kind of work they’d enjoy.

In a nutshell, I just try to listen to the advisee, make sense of what they are telling me and try to find out what they are actually seeking advice for. Often this is enough to figure out some reasonable next steps.

Getting started

I hope some of you found this post informative or inspiring, especially if you have been considering setting up a career advising service for your local group (or just trying to give out career advice to group members in a less structured setting). 

To get started with that, I would probably just start by

  • either trying to figure out your group’s needs and how to fulfill them by your career advising service
  • or just getting together with a couple of people who want to learn to give career advice and start practicing (and figure your set-up later)

If you have any questions or would just like to talk things through, you can always contact me by a EA forum message or by e-mail (ada-maaria.hyvarinen@altruismi.fi). I will try to help you.

Career advising can be really rewarding. It is one of my favorite volunteering formats: I get to focus completely on a person trying to solve important problems for them, and sometimes really help them with that. If this is something you think you’d enjoy, I really recommend giving it a try.

  1. ^

    And I indeed did quit after 8 months due to finding another full-time job. Since careers is still a core function of EA Finland, Vesa Hautala took over the paid employee responsibility for that after me. From this month onwards, however, we will only have one part-time employee, Karla Still, so shifting over responsibilities to volunteers has become even more important.





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Executive summary: The post outlines how EA Finland set up a career advising system for their members using volunteer advisors. It provides insights into their motivation, process, training, and lessons learned.

Key points:

  1. Career advising can complement services from larger EA groups by providing tailored local knowledge, connections, availability, and language.
  2. They developed a volunteer-based system with multiple advisors to increase flexibility, sustainability, and match different needs.
  3. Advisors received training on career advising approaches and active practice sessions with volunteers roleplaying as advisees.
  4. Maintaining open communication and continued skill development for advisors helps the system run smoothly.
  5. Advising is based on trusting advisees' knowledge of their situations and helping reduce key uncertainties in career choices.
  6. It can be very rewarding to provide individualized support to those exploring high-impact careers.



This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

A pretty good summary, but to clarify point 3: we had "external" volunteers (who are not deeply involved with EA) taking the role of practice advisees, a method I find more realistic than the volunter advisors in training roleplaying as advisees themselves.

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