Many people want to spend their work lives in a field that makes a positive impact on the world. Some opt to teach. Others work in the health professions or NGOs. But a relatively new movement called Effective Altruism is changing how those who want to do good pick a career.
Effective Altruism (EA) is a philosophy and movement that uses evidence, including hard data, that highlights the best ways to benefit others. The movement took shape in the late 2000s when Oxford philosophers Toby Ord and William MacAskill formed a community that in 2011 assumed the name Centre for Effective Altruism. Philosopher Peter Singer’s 2013 TED talk The Why and How of Effective Altruism helped the movement gain traction.
Originally the movement encouraged those who wanted to help alleviate the world’s ills to work in lucrative careers so they could donate to causes such as global poverty alleviation, animal welfare, and global catastrophic risks. Today the EA movement is linked with an NGO called 80,000 Hours, so named for the average number of hours worked over the course of a career. The idea behind 80,000 Hours is to help people connect their desire to do good with a job that uses their skills and talents. This notion appeals to workers who may currently hold jobs that do not directly address social problems as well as to new workers who want to begin their careers in positions where they can see the impact of their work.
EA and 80,000 Hours work in sync. While EA principles drive job candidates to focus on careers that will have a high impact in the long term, 80,000 Hours matches its clients with the best personal fit in a job that does good. Its staff consults with clients to guide them to the kinds of jobs that will have the greatest effect on an individual’s chosen social cause.
For example, a person who wants to end homelessness would be directed away from a career as a social worker who deals with individual cases. Instead, advisors at 80,000 Hours would encourage the client to take a completely different track by, say, working at a startup devoted to solving homelessness in ways that will affect more people than one social worker ever could.
The organization pinpoints what an individual should do to end up in the high-impact position. This may entail more education, a career pivot, or a way to work with the job one has to better serve the world at large.
Students still unsure about what they want to do with their lives just may want to research EA and 80,000 Hours.
- What are the ways a job in an altruistic field could provide satisfaction to an employee?
- Visit the EA website at effectivealtruism.org and read about its purpose. Do you think the ideas espoused could help you direct your skills and abilities to work in an EA field?
- Now examine https://80000hours.org and look at its job board. If any postings interest you, what can you do now to work toward qualifying for that position?