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Meta: below is a very non-generous view of 80k one-on-one career advising (kinda bitter to be honest). I will probably be raising points that the 80k team thought about over the years and decided against for a good reason but I have not seen them publicly discussed. I will be very happy to be wrong about this.

To sum up: 80k one-on-one career advising has a small negative effect on the world


  • 80k is the place to go for career advice (with low capacity) making it harder for new organizations/projects/initiatives to launch in this space.
  • A month-long period of reviewing the application is prohibitive and disappointing.
  • It is extremely upsetting for people to apply and get turned down, especially if they found 80k materials at some emotional time (releasing they are not satisfied with their current job or studies). It is very hard to not interpret this as "you are not good enough".
    • I believe CEA had to deal with similar sentiment after changing the EAG acceptance policy when a lot of people who used to be accepted were suddenly not accepted.
  • By focusing on people "for whom you’ll have useful things to say", you talk to people who do not need additional resources (like guidance or introductions) for increasing their impact. The contrafactual impact is low.
    • For example, testimonials on the website include PhD Student in Machine Learning at Cambridge and the President of Harvard Law School Effective Altruism.
  • By focusing on people for whom you already have useful things to say, you are not putting resources into figuring out how to make the vast majority of people who do not fit these criteria more impactful, effectively losing them.

I have an impression that 80k accepted a long time ago that that wait time will just have to be pretty long. Here is a bunch of ideas to shorten the wait time that I don't think were attempted historically:

  • removing sign up form from the website when the waitlist is too long
  • introduce extra filter like asking people to pay (donate to an effective charity of their choice) small-ish amount ($5-50) as an extra filter
  • use lottery to determine who to have a call with instead of a longer initial review
  • hire more advisors

The advising page also says that

It costs hundreds of dollars to provide this service to a single person.

It is not clear to me that the price of having in-house career advisors is justified. I think there are a lot of people (like a hundred) in the community who could gladly volunteer a couple of hours per month to do career advising and would be super excited about the opportunity to help out and share their knowledge and connections with the newcomers.

I believe a structure that has a small experienced 80k career advisor team (2-4 people) managing a community of vetted experienced EA volunteers would be a much more promising way to go. Or alternatively have the community fully self-organise for this project.

Very Bad Wizards: The One with Peter Singer (released in April, 2020)