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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to make a lot of money, or follow your bliss, even if it’s not lucrative? The group 80,000 Hours has a different suggestion: Think of your career as a chance to do a ton of good, and try to find the job that lets you help the most people you can. It’s a simple rule, but, as Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman have found, it’s anything but simple in practice.

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Further reading:

80,000 Hours’s career guide

Jeff Kaufman’s blog, where he breaks down his and Julia Wise’s contributions

Julia Wise’s blog, Giving Gladly

Larissa MacFarquhar profiles Julia Wise in the Guardian

More of Vox’s effective altruism coverage

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Discover more podcasts from Vox here.

English
United States
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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00when she graduated from college a decade ago Julia wise didn't have a super clear career plan but she did know that she wanted to give a big chunk of her salary to charity and by big I mean half of it they had been interested in donation for quite
00:00:17a while basically since I was a kid or a teenager she can't totally explain what when she was a kid she song grandmother give a lot of money away so that's hard to what matters is she was determined to do it he had been assuming I would kind
00:00:33of have separate finances for my part or something because the amount I wanted to donate was just so different from anyone else same meant and when I met Jeff he certify the thought it over and %HESITATION didn't outright reject the idea but %HESITATION you know wasn't keen to
00:00:51adopt it immediately sort of yes separate finances that sounds like a good idea that's Jeff Kaufmann Julie and Jeff have gotten married since back in two thousand eight they were just dating truly was a sociology major and Jeff and studied computer science and requesting after graduation they spend
00:01:10a summer working at a camp we worked at a folk dance camp I was a cook and here's a dishwasher yeah I remember him suggesting you know if donation is so important to you maybe you should try and earn more money so you could donate more of it
00:01:27and this was just kind of horrifying idea to me I remember just sitting outside thinking about what would it mean to try and earn more money it's a it just sounded like the antithesis of what I had always thought of myself as doing some very greedy yeah so
00:01:45needing to take a long look at that was pretty eye opening to me and not not in a pleasant way from the vox media podcast network this is future perfect a podcast about effective altruism I'm doing Matthews to date question that a lot of people grapple with if
00:02:05you have the privilege to choose a career career should you pack college counselors and parents will often encourage you to find a career that lets you follow your passions or one that makes good money but effective vouchers approach the question differently for them it's about making the biggest
00:02:24possible difference in the world is it better to work in a field where you can help people directly by making a difference researching new vaccines for example or %HESITATION working to distribute medicine in poor countries or is it better to make a whole lot of money and then
00:02:41give it away to charities that are better positioned to help people then you are there isn't really a right answer and Jess and Julia kind of the opposite choices on the spectrum you can attack us through this choices and have their thinking has actually changed over time just
00:02:58as the thinking of the broader effective altruism movement is changed so let's pick up where we left off Julie and Jeff work at the summer camp and then they start exploring this new movement we started finding the beginnings of the effective altruism movement and people who are thinking
00:03:15about effectiveness and careers and that was kind of a shock to me especially because at that point the emphasis was really on earning two gives pretty strongly where people were saying Hey if you want to change the world you should be thinking about how much money you can
00:03:32earn and trying to find the jobs where you can earn the most so let's dive in on that what's in our name to give model the idea behind a ring to give as that I try and earn as much money as I can so I can donate as
00:03:45much money as I can two things that I think can do a good job of using that money to make the world better for Jeff is actually pretty easy to make a bunch of money and then donate half of it she had a programming background and there's a
00:03:59lot of high paying work for programmers I a applied to a job at Google and and got a job there and they do in fact pay more and that has gone very well I've been very lucky there and for me with a sociology major just it wasn't looking
00:04:12too good I ended up going to social work school to become a social worker and midway through that program sort of had this of kind of crisis where I I wondered if I was abandoning people to a terrible fate by not earning more so that I could help
00:04:29them more and really strongly believe that I was doing the wrong thing by pursuing this fairly lowering career that I was essentially leaving a lot of value on the table and that that wasn't just that wasn't dollars and cents but really trying to think of it in terms
00:04:46of people's lives thinking of it in terms of you know if I would donate more to say distributing biscuit announced that protect people from malaria that's other people's children who are dying that I could have prevented but ultimately I thought about the hearing things that I may consider
00:05:06and they all seem like they were either a terrible match for my skills or where I would be terribly unhappy in them so I ended up putting my blinders on and continuing with social work school becoming a social worker I worked in a jail for three years during
00:05:22therapy with prisoners and I enjoy the work I didn't think it was terribly impactful Julie thought it wasn't impactful because it wasn't affecting a larger number of people or making system wide changes and because this was very early in the effective altruism movement when a lot of effect
00:05:41about trys thought that earning to give was better than the alternatives but eventually there is a shift effective altruism was realizing that we didn't just need bankers and programmers we needed people without a wider variety of skills and that's when it became clear to me that having someone
00:05:59with a background saying mental health work and community work was actually quite valuable to effective altruism is a movement she started working at an effective altruism nonprofit and job that does affect a large number of people today she's grateful that she didn't bend to the pressure to make
00:06:15a lot of money now it's actually chat first thinking hard about his learning to give job I think there are higher impact things that I could be doing that maybe don't involve programming at all some form of direct work or some form of working with organizations in the
00:06:36a movement maybe some form of like going to a very poor country and doing work there I think there is like quite a bit of potential for having a lot of impact that way I knew you do a lot of community work with the people involved in EA
00:06:52in Boston and that's a lot of college students so I'm I'm curious what kind of advice you give some of it has to do with their particular skills and interests so if there's somebody who just loves biology or whatever you know I think they should go into that
00:07:07certainly if if it's a field where there is promising work to be done then following their interest or their skills is pretty sound strategy if their passion is playing the banjo it's harder to see how they're going to have a lot of impact with that and one model
00:07:24is the one that Jeff stand where he didn't consider being a professional musician and that's not a professional player mandolin the very different but that you know that there are ways to enjoy your passions without necessarily making it a full time job and get out that that name
00:07:42may be the the better route if your passion is just really not gonna let you too much good in the world but I I see eighty thousand hours of %HESITATION in a much better place to advise people on this so I I mostly actually just refer them to
00:07:58the resources that are already out there by people who would have thought a lot about where this and I have after the break we'll talk to someone from eighty thousand hours is an organization that helps people figure out how to pick careers with a big impact to walk
00:08:13us through some options and then we'll begin to what it really means to give away half there are quite telling math heroes US to five cast but I love it's called the impact I I do I was deprived yes and I'm very excited to hear you if you
00:08:39love the podcast because I love it to tell me more about it so the impact is a podcast about how policy affects real lives %HESITATION we look at what happened all these laws of these regulations that exist on paper we look at the actual real human beings who
00:08:54are affected by those pieces of paper and kind of look through a lot of the unexpected unintended consequences of all these things that our governments are doing to season one was all about health care what season two about the season to we're going way outside of health care
00:09:06we are looking at the most interesting policy experiments all across the country so everything from campaign finance to education to housing we are looking at places that are trying something different and telling our listeners about what happens next so what's the story you're really excited about from season
00:09:24two I am crazy excited about this episode from my home town Seattle where they mailed people literally millions of dollars of free money to spend on elections if you want to hear more about that program you should listen to the impact season two on apple podcast or wherever
00:09:41you get your podcast welcome back to future perfect before the break Julie mention an organization called eighty thousand hours it's called that because the typical person in their career will spend about eighty thousand hours on the job the organization uses effective altruism principles to help people answer the
00:10:03question of this episode what's the best job to give all that time too we started a thousand now is because we were trying to figure out what to do with our encourages this is been Todd back in twenty eleven years making the exact same choice the Julian Jeff
00:10:18we're making but instead of going to work at a summer camp and then figuring stuff out from there he talked to his friend well about it we were starting to think about if where we deny our money is really important and some charities have more impact than others
00:10:32working some places might have much impact and work in other places and we realize there wasn't any existing resources on like can I have a greater impact in academia or should I didn't money to charity willing band decided to make those resources themselves to see which career does
00:10:48the most good is really tough problem to tackle so they broke it down a bit first they should be to choose which problems in the world thinking most pressing and the ones that you want to focus your career on we encourage people to try and work on issues
00:11:06that are important neglected unsolvable one key point that is the neglected nis so what else equal to more resources already going into a problem the hotter is to make an impact this approach of focusing your energy on areas where there aren't a lot of resources it's not the
00:11:25way things are done traditionally and has some kind of counter intuitive implications yes one of the most popular because it is in the US of people we want to have a social impact is is you're such occasion but US education receive something like two trillion dollars of investment
00:11:42pay yes Sir a bunch of government spending a bunch of private spending Ben says we should compare that to a because like say pandemic prevention pandemic could wipe all of humanity out the programs to prevent them only get about a billion dollars of funding every year that's two
00:12:01thousand times less than US education Ben tries to steer people toward that kind of neglected field the if you're having trouble with that conclusion that's fair and Ben isn't saying that you have to DO pandemic work or that you're not allowed to be a teacher is organization just
00:12:22encourages people to consider options they might not otherwise run into and you don't have to have one specific set of skills to help even on something like pandemics for calls like that Ben says there are four main ways you can contribute you kids to the research directly in
00:12:39which case you would need to have some kind of biology %HESITATION public health background you can work for a pandemic nonprofit helping with the organization side of things any can help indirectly covering the issue is a journalist or going into politics in pushing for pandemic related policy and
00:12:57yet we also mentioned earlier %HESITATION I need to give some job that's like a bit high running than what you would take another wise and and then tonight too to charities working on this issue eighty thousand hours also tries to figure out which of those options is passed
00:13:11in the front to a lot of researchers and experts in some of the fields of their most interested in pandemic prevention malaria treatment nuclear security climate change and they asked them would you rather have people earn money and donated to your cause or get involved directly doing researcher
00:13:28park on the ground most people actually cheese the person working directly in the field say on a non profit %HESITATION doing research something like that but whatever decision you make you can also reevaluate over time I tend to do a kind of annual review of my life once
00:13:45the error in January where I set aside a couple of days and try and like think about the big picture and one question I ask myself this is should I change job he's pretty confident that his current job is the best way to have an impact at least
00:13:58for now he helps a lot of people find more impactful jobs for themselves which has a kind of exponential affect any enjoys his job which is important just generally for having a fulfilling life but it's also important for social impact point of you because you're gonna be more
00:14:13likely to pan out I think that's a lesson learned as this movement has gotten older the things you try to force yourself into at age twenty two might not be as sustainable over the years that's truly wise again it's worth both trying to harness some of the vigor
00:14:31of twenty two year olds but also being realistic about what you will stick to was a plan and not forcing yourself into plans that you will invest a lot into but maybe not reap the rewards of because you burn out that's true for picking a career and it's
00:14:47true for trying to donate a lot of money Jeff job generates a lot more money than truly is right now but they both still give away half their pre tax income to charity early on they spent a lot of time and energy trying not to waste money that
00:15:01they could be giving away like to the point where the B. standing in the grocery store debating whether or not to buy a brand of salt that was fifteen cents cheaper we didn't really quickly realize that this is the stupidest argument ever yes not not not a very
00:15:15good use of time though like fifteen cents per thing of salt over decades might might be a like a few dollars but yeah not a high priority you want to look at this through the lens of how do you have the most impact over the course of your
00:15:28lifetime and people in their early twenties are really zealous in a lot of ways usually and one of the ways that I was Alice and lot of other people try to be as Ellis is just like working as much as possible we're trying to do is little cushy
00:15:44miss for yourself is possible or something something like that and I'm not even sure that it's very impactful it might be more like it proving to yourself in the world like how hard core you are which again is something that people really love to do when they're twenty
00:15:58two at one point I was courting my vacation days so I could cash them in and donate the money and my friend who had had been through some of that said Julia this is crazy is top take a vacation days having a life that you enjoy that sustainable
00:16:13for you is way more worthwhile than the cashier we get for the vacation days if never having a break damages your ability to keep going with this and to find it doable for the long term in some ways it has gotten easier they now make a lot more
00:16:34money than they used to to be specific there in about three hundred thousand dollars a year they give half away but that's still a hundred and fifty thousand dollars left to live on it's not a small yearly income to some extent we are maybe more frugal fan I
00:16:51don't know my peer group at work but I don't think at this point we are more frugal than like the average American %HESITATION yes certainly we're spending more than the typical American family but there are still pressures there are nice things and it would be nice to have
00:17:06more of them sort of pressure I I've I've sort of felt the sort of in words pull getting stronger for years of like building a place for myself and my family to live that feels like raped and there's like sort of sort of nesting impulse I feel but
00:17:24I also think that like it's important for me to resist that hand to continue recognizing that other people elsewhere matter and their lives are not going nearly as well as mine and I should be trying to help and also a lot of our friends themselves are interested in
00:17:41fact about tourism and having support from other people who share your values is just also pretty key to long term motivation part of the reason that I've been so happy about the gross of effective altruism as a community is that it felt very isolated at first when we
00:18:00were doing this on our own and being part of a network of other people who share the same values are trying to do the same thing I feel so much better I mean I don't know how well we would have done had we not had the support of
00:18:13community career choice is one of those good problem staff if you weren't privileged enough to grow up in a rich country or in a rich family in a rich country you're much less likely to be in a position to choose which career path to take for the lucky
00:18:33few of us you do get to choose this can be a really hard question it's one that I personally right about a lot I don't do yearly check ins like Ben talked my contemplation tends to instead take the form of an archaic panic spirals one reason I like
00:18:50doing this podcast is it lets me highlight people who I think are making a difference and highlighting the might encourage some of you listening to try to make a difference to but I'm gonna keep asking whether or not I could do more and if you're in a position
00:19:04where you have a lot of options for what to do in life I hope you'll join me and band and Julia and Jeff asked that question to this is the season finale of future perfect so one last time I want to thank our wonderfully talented producer bird Pinker
00:19:25ten and our editor Amy tryst owska got a lot of help from Joanne Weinberger and our engineer was juror at Floyd our music was by Christopher ski we dot sessions and putting to bear future perfect is made possible through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation three more of
00:19:41our reporting on effective altruism check out box dot com slash future perfect

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