Give ethical career advice
Written by Fran Monks and published on the 17th February, 2014.
I wish I had met Benjamin Todd fifteen years ago when I was considering what job to take after finishing my masters degree in Environmental Technology. Or rather, someone with the knowledge he now has. Ben wouldn’t have been old enough to advise me back then, but now he is well equipped with a great deal of evidence about what kind of career can have the greatest impact. I decided that working for a multinational oil company was going to be the way that I could help to protect the global environment, but it was based on a hunch. I still have no idea whether that hunch was true. I would have loved it if someone could have told me how much carbon would be saved by the environmental careers I was considering. That’s the kind of statistic that 80,000 hours aims to provide would-be do-gooders, on their search for an altruistic career path.
Ben and some college friends set up 80,000 Hours in 2011 in the hope that they would help people “use the 80,000 hours you’ve got in your career to make a difference”. They were initially inspired by their involvement in an organisation called Giving What We Can. Giving What We Can encourages effective philanthropy by identifying the charities which do the most to alleviate poverty. Their work inspired Ben and his friends to think about what careers do the most to make a difference. They even came to accept that sometimes earning more and giving generously to charity may be the most “ethical” path.
During his final year at Balliol College, Oxford, Ben spent at least as much time on developing 80,000 Hours as he did on his studies. By the summer of 2012, he and his friends had raised enough capital to start paying Ben to work for the organisation full time. Over one year on, they are already employing 3 staff, have a number of interns and have raised over £280,000. Donors hope that by supporting 80,000 Hours they will enable many young people to be successful at making positive change happen.
Ben and his colleagues hope to help people by providing one-to-one intensive coaching to specially selected “altruistic” job seekers. The service will be provided free of charge to those with a strong desire to make a difference. 80000 Hours staff will use their compelling research and evidence base to enable candidates to weigh up the potential impact of their career choices. Ben is planning to have a global impact. Currently working in Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Yale, the long-term plan is to roll-out their ideas across universities world-wide.