What if I can't answer their questions?
- That's fine! If you don't know the answer to something, or don't have a perfect response, don't shy away from it.
- It's ok to come across as modest, or that you don't have answers to all these world-changingly important issues that people are spending their whole lives and careers solving.
What if they don't seem to be interested in impact-based thinking?
- Usually this concern comes up with people really new to thinking with EA considerations. It's fine for them to not think about impact yet, and one of the most important things to try and achieve in your meetings becomes introducing them to thinking about core EA heuristics and values, such as impartiality.
- You'll have to start by doing this gradually and carefully, as it's a big shift to make. You'll want to tailor the discussion to finding what parts of EA, as they understand it, are exciting and engaging. Drawing from this basis, you can start to lead them through the mindset and heuristics that most EAs tend to agree are helpful.
- You can also direct them to talk to other people in the community, either by reaching out or just by attending events. Your messaging will come across more convincingly if it seems more like the community broadly agrees on the things you're talking about as useful and commonly-held tools.
What if they think their plan is much more impactful than I do?
- If they really genuinely think this, then you should be very careful in attempting to shift their view.
- You can be gently honest and state in modest terms that you're curious to hear more about their idea, and what iterations it could go through to become the most impactful version of the project.
- Remember that you really might be wrong about this, and so your opposition to their plan should be roughly proportionate to your comparative experience in EA. Also, how much you push back should match how strong your relationship is with the mentee.
- If you think the project as a whole should be abandoned, you could try asking them questions about why they're interested in working on this part of the problem rather than another.
- Try to keep it light, and don't drill down too deeply or adversarially (especially if you don't know them too well or you're early in the relationship).
- Perhaps ask them to lay out the different challenges in their interested field(s) and what the different advantages and difficulties of working on those parts could be.
- Encourage them to use frameworks like Importance, Neglectedness, and Tractability by asking them to break down their intervention/the problem with these factors in mind.
- You can also make sure that they feel like they have the space to allocate as much time as they might need to really work out what the best thing they can be doing is, especially if they're quite early in their course.
What if they seem really underconfident/unambitious?
- You can point out that just by being at a top college/university, they're already far more likely to have an impactful career.
- Further, just by being ready to really think about how they might have the most impact and do the most good they can with their career, they're setting themselves up for an even better position to do amazing things than most people.
- Don't lie to them about what prospects they have: though many spaces are bottlenecked by a need for talent, it's more often the case that they're bottlenecked by their need for top talent.
- Your mentee could be or become that talent, but the road is competitive and they'll need to work hard if they want to have the most impact they can.
- But, even if they can't secure their very top option, they're on track to do far more good than they otherwise would if they weren't trying to pursue a high-impact career.
How do I not seem weird when reaching out for a 1-1 ?
- Specify what you're actually asking: to meet for a conversation over coffee or lunch to discuss EA ideas and/or their career, which is a regular part of the programming for your student group, and can spin off into a longer-term mentorship-style project you engage with together.
- You might want to avoid calling the meeting a '1-1' and instead call it a 'chat' or 'meetup' (to talk about EA).
- Don't ask people who haven't expressed any interest at all in EA, or have already expressed that they don't have any interest in 1-1s or mentorship.
What do I do if I feel uncomfortable?
- If at any point in a 1-1 you start to feel uncomfortable with some aspect of the interaction(s), and if you feel comfortable doing so, inform relevant parties in your team on campus.
- When you're in a situation that becomes too uncomfortable for you to maintain the interaction in a natural and friendly way, you should feel completely free to cut the meeting short and take time to rest and reset. You can then talk to your team and decide whether and how you want to proceed with the mentorship.
- We never want what you do for your student group to make you feel uncomfortable. Being stretched by exciting, often challenging work is great. Being stressed or feeling bad is a sign that something is wrong, and we'd love to help if we can. Speak to us at info[at]challenges.team, or contact someone at the CEA community health team.
What do I do if I have a community health concern about one of my mentees?
- In our experience, it's pretty rare that you'll talk to someone you need to be concerned about. But, like with any student organisation, we think community health concerns can arise. For example:
- If someone is making unsolicited romantic or sexual advances, towards you or anyone in your group
- If someone is not able to have collaborative and productive discussions & disagreements
- If someone makes you or others in your group feel uncomfortable for any reason
- What do you do if this happens?
- As above, removing yourself from uncomfortable situations and talking to your team should be your main goals.
- Remember that this person is your lead, and you probably know the most about them of anyone.
- If you think they pose a risk to your group or anyone in it, tell someone who can help. You can speak to us at info[at]challenges.team, or someone at the CEA community health team.