I applied for a job recently, and the experience set of all sorts of alarm bells in my head. The position is with the Campaign to Save the Environment of the Fund for Public Interest Research. The position was heavily advertized in the local paper and on the nearby college campus. When I got there, I was asked if I was there for the orientation. (First red flag.) Next I was put in a room with two members of the organization and a small number of other applicants and were told about the organization, the work that is done (going door to door to recruit mebers for various liberal and environmental groups), and then asked to fill out applications while watching a video about how great the organization is and how easy it is to advance. (Second and third red flags.) Pay is based entirely on the amount of money we raise, a fact that was slightly glossed over by allusion to a mostly fictitious “base pay.” (We only get the base pay if we raise a certain aount each week.) The amout we get is a rather surprisingly high percentage of what we bring in. After the video, we were taken individually and were (in my case, at least) lobbed soft-ball questions, and then hired on the spot. I was also told that I would be immediately put on track for training to be a manager.
All of this is textbook-standard practice for multi-level marketing gimmicks, and I’ve encountered it before. I felt as if I was being sold a job rather than evaluated for one, which of course is only the case when the (real) job description reads “sucker.” I’m desperately affraid that I’ll soon be told that the real money comes from recruiting other people to work under me. (Which of course is the definition of multi-level marketing.)
On the other hand–the organization works with (AFAIK) respectable groups like Sierra Club and the Human Rights Campaign, which presumably wouldn’t want to be represented by a shady pyramid scheme company. The video included people like Michael Moore and Congresswoman Jan Schakowski, who presumably wouldn’t allow such an organization to use their images. (Of course not all people and organizations are careful to investigate who they associate with or who uses their names without permission.) The jobs seemed to be aimed primarily at college kids looking for short-term summer work, and pay by commission might be legitimate for this sort of thing. (I’ve heard people gethering signatures for petitions regularly get paid by the signature.) I’m a bit older than college-age, have a pretty decent resume, and can stick around after the summer, so maybe they really were eager to hire me and move me into a better position soon.
So what say ye, O Teeming Millions? Should I show up for work next week, or grab my wallet and my dignity and run?
Finally (an IMHO coda), if it IS legitimate, will this type of job look good or bad on a resume for a 27-year old finishing up a master’s degree. I want to work in the non-profit or public sector in the future, and I don’t want to do this if it’s a resume killer.