Need a summer job to support your unpaid internship? Bwog newbie Sara Jane Panfil tells us why stumping for trees/starving children/cute bunnies may not be the way to go.

jdhI remember being excited to spend the summer in New York, but then summer arrived. Two months in I found myself struggling to stay afloat in my now-shallow pool of friends, and after my third Thursday night Law and Order marathon in a row, I decided that it was time to make some changes in my social life.

I decided to pursue this “more friends” thing by getting a new job, a job that would have a lot of young college people around with things potentially in common with me.  So I was clicking through the Craigslist nonprofit sector and answered an ad for the Human Rights Campaign.  I was wary to begin with, since campaigns and charities are among the worst labor violators in terms of promising to pay their workers and then… not doing it.

But whatever, I decided to check it out.  I get there, and there’s a whole bunch of other people there, too.  The director, Jesse, pops up and talks to all of us and asks each our name and why we’re here (“I’m here because I really believe in the rights of humans!”) with so much enthusiasm that I actually think that I got a little sick to my stomach.  He puts on a video that shows us what we can expect in our new, glamorous lives as campaign canvassers: grabbing the undivided attention of passerbys on the street, alerting them to the problems that the world faces, and then graciously accepting their donation (which, of course, they offer up enthusiastically), smiles on everyones’ faces.  I felt like I was in some sort of cult re-education program, since the video was clearly removed from any sort of reality.

After the video, it was time for the one-on-one portion of the interview. It’s my turn and he asks me, do you have any questions so far?

I’m like, yea, I have a few.

Are we paid even if we don’t fundraise a dollar?

Are we paid for training?  What if we’ve done campaign work before?

What’s your turnover? Why do people leave?

His answers:

Yes, you are guaranteed paid $300 a week–comes down to about $7.50 an hour–even if you don’t fundraise a dollar.  But if you don’t pull in at LEAST $125 bucks PER DAY after a few weeks out of training, then we have to let you go. ($125 bucks per day!?  Sounds a little unreasonable to me.)

No, you are not paid to train.  Yes, training is required.  (Smells like slave labor!)

His answer to my last string of questions was pretty entertaining.  I think he literally squirmed:

“Er, um, well, about 1 in 6 people stay on after the training.” That’s not a lot of people, I’m thinking. “Generally, people only work for us for about a month.” Hmm… two weeks of training plus two weeks on your own…sounds like people are getting fired for not pulling in their outlandish minimums and only getting paid for two weeks of their time.  “But people only WANT to work here for a month, you know how college students are, work for a month and then go to Europe…”

Yea, because I could go to Europe on 600 bucks.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.  Mostly because when he asked me if I was still interested in the position, I said no.  I also asked him to give me back my application, since I wasn’t comfortable with him having my contact information.

Oh, and it also turns out that I was applying to the “Public Interest Fund,” and not to the Human Rights Campaign directly.  The Public Interest Fund apparently works “for” the HRC and gives them money.  The whole thing smelled funny to me.

Oh well, maybe I’ll try Craigslist.

Picture yanked from, which has an excellent piece on the same subject here.