Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feeling ill-used

I found out late last week that I didn't get the internship I'd applied for with what I thought was a really cool environmental organization I've been volunteering with since last September. That was disappointing enough, but the way I was treated during the decision process was really unprofessional, and I am feeling frankly ill-used at present. 

Last week I met with the person for whom I've been volunteering (I'll call her Michelle) to discuss my volunteer project.  During this meeting, which was NOT about the internship, Michelle made a point of telling me how much she liked my resume and the answers I'd sent in to three follow-up questions she'd sent out to the finalists.  She mentioned this several times throughout our meeting, which understandably gave me encouragement. She told me she'd be making her decision in a couple of days and that she'd call me to let me know.

It's not that I assumed because I was volunteering for this organization, and Michelle in particular, that I would automatically get the internship. I think my volunteering puts me in a good position, but nothing more than that. What bothers me is how she handled the process. Decision day came and went and no phone call. A few more days go by with no news, and I assumed this was bad for me, but she still hadn't told me anything. Finally I called Michelle and asked her to let me know her decision. She emailed back that the decision had been delayed and she'd call me as soon as she'd made it. Again, the promise to call.

Instead, I came home the next day to find a form email rejection in my inbox, sent from someone else in the organization who was handling the logistics of the application process but who doesn't know me (or, presumably, any of the other applicants). The email said the usual stuff about how there were many qualified candidates and they were sorry they couldn't hire me, but hoped I'd consider volunteering for the organization anyway.

This was the last straw. I've been working on a project for Michelle since September of 2007. I put in a lot of hours on it and Michelle seemed really pleased with the work I've done, and as thanks for all my hard work I get a form email. The very least Michelle could have done is send me an email personally, if she was too busy or too chicken to call me as she'd promised. 

Again, it's not the internship itself that's bothering me, although I am of course disappointed not to have gotten it, especially when I'd been led to believe I was the leading candidate, or one of them. What I resent is being treated like a number, like just another applicant, after all the hours I've put in doing research for this person. I deserved a phone call. In light of what's happened, I certainly don't plan to continue volunteering for Michelle or her organization. They don't deserve my efforts. I did complete my project, though, because I am a professional even if she is not, and because I like to finish what I start.

It's hard to keep a positive attitude about job hunting when I am doing everything conventional wisdom and my career counselor has advised me: I'm networking constantly, going to food-related events and meetings of organizations on sustainable food practices, volunteering with several organizations in order to meet the people who will be in a position to hire me when an opening comes along. Looking for a job, as every job seeker knows, is a full-time job in itself. I am putting so much energy into finding work, any work, even a two-month internship, and I don't seem to be getting anywhere. It's really discouraging. I'll get over it; it's not the end of the world, but this was the first opportunity I'd had to apply for something I had a real shot of getting, that I was really suited for. And to be so shabbily treated on top of that is adding insult to injury.

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