Should I work for an MLM? Is that immoral?

If I take the job, am I a bad person?

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 

You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com


A CUTIE:

I'm dealing with a big moral dilemma. I graduated college during the pandemic and was really struggling to find a job, so I took a pretty shitty hourly customer service position a year ago. Since then, I've been applying to jobs in my field that I have an actual degree in, and it pretty much always ends with the company ghosting me. I know that the job market is not great right now, but it's infuriating and draining and I'm miserable all the time. 

I just got a call today that I got an offer for a nonprofit company for a salaried position! I was excited to quit my current job. However, upon some online investigation, this nonprofit is definitely an MLM. It's all legal, and they genuinely do donate what they say they do, but my job would consist of recruiting people (who, granted, already show interest in the company and would be contacting us) to sell the product. I don't think I'd be getting screwed over because I'm earning a decent yearly salary as well as commission for recruiting people, and I don't really have to do any cold calling, but I feel morally weird about it. 

If I take the job, am I a bad person for recruiting people to do something they may lose money on? I don't know the specifics of it, but from reviews online, it seems like pretty standard stuff. And if I tell people the company that I work for, will they think less of me? Will it look bad on my resume if people recognize that the specific company is an MLM? Or will they just see my title and job duties and be impressed? I was SO happy initially to finally feel like I was moving forward with my life, but now I don't know if I'm still stuck. Any words of wisdom you have would be appreciated.

Thanks,

A Scared, Dumb, Frustrated 20-Something

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SOPHIA:

Ok, you are a lot of things, I’m sure, but dumb is absolutely not one of them. This is a very, very dicey situation and there isn’t one clear correct answer. Theoretically—and keep in mind that in the land of theory, everything is simple—it’s pretty easy for me to draw a moral boundary and say, “No you should not take a job where you are involved in an MLM in any way shape or form.” However, life does not really work in theory.

On top of the fact that you need a job and are having a hard time finding one there is the fact that the vast majority of jobs out there are at least minorly unethical. Most companies are doing incredibly shady shit unchecked. Often they’re doing it to their employees, but they often also ask their employees to carry out their shady shit for them. It’s truly a hallmark of corporations and companies that they are trying to get money from people and that in order to do that, they do sketchy stuff. Every single company I have ever worked for has done at least one thing that was a yikes.

My point is that I don’t think that if you take this job you are damned to hell for all of eternity and deserve every single bad thing that could ever happen to you. If you need to take the job, I understand and I’m sorry. It sucks to have to make a choice that goes against what you believe in because you need to live.

If, however, you have any wiggle room at all to keep looking for another job, I would strongly encourage it. I do think it’s morally questionable to ask people for money that they cannot afford to give, and I’m not sure the structure of this particular company, but like you said, recruiting people to potentially lose money is not good. I do also think your concerns about people seeing the company you worked for and knowing that it is an MLM are not unfounded. MLMs often get exposed in big, public ways, and it’s certainly possible that in a year or two you will not want your name associated with the company. If you have the financial means to, again, I would strongly encourage you to hold off and keep looking for a better opportunity. Or at least a different one!

As a compromise of sorts, you can take this job and keep looking for a new position. A try to get out of there as soon as possible kind of thing. When asked why you left so soon after being hired you can say in your interview for a new job, “I wasn’t totally comfortable with the company structure of [MLM Company], even though I love their mission. Instead of recruiting, I’m looking to X, Y and Z at my next position.” Or some bullshit like that. There exists a lot of online advice about how to explain leaving a job after only a short period of time. Most people get it.

All of the shit with this particular company aside, let me be soooooooooooooo clear about something: YOU ARE NOT BEHIND. Your life has already started. It started when you were born. The value you bring to the table as a human is inante, it is not created with a job starting, nor can it be lost with a job ending. Please, please, please believe me that no one in their 20s (myself very much included) has any idea who the fuck they’re going to become or what life will look like. None of us knows what we’re doing. A lot of us are panicked and scared like little baby ducks, paddling frantically under the water while trying to look calm above. It is your first time on earth, you aren’t supposed to be an expert at this shit.

Your life is moving forward in so many ways that have nothing to do with a job. Perhaps you’re learning to be a better friend, a better child to your parents, a better sibling. Perhaps you’re learning what your morals and boundaries are. Perhaps you’re learning a great recipe for jambalaya! Your life is not your job, your job is not your life. You don’t get a medal at the end of life for Making Smart Work Choices. The reality is that most jobs suck at least a little because our corporate structure/culture is evil, and a lot of jobs—especially entry level ones—are horrendous. Please do not use jobs as a measuring stick. Use your kindness, your character, the way you love people, but not a fucking job that you’ve been forced to get to make money so you can stay alive. You are worth way more than that.


You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com


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