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Charitable Nepotism

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
August 2011
Charitable Nepotism Dear PMG:

I had a very difficult time getting a summer job. As a high-school junior, my school schedule was packed, but I did all the “right” things: created a resume, looked at help-wanted ads , developed a network, and even did cold calling. But no luck. I didn’t get a single positive response.

So when my father told me that a nonprofit that our family supports had a paying internship, I applied for the position, interviewed, got the job, and took it immediately.

During the first couple of weeks, my supervisor hinted to me that my parents had given a large donation with the stipulation that part of it be used to fund my summer salary. I found it hard to believe, because both Mom and Dad are incredibly ethical. I don’t believe they would have tricked me like this. I’m wondering if I should speak to them about this. And if what my supervisor says is true, should I resign from the internship?

Dear Friend,

“The real property that a parent can transmit to all equally is his or her character and educational facilities.” (M. K. Gandhi).

First of all, take a bow for appreciating the value of work. While it may be difficult to embrace the fact that searching for a job is itself a form of work, there are many life lessons learned from the search process. Polite persistence and the ability to gracefully accept rejection are skills that will take you far. Work yields much more that monetary compensation; its reward of character-building gifts is seemingly endless.

Secondly, be not discouraged. Gandhiji himself had to leave India to find work as a lawyer in South Africa. Eventually, there is work to be had. It may not be the most glamorous work or the highest paid, but if it’s honest work, then there is dignity in doing it.

Thirdly, your well-intentioned parents’ ethics are difficult to gauge. Did they first provide the donation and then asked the non-profit organization to consider your application for a paid position? If so, then there is no question of a quid pro quo situation. However, if they withheld the donation from the non-profit, pending your receiving a job offer, then perhaps you might consider returning your earnings. Transparency is core to the truthful Gandhian life. In their desire to help you find a job, your parents may or may not have taken a short-cut. By asking in an open-ended way what happened and how it was done, you could mention your worry and explore this through truthful dialogue while continuing your commitment to the duties and joys of work.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]

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