Should college career service offices allow multi-level marketers to post jobs or recruit students on-campus?

Posted January 14, 2019 by


A college career service office professional emailed me earlier this morning to ask my opinion about whether colleges and universities should allow multi-level marketing (MLM) organizations to post jobs to the career service office websites and interview students on-campus. My answer:

I wish that I had an easy answer for you, but MLM employment is a tricky one.

On the one hand, we’re talking about educated adults, some of which could thrive in that environment. Not everyone wants to go the traditional routes and I don’t think that we should pass judgment or dissuade them from doing so, even if the work isn’t our idea of attractive. There are some very legitimate MLM’s such as Avon and so, to me, the issue isn’t whether MLM’s are inherently bad or immoral. The issue is whether the specific employer is and that could apply to many government, corporate, and non-profit jobs. Is it the role of career services to evaluate every employer and put up roadblocks to students who disagree? Even if we said it is, how feasible is that?

On the other hand, probably most MLM’s are borderline or actual frauds. The representatives make most of their money by recruiting others into their downstream rather than selling actual product. An example of that is Herbalife. Real product with many customers, but you can’t make money selling the product. You have to recruit salespeople who buy the product from you and get them to recruit salespeople who buy the product from them before you can make money.

On the other (third?) hand, how is that any different from most organizations. At a university, how many people are actually delivering the service — teaching — versus supporting those people. Is working in HR for a university immoral if your livelihood depends upon you successfully recruiting faculty to deliver the actual service? Certainly not.

It seems to me that college career service offices are not well equipped to evaluate the legitimacy of employers and I question whether they should even try. Way back in 1867 when I went to college, it was hard to obtain information about employers. Now, it is easy. Sites like Glassdoor are only a few clicks away through devices that every student carries with them at all times, so I think that it would be better for career services to spend more time counseling — including teaching students how to determine the difference between an attractive offer of employment and a fraud — instead of career services trying to make those decisions for the students.

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