Volunteer (for abuse?)

13 Oct

I went to the Cat Tales Zoo and was very impressed.  I wrote a great review on Yelp.  I also wanted to volunteer at the zoo to help the large cats.  It wouldn’t hurt at my vet school interview to mention something I’ve done since the application.  AND I originally wanted to be a zoo vet–so volunteering at a zoo would give me more information about that niche.

I emailed the zoo’s general website complimenting them on my visit and asking about volunteering.  Someone (you never know who) wrote back and said I would need to pick up a volunteer application and submit three letters of recommendation.  When I went to the zoo to pick up the app–there was some confusion.  The keeper didn’t know where any volunteer applications were, and I had to stand there waiting for about 20 min. while he tracked one down.  While I waited, the keeper told me they only had one other volunteer and she mostly helped in food prep once a week.

The application looked like something the zoo copied off the internet.  It was a very generic form asking for my name, address, emergency contact, and three references.  When I saw it, I though two things:  One–they must not get a lot of people looking to volunteer.  It looked like they hastily got a form off the internet and pasted their header to the top.  Two–the person answering the general e-mail must have been confused.  This application asked only for three references–it said NOTHING about three letters of recommendation, nor did the zoo staff when they handed the app to me.  I listened to the (more official) application over a random general e-mail and wrote some reference names and phone numbers.

After I filled out the application I took it back to the zoo.  Where the (friendly) keeper let me go to the gift shop to meet Brandi(?) a more manegerial keeper with more experience I presumed.  She grilled me about why I wanted to volunteer and what I expected as well as the days I was able to work.  It was nothing I haven’t encountered before in the veterinary field.  I’ve volunteered about 700 hours to veterinarians as a pre-vet hopeful.  I’ve also volunteered for other organizations and know the drill–they want to make sure to screen out the flakes.  I conveyed my legitimate excitement to her and mentioned my veterinary path.  She also asked where my letters of recommendation where–as if I should have already known.  She gave me an e-mail address to make things move a little faster.  She seemed a little arrogant for my liking, but I knew with my genuine interest and superior work ethic, I would win her over.

I didn’t love the lack of communication about the application expectations, but luckily for me, I just turned in my vet school application, so I had letters of recommendation at my disposal.  Just to make sure, I asked all three letter writers on Facebook if I could ammend their vet school letters for the zoo.  All agreed.

So I used the e-mail given to me by Brandi as three attachments to the letters of recommendation.  With the attn to:  Margaret that Brandi had told me to use, and with my full name in the subject line.  A week later this is what I got:

Subject:  SPAM?

Dear Laurel,

We need ORIGINAL, signed letters.
Sincerely,
Margaret Hunter
Executive Assistant

What?  Whoa!  Why are they so hostile–I gave them the letters that they didn’t even originally ask for so I could volunteer, and this is how they treat me?  I thought whoever handled this e-mail was unprofessional and could have been a lot more diplomatic about explaining the requirements.  Accusing me of being Spam and insinuating my letters were fake was not necessary. . .

I thought my letters would be fine since I had been given the e-mail address and told who’s name to put in the subject line.  Also, since the format wasn’t specified, and the letters weren’t mentioned at all in the application OR by anyone when I received the application, I figured attachments would be OK.  Why give me the e-mail at all if attachments weren’t acceptable?  Brandi sure didn’t mention the preferred format for letters!  Apparently, to donate your time to Cat Tales Zoo, they want more.  AND they make you guess what that means.  The whole thing gave me a bad taste in my mouth.  Now I’m not sure I want to go back to the zoo–especially when I am taking time out of my busy schedule to labor for FREE.  I think treating me like some loser/criminal was unwarrented. . .

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