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I am a college student and I am currently doing a co-op where I have the opportunity to return for another co-op term in the summer. There are things that are very good about the worl environment there as a co-op but some things are not great.

If I had another co-op/internship lined up for the summer (that I thought would be better ) I would not want to come back to this company but I do not currently so when asked if I am interested in coming back, I said yes.

I have been applying to other positions, so in this case would it be unethical or come across very badly if I accepted another position, then email my current employer to tell them I am no longer interested in coming back?

For more context: I have not signed anything for the summer, the goal of the program is to have students return multiple semester but you are officially hired new each term.

Additionally, the person organizing the coop program hinted a bit that there is a slight possibility that they wouldn't be able to take the co-ops back another term for corporate business reasons (although they said they intend to but that the uncertainty is part of working for a large company)

I have seen other questions about going back on a verbal offer however the context here is different: saying you are interested in returning for another coop term is a little different than accepting a new job offer

marked as duplicate by Dukeling, gnat, Snow, rath, David K Dec 1 '17 at 13:30

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From how you've described it they've only said that they intend to hire you back not that they have formally extended an offer to do so. That being the case I would not only say it's acceptable for you to keep looking but I would actively encourage you do so and if something comes up that you formally accept then as Frank FYC mentioned in his answer you just give them a polite heads-up that you won't be available to return and thank them for their interest and the previous time(s) you've been there.

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So verbal acceptance =/= formal acceptance. Make sure that you get the distinction right. However this does not mean that there will be zero consequences on you reneging on your promises.

Nonetheless, you are free to continue to look for another position and hedge your opportunities. If you decide to accept and go with another offer, know that you may be burning a bridge here.

My personal situation was that I was interning (unpaid) for my local courthouse. Near the end, I was asked if I was interested in coming back next semester. I replied that I would be interested and see how things end of after winter break. However upon receiving a paid (research assistant position) I did not go back to the courthouse. Ironically, they remembered me when I went back for jury duty and was asked why I didn't come back. I replied that I found a position that better fit my interests and I was sorry I didn't write them back to let them know that I wouldn't be coming back for the semester.

At the end of the day, it is business as usual. Just learn from my mistakes and be more polite and give them a heads up, thanking them for their time and experience but you've found a better fit for you.

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