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I am currently a co-op at Company A and they have given me a job offer for permanent employment upon graduation in 9 months. I still have about six weeks of employment on this co-op term with them. I have been here for three work rotations, and while I like the company, I would like to pursue other opportunities. They have given me a job offer during my current employment, and I must respond within a week. I am concerned that if I turn them down, that I will lose my employment with them for the rest of my co-op term.

What is the most graceful and professional way to turn down the job offer, while still remaining thankful for the work opportunity and on good terms with my boss for the next six weeks?

I have had a great experience here, but this is a really tough and awkward position to be in. Normally these offers are made after the co-op term has ended, but they made this offer much sooner than expected partly to hold onto me permanently before I have the chance to receive offers from others. They have told me repeatedly how awesome of an employee that I am and that they are very excited to hold onto me permanently, and that I have done a fantastic job here.

I really need the next six weeks of pay to meet my budget for tuition and other expenses, and will be unable to receive the same compensation elsewhere. I also want them to reflect positively on me for reference in the future, especially since they will be my only reference on my resume for industry work experience.

I would also like to preserve the relationships with everyone here as much as possible, as there are chances that we may work together in the future since we are all in the same industry. I just feel that I have gained everything I can from this company at this point and want to pursue other options.

UPDATE AFTER DISCUSSING THE OFFER WITH THEM

They told me that they would reconsider me for the position further down the road if I was still interested in the job posting. My boss was also quite forward with me to say that the offer they had made was their best offer and that it was already considerably higher than what they would offer somebody with less experience (it was 25% below standard market value for entry-level). I assumed it was low to allow room for negotiation, and this was certainly news to me. I feel like I dodged a bullet and this job option has become a final resort.

In the end though, it did succeed and I got what I wanted, namely a fail-safe if I cannot find any other opportunities elsewhere. So thank you everyone for the advice!

  • I'm curious - is it absolutely a no at this company, or are there things they could do in order to make you want to stay? – dbeer Jul 31 '18 at 19:20
  • Their initial offer was significantly lower than market value (about -25% from the low-end of entry level according to multiple online salary sites) and I have no problem attempting to negotiate it upward, but I simply do not wish to pursue anything further here. Not due to the offer itself, but the company, and that I feel I will not have very many good learning experiences within the industry I wish to pursue. Even if I did accept the position, I would likely move on within 1-2 years as I do not see myself wanting to be here very long. – lukebeast887 Jul 31 '18 at 19:26
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    @lukebrast887 2 years is the average amount of time somebody stays in the same role/company, at least in the IT industry. I wouldn't see that as a reason to not take an offer. – user1666620 Jul 31 '18 at 19:35
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    Judging by the amount of time I have co-oped with them it has been about 1.5 years of work experience. I feel that I am ready to move on to other companies working on different technologies. So it isn't unreasonable for me to move on at this point. – lukebeast887 Jul 31 '18 at 19:39
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First off, I'm not familiar with your industry, but I have never heard of a company dismissing an intern because they didn't accept the full-time offer in any industry (I work in software). It would be shocking, and potentially ruin their ability to recruit future interns or co-op participants.

That being said, you can gracefully reject in a few different ways:

  1. Be straightforward - explain that you're enjoyed your time there, but that you are looking for more opportunities to grow in the specific field you're trying to grow in, and you want to evaluate potential offers that could give you more relevant experience. (This approach is open and honest, but closes the door fairly completely on ever accepting the offer.)
  2. Ask for more time to look into their offer; tell them that you expect to be able to receive other job offers, and that you can't commit to working there at this point in time. You can tell them it'll take months to figure things out. (This approach leaves the door open, although it could potentially upset them.)
  3. Negotiate salary directly. Tell them that you expect to command a significantly higher salary on the open market, and that since you're already trained for them, you feel like you are worth even more than to them. (You probably shouldn't do this one if you aren't willing to work there at all.)

I would probably mix 2 & 3 in negotiating with them; you can even request that the offer include opportunities more specific to the industry you intend to pursue (if they offer them).

  • do you think it would be reasonable to ask for them to extend their offer for several months until I have had a chance to pursue other opportunities? I know that is definitely not standard practice, but neither are these the standard circumstances. Maybe clarify your second point a bit further. – lukebeast887 Jul 31 '18 at 19:44
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    @lukebeast887 it's a negotiation. You can ask for anything, but yes, I think you'd be asking for several months here. – dbeer Jul 31 '18 at 19:52
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First, it is very unlikely that they will cut your coop short only because you turn down a potential future offer of permanent employment with all sorts of contingencies attached to it (such as you graduating, agreeing on salary and the job title/role, etc). The economy is also not static and it's anybody's guess how their business will be doing 9 months from now -- nobody is immune from changes of leadership or budget, hiring freezes, etc.

That said, you don't 'turn it down', you tell them that you are unable to commit at this time, but will definitely consider it once you get closer to graduation, and will look forward to connecting with them when the timing gets close. If they ask why you can't commit, say you still have not decided regarding some potential plans post-graduation, which you prefer not to discuss at this time.

This allows you to avoid burning bridges now, and to complete your coop on good terms.

As you are probably learning, in work-related matters it is important to be careful about how much information you choose to share, when, and with whom. It is also important to learn to be tentative about the future and not over-commit, one way or another. If they are smart enough, they will get a clue on what you are telling them, and will let you ride out your coop without too much pestering.

You never know how your circumstances or priorities might change 9 months from now, so it is wise to leave a backdoor open for potential changes down the road. Good luck!

  • Thank you for the response! I had not considered taking this avenue. I think that their desire is to get me to commit early so I do not have the chance to pursue further opportunities. Do you have any experience on how a conversation like this may go? One of the more difficult aspects is that this offer was made in front of the technical team (4 people plus my boss) at my job, and we are having a second meeting for my response (it is honestly quite intimidating for me). This is all new territory for me. – lukebeast887 Jul 31 '18 at 19:50
  • Agreed that he should be professional, agreed that he won't get fired. But let's face it, highly likely he's burning bridges. He's been there for 3 work rotations, that's a lot of time invested on their part. The pay off is converting interns into employees, and that's not going to happen. – Dark Matter Jul 31 '18 at 21:11
  • @DarkMatter Agreed, however whether or not it's going to happen is yet to be seen. Who knows, if the price is right... But even assuming he is not returning, this is an at-will employment environment and if they don't get it, they are going to be the ones burning the bridge, not this guy. This is what my comment is about: navigating the pressure to commit, but doing so in a way that provides at least some flexibility, in case they eventually come around with an offer he can't refuse. – A.S Jul 31 '18 at 22:22
  • @lukebeast887 It seems odd they are calling a meeting just to hear your response, it doesn't feel right. A good manager would avoid putting on the extra pressure, and discuss the issue one on one, as it is not between you and the team, but really between you and the boss/hiring manager. The team can be notified of your decision by the management later, and they will have to deal with it. If they choose to be sore losers and give you a hard time about it, it's their problem. I would say what I stated above (2nd paragraph). If they keep pressing with questions, keep calm and stick to your story. – A.S Jul 31 '18 at 22:26
  • @lukebeast887 You have a "meeting" for the purpose of creating peer pressure if management has a weak hand. It's a sales technique. Everyone in the room except you wants (you) to follow the party line and will echo the head guy. The word "loyalty" or "owed" often gets used in this sort of thing. – Dark Matter Aug 1 '18 at 13:09

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