I have a colleague-turned-friend who's inviting me for dinner together with his bosses. He said they want to have a chat with me. I have a hunch it's about my plans regarding my career progression. I said this because when I graduated from college, I was very close to joining them but I grabbed a different opportunity. And my friend has been vocal about his hope of us working together (which I am flattered about as I have huge respect for him as well) someday.

Now, I just recently joined a startup last July and I love the projects we're working on. I look up to my bosses and their vision for the company. Although I have one mishap with them (which I am now resolving), I still want to work here and stay.

I don't want to reject the invitation but I'm also very worried on how the dinner would go. Also I'm afraid I could burn bridges if I reject the dinner invitation. But if I do accept it, they might hint about an offer, which I know I would most probably reject, which then could burn bridges? But I also don't want to give an impression that I'm closing my doors in the future.

I know in any workplace, jumping ships gives you that edge for career progression. So I want to make sure that I make a wise decision. How does one handle this kind of situation?

  • 11
    Is this a real job or career opportunity or an MLM "job"?
    – Freiheit
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:56
  • 2
    @Freiheit Could you clarify what you mean by an MLM "job"? I've not heard that before. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:59
  • 26
    MLM means multi-level marketing. These are "jobs" where you buy product from a company and sell it for commission and you get a cut based on new sellers who sign up with you. It often uses tactics like having a dinner with so-called bosses about a job opportunity, really they're trying to draw someone into their pyramid scheme. This is not the same as having dinner with an actual employer with a real job or contract to offer. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-level_marketing
    – Freiheit
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:02
  • 3
    @Freiheit A real job. We work in the same line of field. My friend became my “partner” in a competition where we first met. What’s interesting is in our industry, we’re expected to have a partner so it makes sense as to why they would want me to join them someday.
    – Acer
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 6:11
  • @PatrickEspinosa is that your real name? May want to change it to avoid this becoming a papertrail in future when someone googles you
    – Jon Barker
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:19

6 Answers 6


Accept the invitation if it doesn't conflict with previous plans and go to the dinner.

Attending something like this doesn't oblige you to anything at all, but it does allow you to network and to explore your options, if there are any on offer to you.

You don't have anything to lose by going. If you don't go, you won't know what you may have lost out on.

And there's free food.

  • 36
    This. And instead of burning bridges, you are making them solid in case in a future you actually want to change work. Who knows
    – Ripstein
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 14:15
  • 101
    Just be sure that if you aren't planning on moving on right now, you are very clear on that point. You don't want to get into a situation where they are trying to "sweeten the deal" to lure you. Make it clear that you might entertain the possibility in the future, but right now you are settled at your current company.
    – DaveG
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 14:42
  • 6
    +1 this, keep in mind you are the prize here. If you are not available now they will want to make sure you at least keep them in mind in case that changes.
    – Daniel
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 14:43
  • 1
    This is networking. It's fine and no-one will be offended if you say you're not currently looking to move. It's also worth mentioning - avoid implying that you'd never want to work for them, but phrase it as "at the moment you're happy in your current role" (or some such phrasing). That way you keep the door open for future possibilities. It never hurts to have a fallback plan or two (I've got a couple of companies I keep in contact with in case the proverbial ever hits the fan).
    – n00dle
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 10:36
  • 1
    One thing that I wish I knew earlier in my career is that networking isn't only used for finding your next job. If you ever plan on being high up in a company or starting your own, then having business connections where you can rely on their expertise is highly important. Go to the dinner. Be clear you are happy where you are, have a good time and build those connections. They can be stale for a decade but then can suddenly be useful again. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 23:15

There's no downside to going to this dinner.

As previous responders have pointed out, there is value in this as a networking opportunity.

If you are thinking about it in relation to your current position, going to this dinner doesn't give you any new obligations, and it doesn't force you out of your current position. What it does to is give you more options and contacts in the future.

  • 1
    "There's no downside to going to this dinner" - true, unless the asker is susceptible to social pressure. This is of course why companies spend money on freebies like this, because they do influence decisions (often unconsciously). Not a reason not to go, but a reason to plan beforehand and resolve not to make rash decisions without plenty of thinking time. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 7:16

In general I agree with those that advocate going... as they say "it costs nothing to find out." Go and see what it's all about.

One potential negative to watch out for: sometimes situations like this are used by a company to get free advice/information from someone. If you feel like you are being pumped for information, you can politely dodge the questions, or just say "I'd love to go into more detail with you about this... would you be interested in setting up a part-time consulting arrangement?" You may end up with the best of both worlds- developing a relationship with another employer, and making some extra money.

  • 6
    But on the flip side - if you are giving advice, and call 'price of dinner' a fair trade for your services, there's no harm in doing that either.
    – Sobrique
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 15:18
  • Hopefully your time and intellectual effort is worth more than the price of a dinner. Otherwise you're getting the short end of the deal.
    – RETXED
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 18:54
  • Social capital is a thing too. I'm generally happy to give advice-relevant-to-professional expertise for the price of lunch, because it doesn't really cost me anything. For much the same reason I help on Stack Overflow. A loss leader/freebie can be good marketing :)
    – Sobrique
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 9:22
  • 1
    Sure, as long as you understand the line between being asked for advice and being pumped for free information.
    – RETXED
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 10:11

While I agree with the other answers mostly, and would say "go", it's not quite that simple. You have something to lose by going, though that is just inside your own head.

Meeting these people will affect you. There might be some genuinely great people there, or there might just be charismatic people there. Many manipulative people can be very nice when they want to. This could be outright intentional manipulation, but also just normal human interaction, we are all affected by the people we talk with after all.

So do some self-inspection before going. How susceptible you are to being affected by stuff like above? If you ended up quitting your current job, could you live with it? If you ended up turning down a superb offer, could you live with that? Or, if things really would go the way of you joining them, would you be fine with it in the end? These are questions only you can answer (or try to). And if you decide to go, go knowing you made the decision to go accepting the possible consequences.

I would go, but I am not you.

Most likely it is just a dinner, where you get to meet some people and do some networking, and that's all there is to it. But you won't know for sure without going.

  • 3
    I've found that making some decisions beforehand and sticking to them can keep me out of running into trouble because people are trying to manipulate me. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 21:26
  • 1
    Those are some serious, helpful questions to ask myself. Internalizing my answers to those Qs would help me stay on my ground if and when pressure starts to kick in.
    – Acer
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 6:15

Looks like your only worry about attending this dinner is the fact that they could make you a job proposal, but in my opinion there's nothing bad about this. In fact, if you like the proposal they come up with you might even end up working for them, if you don't like you can just let them know and continue havind a friendly dinner. There also exist the option that your friend is only being social and inviting you to a gather with his colleagues. So in my opinion you should attend this dinner.


As with the other answers, I will also say you should go to check it out. As for what happens if they offer you a position (or hint that they are interested in offering you one), just be clear about your plans and your career direction. If you don't want to change companies, say so. The only thing I would advise in this respect is that you shouldn't just give them a flat-out "no thank you", because that could burn bridges. What I would suggest would be a "thanks but maybe later", which allows the opening that if things change in the future you might reconsider.

That said, one negotiating tactic would be to tell them, if they get serious about making you an offer, is to tell them what you've told us here: You're happy where you are, so they'll have to make you "a deal you can't refuse" to move. Tell them what you have now, and see what they say. Sometimes they'll say "we understand, and we can't field an offer significantly better than that"; in this case, you haven't burned your bridges, they know where you stand and if the situation changes they can consider you. However, sometimes they might actually field you a significantly better offer, at which point you might have a decision to make. If they field you an insane offer and you say no though, that could burn your bridge.

  • That’s one of the things I’m worried about—IF they get serious about making an offer. What do you mean by “tell them what you have now”? As in what I’m making (salary) or what my current situation is and why I’m liking it? And why do you think saying no to an insane offer could burn our bridge? At the very least I would feel flattered but that doesn’t mean I’m closing my doors for them in the future.
    – Acer
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 6:20
  • Yes, I would tell them your situation now, your salary, what you like about your job, and so on. Then they can decide if it's worth trying to compete to make you an offer. Don't make it a guessing game, like "if you say the magic words I'll say yes but you have to guess the magic words first", just tell them straight up what you want.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 13:52
  • As for burning the bridge, let's say the company really wants you, so they make you a very lucrative offer, and you say no. You've now told the company, "I asked you to make me a very lucrative offer for me to join you. Then you made me a very lucrative offer. And still I won't join you". That looks very bad on you. If you want to hear their offer, you should be prepared to accept it if it's good enough, otherwise just tell them you're not interested at this time and save everyone's time/effort.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:00

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