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To preface, I am a junior in college with in-progress Computer Engineering and Computer Science degrees.

This past summer I worked for a large company doing software work. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and was offered to come back again between my Junior and Senior year. The company I worked for was amazing, I loved the work, the people, and the atmosphere I was in, It's a short drive from my parents house (where I live over summers) and the area I want to live in post graduation. The company looks very good on a resume and is instantly noticeable. I believe I would be 100% happy working there after graduation and beyond.

Even though I was already offered and accepted this opportunity, I still want to continue looking for different internships this coming summer, in case I find something that I might enjoy more or lines up with my skillsets better.

I highly doubt I would find something that works better for me, but I also enjoy searching, going to job fairs, applying, and doing interviews.

My biggest gripe is that while working at this company they have invested a significant amount of money into me since most people that do intern there continue after graduation.

Due to the nature of my work, I still work 2-6 hours per week for the company and will until I start back up next May.

At the end of this, I have 3 questions

a.) Is it unethical for me to continue searching for internships either way despite already accepting the internship. I wasn't really in a spot to say "Give me 6 months to think about it"

b.) Should I get an internship that I think would suit me better, would it be unethical for me to take it regardless of what my company has already invested in me and that I already accepted the position

c.) If I do accept the new position, should I immediately tell my current company/should I continue working with them right now. It is not an insignificant amount of money and is a great help to a college student with limited income opportunities.

Edit: I am in the United States

Edit 2: I just rechecked the wording of my contract and it states that once I accept I am locked in due to the nature of my work. It seems like a messy legal situation or at the very least burning a bridge I don't want to burn.

  • What does your contract/agreement say about giving notices? If you find a better offer, will you give them an appropriate notice before resigning? – Brandin Sep 24 '18 at 6:22
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    @Brandin i don't belive it has anything of that sort. – clbx Sep 24 '18 at 16:37
  • Is there anything wrong at the current internship or that you feel is lacking? Sometimes there's a lot to be said for the satisfaction you can get from just sticking out a decision you've made - even if you're unsure it was the best one. – Bilkokuya Sep 26 '18 at 15:14
  • @Bilkokuya absolutely nothing wrong. I just want to see what else is out there, however, It doesn't seem like that will be possible until next year. – clbx Sep 27 '18 at 3:58
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The real question is whether or not you're good with poisoning the well / burning bridges with the company you've accepted. The same applies to everyone you get an offer from.

I work with college recruiters looking for interns. Their time is limited and they run into inappropriate candidates constantly. Ergo they min/max. Turning down an offer, especially one you've accepted, means in the future it will be a mistake on their part to waste time on you because odds are good you'll do it again.

  • I'd say that this is a little strong- it's not a given that the bridge will be burnt, but I agree with the general thrust of the answer. – Jim Clay Sep 24 '18 at 13:46
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    @JimClay I have a ton of experience on this point. He'd be affecting the recruiter's personal bottom line, embarrassing them, and the ones I've known would (and have) take it personally... at least enough to leave a note in his file that he's a waste of their time. – Dark Matter Sep 24 '18 at 17:31
  • I completely disagree with this. Turning down a position (even after accepting it) will not affect future relations with a company (especially for valuable skilled employees). One data point does not make a pattern. Even if they keep records the people involved move on quite frequently 2/3 years down the road it will be a new set of recruiting still trying to make their numbers. Be polite and preferably give them some lead time. – Martin York Sep 24 '18 at 22:05
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Ethics, like social standards, can vary from culture to culture. I also can't speak to the legal ramifications of a change of plans, since that may be different depending on your country.

However, in my experience (software engineering, United States) it would be considered unethical to change your mind at this point. You have already accepted the offer, and it sounds like they have already begun investing resources in you as a result of you accepting your second internship with them.

So in other words, B is unethical because it would mean you are backing out of your commitment, which makes your initial acceptance dishonest.

A is unethical by extension because you shouldn't pursue an opportunity you cannot accept, thus taking time and resources away from potential candidates and the emoloyer.

If you don't agree with my points about A and B, you should at least tell the company you're working for about your decision (should you secure other employment). They are employing you now with the understanding that you will work for them in a full time (internship) capacity in the future. It would be dishonest to lead them on by not informing them if that changes.

  • Again completely disagree. If the boot was on the other foot would it be considered unethical for the company to cancel the internship if they hired too many interns (internally there was some re-org). I don't think they would consider it unethical, even if they did they would still just say the internship is cancelled. To be ethical the same burden should be applied to both sides. If its ethical for the company to cancel at any point then its ethical for you to cancel at any point. – Martin York Sep 24 '18 at 22:26
  • In this case, after you've signed the offer, I would not agree it is ethical for the company to cancel. Of course they could, just as he could cancel, but that doesn't make either course of action ethical. – thegenie Sep 25 '18 at 0:30
  • If we extend your argument to its logical conclusion, then once you have signed an employment contract you could never leave a company or be fired. But that's not how the world works. Situations change, letting people know about changes to circumstances is normal part of life. As long as you give reasonable notice there is nothing unethical here. If a company wanted to lock you into something then they should pay you to give up something. – Martin York Sep 25 '18 at 7:21
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I personally think that it is not unethical to continue searching for internships, even though you've been accepted by another one, AS LONG AS you will inform them that you will still search for more opportunities to the other companies. Otherwise, I do think it is unethical, because that is not a professional way to keep a good relationship with the company that has accepted you for the internship. Especially you mentioned that they have already invested an insignificant amount of money to you, the ethical way to deal with this is to inform your situation, since they have done so much for you, I do think talking with them with what you have in mind is not a big problem at all.

Also, see what is stated on your contract, see if you are violating any agreements that you have signed with the said company. I don't know anything about the law of your country, but this is purely based on my opinion.

  • I disagree you don't need to keep the company updated on every detail in your life. They definitely will not let you know until the last minute if there are internal changes in the company. So ethically the same rules that apply to the company apply to you. – Martin York Sep 24 '18 at 22:20
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Unethical? Maybe so, should it stop you from looking? Definitely not.

Like all jobs - Employers go through people changing their minds and rejecting offers last minute. Especially with an internship where young persons and applicants are unsure of what they want to do in their future career.

The whole point of an internship is to develop your skills and learn what you want to be doing in the future whilst getting a hands on experience of the role. In this stage of your career you need to be thinking about yourself and the best way to be efficient in developing for your future.

You don't want to be following a career path you do not enjoy or want to be doing in the future simply because of Ethics or at least if you think you can get better and want to do so - then do it. Just make sure that you do hand in your notice when accepting another job and letting both parties know of your situation as stands

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Unethical no.

If the boot were on the other foot and they had too many interns (because of teams reshuffling) they would have no issue with turning around and saying the internship had been cancelled.

Burn your bridges. Maybe, but unlikely.

If you find another internship that fits you better then go for it. Being ticked off or even slightly annoyed and not getting a better opportunity will make you less effective (not on purpose but we all have feelings). It is in the best interest of both you and the company that you both have the best fit possible. So find the position you like and let the company find a better alternative than you for the position.

Unless you tell them a day before or just don't turn up you are unlikely to burn bridges.

a.) Is it unethical for me to continue searching for internships either way despite already accepting the internship. I wasn't really in a spot to say "Give me 6 months to think about it"

No. Not unethical to look for a better fit.

b.) Should I get an internship that I think would suit me better, would it be unethical for me to take it regardless of what my company has already invested in me and that I already accepted the position

They are paying for you to do useful work.
This may include investment but it is no different from any other employee. You get payed for doing a job. Do that job to the best of your ability.

c.) If I do accept the new position, should I immediately tell my current company/should I continue working with them right now. It is not an insignificant amount of money and is a great help to a college student with limited income opportunities.

I would tell them immediately (but normal 2-4 week notice still applies). If they still want you to work that is up to them. But if you are doing useful work they are unlikely to let you go.

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