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I worked as an SE intern for about a year at a large local company, before leaving to finish my degree. I left the company on excellent terms, and made it clear that reapplying to the company upon graduation was an option, and my boss expressed a great desire to rehire me upon graduation. Shortly after I left, my old boss reached out to me with a full-time job offer at the company.

Though I do like the company, the team, and the work they do, I also want to open up some other options and apply to some other places, namely in a different geographical area. Considering how highly my old boss thought of me and my work, and how he was more directly involved with me and my work than my coworkers, I feel like he would be an excellent reference. However, since he is so interested and involved with the rehiring process (he himself sent me the job offer), I feel it would put him in a very uncomfortable and difficult situation.

Would it be inappropriate to ask him for a reference?

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    I don't know about here you live but at least in Ireland they legally have to give you a reference but it doesn't need to be written and it doesn't need to be glowing. The legal minimum is "yes he worked here between June 2016 and May 2018" – user10399 Oct 10 at 9:39
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I don't think it would be inappropriate if you turn it the right way, asking if he would be bothered by making you a reference and stating that you're still thinking about their offer.

In your situation, I'd send an e-mail like this:

Hi [...]

Thank you for the generous offer, but I'm not sure I'll take it: I'm thinking of diversifying my experience and maybe move in another area. I haven't decided anything yet. Would it be awkward to ask you for a reference ?

Regards, [...]

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If you have a good relationship with your old boss as it seems you do, you could tell him exactly that.

You love the company, the team, your former (and potentially, future) colleagues, the work they (and potentially, you would) do and you are very interested in working with them in the future.

You don't need to tell him about exploring other options, but you can say that despite all that, you're trying to move to [other geographical area] for personal reasons, and that move would obviously be incompatible with working for them.

And ask if he would be comfortable giving you a reference.

Alternatively, if your move to the other area is not too pressing (if, for example, it's an area where the market is better and you feel you'll have more opportunities, but you have no urge to go there, like family obligations, or a partner having to take a new job there, etc), you can postpone it, maybe a couple of years, and build more experience with that company, in that team. A couple years is not that long, even though a lot could change in your plans during the period. And it's far enough that no one at the workplace need to know (yet) you plan on leaving, so would not factor in your recruitment.

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    While this answer is one hundred percent accurate, there is always a chance the supervisor in question will feel hurt, this can especially be sure if they have an emotional investment in you.. I would focus on the fact you loved your time there, explain you are exploring your options, and will get back with them. Sadly, there really isn't a way to know, how the supervisor will react. As with all decisions like this you will have to weight, the chance (even if it's extremely small), of the offering being retracted (it happens). – Donald Oct 10 at 13:50

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