I'm in a bit of a sticky situation and I'd like some advice. I waited so long because I've been trying to get a clear answer from the career center at my school, but have been unable to do so.

Back in November I applied for a software engineering position with a small, local company (let's call them Company B). I'm currently a senior and I do have previous internship experience in software engineering with a fortune 500 company who will remain nameless (Company A). The pay at Company A was $19.75/hour and I was offered $21.50/hour if I decided to return the following summer. For various reasons I chose not to return.

With that said, Company B accepted me and sent me an offer letter. Here's where it gets sticky. The offer was sent out on December 23rd according to the shipping label and I received it the following day, Christmas Eve. The offer was for $15/hour and more importantly, gave me until New Years Eve to respond. The problem is that the office itself was closed until January 6th, so there was nobody I could call to negotiate the terms of the offer until after the deadline. Needless to say, I felt pressured to sign even though I did not like the terms of the offer.

Now, I understand they are not a fortune 500 company and probably cannot afford to give me all the perks and relatively high wage I received previously and I don't expect them to. The reason I applied to them in the first place was because they were local and I did not want to have to relocate again (with one exception which I'll get to later). It's the same reason I opted to commute to school rather than go away. However, I'd at least like to break even with my previous internship after relocation expenses are taken into consideration. For $15/hour I could make the same amount lifeguarding (and have more fun). Besides, I have a lot of experience in what I'll be doing with them (both from my previous internship and outside projects). My friend got an internship with their competitor (who is literally across the street) for $17.50/hour with no prior internship experience, little experience in software development, his GPA is far below mine, and he's a year behind me academically.

The other issue, and the more important one, is that I've applied to another fortune 500 company (who will also remain nameless, Company C, but is in a completely different industry than both Company A and Company B). I wasn't thrilled with my previous internship nor software engineering in general and I would like to explore my secondary major which I'm finding much more interesting and fun. The thing is, I feel as though I'm good at much of what I put my mind to, and I've got the grades and knowledge to prove it, but after working in the software engineering business, it's not something I can see myself enjoying in the future; I prefer math (my other major), finance, and operations research (which is what I'm focusing on in my math major). Company C is probably the only company I would consider relocating for at this point in time; I've wanted to work for them since I was a little kid (you can probably guess who it is by now) and the only thing I would want more than working for them is the opportunity to start my own business. And of course the position I applied for deals with my second major.

The issue here is that I'm waiting for a response from them and that may take a while. My resume is currently under review and I'm waiting for a call back for an interview. I already accepted the offer from Company B as you know and I could be waiting months for a response from Company C.

So basically, what I'm trying to figure out is how should I handle this situation? I'm not sure how I can politely ask Company B to re-open negotiations on my offer without offending them. Basically what I'm looking for is a small pay raise (I'm fine with making $17.50 an hour, but $15/hour is just too low to justify) and more importantly a couple months to decide so that I can see what Company C offers me. If I get something with Company C I'd be stupid not to take it, but I don't want to burn any bridges with Company B. I've got no intentions to return to Company A, so that's out of the picture.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., CMW, Ricketyship, John Oglesby, gnat Feb 8 '14 at 16:02

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking advice on what job to take, what skills to learn, etc. are off-topic as the answers are rarely useful to anyone else." – Jim G., CMW, Ricketyship, John Oglesby, gnat
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    This would be a much better question if it was shorter. Please try cutting out any excess explanation. – DJClayworth Feb 7 '14 at 23:15
  • You just had a learning experience. Keep what you learned in mind when the next job hunt ensues. – Mast Aug 22 '16 at 11:01

Given that this is an internship that you are talking about and not a long term job / career situation, I would not take the money into consideration at all and don't bother with the negotiation. From your point of view, an internship will provide you with valuable work experience as well as the opportunity to get to know the company, industry, work environment etc. Consider it as part of your education and don't concern yourself with the compensation.

I think you made a mistake in accepting the internship at B given that you seem to already know (or at least feel that you know) that you are not interested in a career in that industry. However, my feeling is that since you've already committed to joining them for the summer, I would advise honoring that commitment. I know that's not the answer that you were hoping to hear but it's the right thing to do.

Just a side piece of unsolicited advice... Like you, I majored in both math and CS in college. You should keep in mind that software engineering is a very broad field with applications in numerous industries. Writing code for website backends is much different from building CAD software which is different from developing data compression algorithms. Some areas require minimal use of your math expertise while others will require a significant level of knowledge and use of math. Before giving up on software engineering as a career, I suggest exploring some industries where you will be able to exploit your skills and interests.

  • Thanks for the answer. Again, money isn't too big of a deal; but when you're going from $21/hour down to $15, you're talking like $3000, which is a lot for me given that I'm still trying to figure out how to pay for my car repairs due to a recent accident. – audiFanatic Feb 8 '14 at 2:14
  • But money aside, I wouldn't say I'm 100% sure I'm uninterested in the industry, but I'm pretty sure of it. But I'd much rather give operations research a stab before I commit more time into engineering. I cannot recall any class I've taken that was more interesting and fun than operations research (despite issues with the professor's health and the fact that much of the course was taught by a substitute). However, I accepted the offer before the position at Company C was even offered, so I'm not sure if it was a mistake at the time. Obviously now it was. – audiFanatic Feb 8 '14 at 2:21
  • As far as software engineering itself is concerned, I'm actually computer engineering, so I'm a little more in tune with hardware (I had applied to Company B for hardware, they gave me software). Regardless, after my previous internship and the last semester I'm pretty much sure I'm done with it. It's easy and boring; not to mention I've been on a guilt trip lately, I feel as though I'm contributing to an epidemic of anti-social, facebook-loving lemmings who can't think without Google in their back pocket. – audiFanatic Feb 8 '14 at 2:26
  • One option is to set up a meeting or phone call with the hiring rep from B and be honest. Tell them that you just became aware of another opportunity in a different industry that is a much better fit for what you'd like to pursue in the future. Tell them you would like to honor your commitment to work for them and do not intend to put them in a bad spot by being understaffed for the summer. If, however, they will not be negatively impacted by you withdrawing your acceptance then you would like to pursue this other option. – MitchM Feb 8 '14 at 21:24
  • 1
    You do put yourself at risk of having no job at all though, which I think is ok since you should be exploring other options anyway instead of going down the wrong path. – MitchM Feb 8 '14 at 21:25

OK, there's a number os separate issues here. Let's try to deal with them.

Some basics first. The point of an internship is not to be paid, but to get experience. Sure, you could make $17.50 an hour as a lifeguard, but that wouldn't get you the experience you need to develop a future career. Unless the pay rate makes the difference between you being able to do the internship or not, I wouldn't worry.

If you were really not happy with $15,then you shouldn't have accepted the agreement. What I would do in future in a case like this is to send an email, or write a letter, saying that you would like $17.50 an hour, and that you think it's a fair rate. Give reasons. Say that if they can offer that to you you'll accept on the spot. Tell them how to contact you on Jan 6th, and go get on with your holiday celebrations. They will probably contact you as soon as the office opens. They may say yes or no to the $17.50. However they are unlikely to reject you because you went past an artificial deadline - it would take them at least a few days to find a new intern.

Going forward, it may be still possible to negotiate something. Call them up, say you;ve been doing some calculations and you think $17.50 is a fair rate, and would they be able to pay you that? be polite. They may say yes, in which case great. They may say no.

If they say no, it's up to you if you look for a higher paying internship. However if you might want to work in Company B's field, and they are local, and you don't think you want to relocate, I would be very reluctant to to p*** them off. For the sake of a few thousand dollars, you do not want to destroy your relationship with a company you might make a career with. However next time, don't sign any agreements you don't like.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.