As a high school student, I was unable to get into any of my local college's classes before they filled up, so I decided to gain some professional experience through a job or internship. I applied to a few places, one of which I started to make progress with. I got a response and was sent an online test for basic skills (programming / web development), then a written assessment of some things, then an interview, then another interview, and now I'm waiting to hear back from them after my background check is done and references contacted. This has all happened quite slowly and has taken about a month now. I decided about a week ago that, although things were looking good with this company, it would be wasted time not to apply for other things while waiting for various things. I'll call this company A.

So, I contacted another company, and things went faster with them. An interview was scheduled, I filled out an application, and then today I did a followup interview and did my first day on the internship. I'll call this company B.

The problem is that I would prefer to work with Company A. With company A, I would be working on a team/teams whom I would be able to ask questions, get help from, etc. and would be working on code and websites that are already built. As someone with not much experience, this would be better for me and the company. Company B is a law firm and I'm working on creating a website from scratch there. While I have made basic websites before as a hobby, I wouldn't be able to handle scaling, database structuring, code structuring, load handling, caching, etc., as well as someone with more experience in the field.

My dilemma here is this: I know I shouldn't mention the other job until I actually have it - I may change my mind or not get accepted to it, in which case I've made it known that this was my plan B and that my being there wasn't my best option - but in the event that I do, maybe after two or three days interning, get accepted to the other company, I wouldn't want to out-of-the-blue just leave.

The way I handled this is hardly ideal. After a few hours of situating myself and getting started on the design, I went in and told the guy I interviewed with that I had applied at another place prior to applying there, and that, due to the other being a paid internship, would likely accept the position there than stay. I had mentioned in the interview, when asked about my pay, that I was there for experience as my top concern, and was thus under the impression that the internship I had started there was unpaid. Granted, even then, it was an incredibly rude thing for me to say, but as soon as I brought it up, I realized how rude just the idea of telling one employer you would rather work somewhere else is, and started fumbling around for a good explanation. I also explained that he would probably want and need someone with more experience for what he was asking and my preference of Company A was also largely because of my belief that I was unfit for what he was asking. He told me not to worry about that, that he wasn't being deceived at all, he knew where I stood in terms of experience and that I should give it my best and we would see how things turn out after a week. All said and done, I was told that the internship there IS paid and that he understood my position (he was really nice and I feel quite embarrassed about the whole thing).

What should I have done? Should I have waited to hear back from the first company and then leave abruptly? I personally see this as quite rude, though I understand the logic in not counting my eggs before they hatch. Then again, I imagine it might be more rude to tell someone that, even though I don't have the position for sure, I would rather work somewhere else if given the chance.

I'm young and naive, so I would love some wisdom of the experienced.


5 Answers 5


I've been in similar situation like this before, where I had several job processes in progress. But here are two pieces of advice;

  • Nothing is final until you get that job offer. So until then you don't need to tell anyone anything. It is expected that only you are in power over your own career and sometimes having to switch jobs is part of handling your career.
  • Free market principle applies to the job market. It is won by the "best" bidder, much like any other kind of market, and even if you're still on another job. People quit sometimes because of this. Any kind of manager who have been working professionally for a while know this.

How harsh it may sound it isn't really your concern if the sub-par company can't keep you. In fact one of the most gut-wrenching things I did was to resign from a job that I loved to the benefit for a job offer (a ridiculously better job offer that I couldn't refuse). But in the end, it worked out and I didn't had to take any antacids.

You're young and make mistakes. You'll get experience points from learning from your mistakes as well. Keep in mind that it is usually expected that junior positions and internships don't last long and telling your employer that you might leave is usually an understatement but understandable. Just don't go burning any bridges as tehnyit says.


Whether this is rude or not comes down to how you tell the news to company B.

You need to approach it with honesty and lay it all out to your boss. For me, I would be more impress that you are able to discuss your position frankly rather than just skirt around this problem.

If your boss is good, he will understand of your motives and be supportive. From what you wrote, it seems like that he is.

If you hadn't told Company B and just left abruptly, this is almost a bridge burning event. Anyway, you may not even hear from company A.


When you take an internship you are either free labor or low cost labor. The law firm shouldn't have had high expectations of the quality of the work. In fact their response shows this to be true.

An internship is a stepping stone on the path to a carer. The firm hopes to convince the good interns to join them in the future, some are just looking for free labor, but others view it as a extended interview process.

They know that some interns will become full time employees, they know others will move on to other companies, or even other fields. Unless the internship is linked to college credit or college scholarship your contractual obligations as an intern a very limited.

How rude you are will determine how they fell about you, if they remember you at all.

People leave jobs for better offers/positions all the time. Some leave for college; others for medical school; or astronaut training. I wouldn't have told them on day one.

I think that you were confused about their expectations about what skill level they were getting. You were also unaware that you were getting paid. Please review all paperwork and offer letters carefully regarding pay and benefits before accepting an offer and starting work. You were basing your desire for Company A partially on the fact that Company B wasn't paying you, because that is a false premise you want to make sure that your aren't jumping to Company A for the wrong reasons.


Putting aside your question for a moment: a law firm offering an unpaid internship is being alarmingly cheap. Lawyers bill at rates from $200-500/hr; they have far more money to spare than you do. I have nothing against unpaid internships at non-profits or businesses that are on a shoestring budget, but a law firm is another matter entirely.

As to the conflict between the companies: With concurrent or overlapping interviews for normal paid positions, the companies you interview with will -assume- that you are also talking to other companies. You don't owe them an explanation, but if you are asked (as many companies want to know if they need to handle your assessment "expedited") then simply answer honestly.

In this situation, you have no reason to discuss the other company with the one where you're working. Should it progress to the point that an actual offer is made, accept it but try to give 2 weeks' notice where you are now. A young person, moving on to a better job, is not "burning bridges"; however, you create an instant conflict if you start talking about now thinking you -might- get a competing offer.

Try to keep the information limited to that which is considerate and professional. You weren't really rude, per se, but you discussed this on an unnecessary level. Let it lie, and say nothing more unless you actually have a competing offer in your hands.

And don't worry too much about it. You will have many future jobs and the potential for many far-more-serious mistakes!


In this kind of situation you made the good choice by telling compagny B about compagnie A. Depending on how you told them, this show some great maturity and integrety.

You should stay with compagny B even if compagny A come back you. There is a few reason for that. First, this will show them (by action, not by wording only) that you appreciate the opportuneness they gave you. Second, you think you wont handle the situation as good as some one with more experience. That is probably true, but this kind of job offer better learning chance that the second. This will improve you confidence in your skills and your self esteem. As some other answer point out they seem to know you skill at this point and they are willing to set you up against such a task. So they already believe in you and they don't look to expect you to setup a perfect site.

Building up a website from scratch is good way to learn many thing. Many of the thing you point out (scaling, database structuring, code structuring, load handling, caching, etc.) are part of a good website but you still can build something more basic and then add up on that and replace part as you go.

For me you should stay with compagny B (they are willing to pay + better learning oportunities). You goal with this intership is to gain more experience and compagny B offer a more spreaded field of oportunities than compagny A (even if there you would gain team experience, some more formal way to do thing, etc.).

Feel free to edit to improve clarity, I'm a frenchy guy

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