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I got a job offer from company A, thus I have tendered my 2 months resignation notice to my current company. I still have one more month to go till I join the new company. But today I have received my long awaited scholarship offer to a masters program.

There seems to be a small problem. This scholarship is only for unemployed and full time masters student. I really want to grab this golden opportunity. Sadly I have sign an agreement with company A and stated that I would join them on early this March.

How do I tell them that I can't join them? Would my name be black listed? Or do I not have any choice but to throw away my master's program and join the new company?

I'm really looking for experience, personal views and suggestions.

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    You have a signed job offer, and received a scholarship intended for unemployed? Are you sure the scholarship is still valid? – Fredrik Jan 27 '15 at 11:07
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    Given that company A could change it's mind at any point until you have started (most contracts allows this), or disposed of you with 1 week notice in your first 3 months.... You have to decide if they can have it both ways... – Ian Jan 27 '15 at 11:36
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    You should clarify whether this is a binding contract in your locale, or if there is no (explicit) penalty for backing out. IE, are you asking about potential professional consequences if you back out, or are you trying to find a way to legally back out of a binding contract? (In the US, unless you are very advanced in your field or some sort of sports player, employment contracts are nearly never binding on the employee - they're mutually dissoluble, or perhaps some union contracts are only dissoluble by the employee, but nearly never entirely binding.) – Joe Jan 27 '15 at 15:07
  • I had this potential situation come up when I signed with Ubisoft, but before starting got an interview with Blizzard. Had they offered me the job, I think I would have had to go with it. – Almo Jan 27 '15 at 16:00
  • @Fredrik my master's class would begin on early May and I'm resigning my job end of February since my new joining date for the new company is on March. The terms of the scholar is when I joined masters I should be unemployed or bonded with other scholarship. The way I see it rather than joining my new company and then resigning, I'll just neglect the offer now. The good thing is that although I'm registering late for my program, I could start doing the research immediately. Hope this clears out your doubt. – 3.1415926535897932384626433832 Jan 28 '15 at 3:44
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Lay the cards down on the table. Tell company A that your personal circumstances have changed and that you have received a scholarship which has made your joining a Master's program possible, and that Masters' program is a lifetime opportunity. Ask if you can postpone your entry into company A for the duration of the Master's program.

You may not get a "yes" answer but if you don't ask, you don't get. And even though you are entering the Master's program, you want to send Company A a message that you still want to join them - just not now, and they may well respond positively to your show of good will. They may send you packing anyway but if you don't try, you won't succeed.

My answer is based on the presumption that the laws of the country you work in i.e. Malaysia and your employment contract are not preventing you from going back to school and getting your Master's.

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  • +1 This is exactly right. At the company I work for right now, culture, education, community service, etc are all really important. If someone needed some time (even a few years) to do the "life improvement" stuff, then we'd welcome them back. They may not have their exact job when they come back, but we'd be happy to bring them back. – Nick2253 Jan 27 '15 at 16:14
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    I'm pretty sure the company will understand. It would be one thing if you said you accepted another offer that came up for $3k more, but your reason is very legitimate (pursuing your education). – The Muffin Man Jan 27 '15 at 18:15
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    The opposite approach is also possible: see if your scholarship can be deferred. Many can, for 6-24months (normally 12). Then you will be able to keep it as a backup plan. Or after ~12 months working for the company, they now knowing you, might be more willing to let you take the 2 years unpaid leave needed to do you masters. – Lyndon White Jan 27 '15 at 22:40
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    @Oxinabox My little brother was accepted into MIT's graduate program on a full Teaching Assistantship. Our family would have been up in arms if he had been talking about postponing his admission to MIT. At the end of the day, his company's management understood the potential value to the company of his admission to MIT and awarded him a leave of absence for the duration of his studies at MIT - The company was recognized back then as the leading chemical engineering company in the United States. Both him and I continued to get advanced technical and business degrees wile working full-time. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 27 '15 at 23:03
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    @Viernhi: I never said the company wouldn't. Just that the university might also. – Lyndon White Jan 27 '15 at 23:30
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Honesty is the only door you are left with To renege a job offer is not appreciated as a good practice, however people may get stuck in unavoidable circumstances where they would not be able to take up the position they signed for.

The only way I see is to explain your situation honestly to your new employee and walk away. Having said that, people may still react differently having their time and money being wasted through the interview process. But most companies would not stop your prospects. You may consider to have this conversation in person with your future employer. Leave a thank you note for helping you with the situation.

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For many companies there are situations where leaves of absence are not unusual. While you have not started with them yet you do have some options becasue you are not rejecting them to join another company.

Time is important. You have three paths in front of you, and two peoples future also depends on your decision. Either you will not be filling the job position, or you will not be accepting the scholarship/Masters program.

Your options:

  • Accept the scholarship/Master program. The company may allow you to delay your starting date. But even if they do delay your start date they will want to find somebody to fill your role. Of course if that new person also has a multi-month notice period your slot may be open for a while.
  • Accept the job. You will have to notify the school and the scholarship board that you will not be accepting them. That may allow a student to be accepted from the wait list. It may also allow them to offer the scholarship to somebody else. Giving them notice quickly will allow them to fill those slots with the best remaining candidate. Time is important becasue an unfilled slot has no value after the start date of the program. Some schools will allow you to delay your start date by a year or term. This may be acceptable to the company as well.
  • Accept a combination. Is the requirement that you be unemployed only important for the scholarship, or is there a limit on the number of work hours for the maters program. Can you work almost full time for the company and attend the masters program, but reject the scholarship?

I would start with the person who offered you the job. See if they are flexible and then approach the school with the options.

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