I'm a student and I applied to many internships over winter and only ended up interviewing with 5 in total, one of which (company A) gave me an offer for a different, less relevant internship after declining me for the one I applied for. Although this internship is only semi-relevent to my degree, the pay is very decent and I had been declined by or never heard back from the other companies. I accepted the job offer, did the background check and drug screen, and I am supposed to start in less than a week. The internship is supposed to be 6 months.

Last week out of the blue one of my top choice companies (that I submitted my resume to and never heard back from) emailed me about a dream/perfect internship opportunity. I agreed to interview and then they offered me the position (and the pay is much higher too). This internship is for 12 weeks and starts in May (two months after my 6-month internship with company A is supposed to start).

Do I renege completely on my offer from company A?

Do I Decline my dream internship because of already Having made a commitment?

Do I explain the situation to company A and ask if I can work there for just the 2 months and possibly after my other internship?

what is/isn't ethical and how would it impact my career? I do not care about ever being hired by company A in the future.


You can cancel your internship with company A. If you do so, it's most professional to let them know immediately so they have more time to try to fill the position again. They may have had other candidates after you they can still contact (before they get other offers).

This is a valid course of action because you say you have no (current) interest in working at A in the future. Trying to split the internship is likely to be seen as naive. In my experience, most internships are in demand and they can likely find someone qualified that can work the whole time without issue.

Keep in mind, though, that the recruiters/hiring managers may cross your paths again at different companies. Also, sometimes companies get bought up, and a "do not hire" on A (if it happens) may become a "do not hire" on C in the future.

But, in the end, this is an internship, not a full time position. Faux pas at this stage in a career are met with a bit more forgiveness. More so if you actually perform well. A class mate of mine was in your situation a few weeks ago, and went with his more attractive company and reneged on his company A. I highly doubt it will affect his career.

You've been through the hiring process, but you haven't actually started yet, so you could omit it from detailed job histories without being deceitful. You'd be inconveniencing the employer, but far less so than working two months and quitting. Possibly less so than working there begrudgingly while daydreaming about B.

You can explain that you would not have accepted if you'd even had an inkling this other company was interested in you, but now that they are you feel you're a better fit there and the position is more like the one you originally applied for at A.

I have three more things to note:

  1. Dream jobs are dreams. You might expect company B to be totally awesome, but your higher expectations can lead to greater disappointment. You need to make this decision objectively: Will the experience gained be of better value at this company compared to the other?
  2. Company A's internship is twice as long, which means twice as much experience to put on your resume for the related skills.
  3. The employer could fire you for the same reason: they found a better fit. It'd be in poor taste, too, but ultimately their choice is going to be about what's best for their business. Your choice should be about what's best for you.
  • I wouldn't worry about the "do not hire" possibility because you accepted a different position, even if it was last minute. It is certainly not the same as "do not hire" because you sucked at your job or were a problem employee. I had to do something similar and was told that I would get "blacklisted" by the rather large employer. I started getting phone calls from the "blacklisting" company within 6 months wondering if I was interested in going there. People understand that sometimes you can't control the timing of these things. It is much worse to quit 2 or 3 months into a job. – Dunk Mar 24 '15 at 22:13
  • Yup. It's hard to say, it could all depend on the personality of the relevant HR person. – user29165 Mar 24 '15 at 22:15

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