First some details about myself,

I am a 20 year old college student (Junior standing, soon to be Senior in a few weeks) interning in a Software Engineering position, I've been working at my currently company (>1000 employees) since beginning of June last year, working full-time over the summer for about 3 months and part time (10-20 hrs/wk on non-break weeks). I was informed ~1 month ago that the company was not able to hire me full time after I graduate due to budget concerns, and they had decided it would be best to just not continue my internship into this upcoming summer.

Just a few days ago, I met with my manager to discuss final details about my departure, and informed me that our department was going to be telling HR that I am resigning instead of being laid off.

Is this normal? (and can they do this?) This seems like a really sketchy behavior to have. I am worried that the company might be doing it to protect their own reputation, but I feel like it might be putting mine at risk (making me look like someone who doesn't want to stay at a company, when in reality, it wasn't my choice)

Should I be concerned professionally/morally/legally/financially?

(As a side note, I am still being claimed as a dependent by my parents, so I am not sure I could try to claim unemployment)

I am in the U.S.

  • I agree it sounds dubious, but unless you should be getting unemployment compensation I think any hazard is to them, not to you.
    – keshlam
    May 7, 2016 at 22:27
  • 20 year old, sorry, will correct May 7, 2016 at 22:48
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    "to protect their own reputation" - maybe this is what you meant anyway, but it's more likely to protect staff morale than external reputation: if there are budget concerns internally no-one wants to hear that they're laying people off, because they'll start fearing for their own jobs.
    – Rup
    May 7, 2016 at 22:49
  • @Rup That little bit of technicality makes only a little bit of difference. When people see a lot of employees leaving, it doesn't really matter whether they left or were asked to go. The morale will be down either way.
    – Masked Man
    May 8, 2016 at 15:25
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    Are you on a fixed term contract or indefinite employment?
    – Leon
    May 25, 2017 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


Regularly, if you're being laid off, for example, because your company no longer has funding for your position, you're entitled to claim unemployment benefits from the state. Voluntary resignation and firing for cause make the company (mostly) exempt from having to pay money for these unemployment benefits, and so they cut funding by laying you off, and then save even more by listing you as having resigned.

Thomas Owens suggests and perhaps rightly so that you may not want to burn a good reference. You would draft a resignation letter, sign it and give it to your company. Our hope is that they give you enough time to line up another opportunity before you're let go.

In cases where you need income and the company is putting undue financial burden on you, you have the option to fight this and apply for unemployment anyways, even if the company's documents say "resigned." They will object and you will have a chance to present your case in arbitration. Again, maintaining good terms with that employer you wouldn't probably do this, but it's still a sketchy practice to inaccurately qualify someone's termination for them.

All they're doing is putting your claim to unemployment benefits at risk.

  • Note that if you have written documentation of their request, make sure you keep it in a safe place, just in case you need it later!
    – Jane S
    May 8, 2016 at 2:57
  • I am still a young adult so forgive my ignorance, if I am currently still getting my education (receiving financial aid through grants and federal loans) AND being claimed as a dependent by my parents, would I even be able to apply for unemployment? I am also wondering how it would look professionally if I resigned vs being laid off due to financial reasons, if it would even matter? May 8, 2016 at 17:48
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    Professionally, resignation is probably the most dignified exit. As for your question about unemployment, which actual state you reside in will affect the outcome of your question.
    – CKM
    May 9, 2016 at 13:27

I've never had an internship end prematurely, but all of my internships ended with my submitting a notice of resignation. Ending an internship with a resignation, with a reason of something like "returning to school" or even "seeking other opportunities" is normal. It would be far worse if you were fired from your internship. I'm not sure how a layoff would affect how companies view you, since I've never heard of an intern being laid off.

It sounds like your work arrangement already lasted well beyond the original internship and you've gained experience and potential references. I would recommend doing what your manager says and writing up a letter of resignation with the appropriate date and a suitable reason. You should also talk to your manager and/or HR about policies regarding references as you seek other internships or full-time employment.

  • This company is very well known around my area to pretty much always hire their interns on full-time, so not hiring their interns is very uncommon, they just happen to be having budget concerns this time around. Also, I already talked to my manager and others about references and they have all agreed. The question is really more if I should argue to be laid off vs just let my direct management tell HR I resigned. My manager also says it's fine for me to not write a letter of resignation.... as I am not REALLY resigning. Just a generally weird situation. May 8, 2016 at 17:44
  • If this is an internship ending normally, there is absolutely no need for a notice of resignation. They KNOW you're going back to school at the end of the planned internship period, they KNOW when the period ends. This is the same as a fixed-duration contract ending. The job is done, the mercenaries stop by the paymaster's office, and then they head for the beach (after telling Jerry to put them on the Hot Sheet: insider reference). May 8, 2016 at 18:27
  • @JohnR.Strohm I've had 2 co-ops and 3 internships - for all for all of them, I had to submit a formal letter of resignation at the end. Perhaps it just happened to be policy at the three organizations I worked for, but other people I know had to do similar things. May 8, 2016 at 23:48
  • We put it down as hired with a known termination date at signing, or something like that.
    – Joshua
    May 27, 2017 at 23:32

I would suspect that this is very, very dodgy and will be highly likely to be damaging for you. Your manager should know better than trying a stunt like that.

I would go straight to HR and tell them that whatever your department is telling them, you are absolutely 100% not resigning, and ask them politely to write this down, and since it is a serious matter, you would like a written confirmation.

And nobody can ever force you to resign. They can lay you off, which they plan anyway, but they cannot make you resign. If anyone asks you to sign anything, read it very carefully and don't sign if you don't like what you read.

  • I think it might be the entire management in my dept. that is doing this stunt, there are several interns being laid off and I suspect all of them are getting this pulled on them, I've keeping in contact with them and comparing info and most have been keep in the dark mostly. I still have another meeting with my manager before my 2 week notice, so I plan on bringing up my concerns with him, and asking why the reason for making me resign vs being laid off. I like my manager so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I wanted to get some opinions from people in the professional world. May 8, 2016 at 17:54
  • Also, in your first paragraph, you mention how it will be highly damaging to me, can you elaborate? I know trying to claim unemployment would be at risk, but would it look bad professionally or what? May 8, 2016 at 17:55
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    because it can look bad to end internships without finishing them. I know that all klassmates who were kicked out had alot of Problems because they did not have their first intership completed and could not hide the fact. May 9, 2016 at 13:39

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