My apologies if this is a duplicate, it was quite a difficult thing to search for.
I am aware there are similar questions, such as: Ethical to accept job offer I may not start, But I would argue that this question is not completely identical - the linked question, and any I could find like it, are about taking a rival job offer. I would argue this is different, though perhaps I am being selfish in this consideration.
I am entering my third year of a four year university degree, and have accepted a summer job offer for 2017 for a company who have paid me a $2,500 sponsorship for my studies in exchange for the contract. I have worked with them for the previous summers and I very much like the company.
It is relatively small, with around 40 employees total ordinarily, and they recruit a significant number of summer employees - I would guess 20-30. As I have experience with the company's systems, it may be a bigger hit than if anyone else went back on their offer.
However, I have realised that I believe I would like to go into postgraduate study and academia instead of working in industry for the foreseeable future. I have spoken to my academic advisor about this, and been all but offered a summer placement with my university to do research, potentially leading onto a PhD placement.
I believe this is the opportunity I would prefer significantly, but I feel that should I choose to take this offer and rescind my contract with the company, then I should be careful to ensure I follow ethical practices.
With this in mind, I have considered the following as a good course of action:
- Wait until I have confirmation (or near enough) that I can do the university research. If I do not receive this, do the placement at the company, as I intended originally.
- Ask the company's manager/CEO for a phone-call / in-person meeting to discuss my position, and say that I have realised it's not what I want to do, and hope we can terminate the contract with neither party over-dissatisfied. I should note that it is perfectly legal for me to just terminate the contract (provided I pay back the money) with no polite discussion, but I would absolutely not feel comfortable doing this.
- Pay back the $2,500 ASAP - preferably immediately.
I am worried that the first step in particular is deceptive, since I no longer fully intend to fulfil a contract of work a company is expecting me to, but I fear that if I notify them too soon and, I might end up with neither.
I was hoping for advice on what approach I should take. I am at quite a well regarded university and so would really prefer anything that would increase my chances of getting a placement to do postgraduate study here, but I do want to balance this with ethical conduct.
To complete my argument from the beginning of the question on why I think this is not a duplicate of the similar question I linked, I feel that there is an ethical difference between accepting a job offer while having other job offers pending that you prefer and then going back on it, and having an unexpected opportunity that is in a completely different field. I am hoping my boss would be understanding as I am young and did not maliciously start applying to larger, better paying companies, but merely had a change of heart. Perhaps this is naive.