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So I'm currently in my third year in college in the United States with an intention to go into consulting after graduation. I about 3 months ago was offered an analytics summer internship at a fortune 500 retail company.

To be honest I really have no intention of working there after graduation (they're known for high turnover and I have no interest in retail), however, I felt that it would look good on a resume to have worked for such a well known company and the experience that I would gain there would be very applicable to consulting.

Just recently I was accepted into an internship program from a top tier consulting firm with higher pay, in a better location, and with a company that I would love to work for after graduation.

I clearly would prefer to work at the consulting firm but I don't want to start out my career with a bad reputation or burn any bridges I may need later on.

I'm not particularly concerned about being potentially blacklisted from that specific retail company where I received the offer, however, I want to know what potential damage this could do to me in the short and long term and how poorly this will be viewed given that they would probably have difficulty finding a candidate to replace me before this Summer.

I signed an acceptance letter for the retail company several months ago and have only received sporadic contact from them given that the internship doesn't start until this Summer anyways and I applied in the Fall.

If it is acceptable for me to reneg on my signed acceptance letter how should I go about doing so to ensure least possible fallout?

  • This question seems to be too much personalized. I think you better transform it to generic type. :) – Jude Niroshan Mar 3 '17 at 6:00
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    I wanted to provide as many anonymous details as possible to better outline the situation. I think it is incredibly relevant that the job I'd be reneging on is in a different industry, that I am still in college, and that the job I'd be accepting instead is in the industry I want to enter. Any suggestions for how to generalize while maintaining those pieces of information? – TheSaint321 Mar 3 '17 at 6:04
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    How long until your internship starts, and how much notice are you supposed to give if you need to quit? – Brandin Mar 3 '17 at 8:01
  • I'm slightly wondering what you were doing applying for other positions after you'd already accepted one. Presumably the possibility of this situation arising had occurred to you? What was your plan? – AakashM Mar 3 '17 at 9:14
  • Are you getting an internship you want to renege on through programs offered by your school, some kind of partnership between the company and school, or to meet requirements to graduate? – Thomas Owens Mar 3 '17 at 9:24
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If you're not concerned with the fallout for the company that you are reneging on, there's generally not a big problem. However, you are still in school. If that company has any kind of relationship with your school (the company attends career fairs at your school, sends recruiters there, uses your school's career office to help hire interns or full-time employers), your school may also be involved.

When I was in school, we had required internships. Once you accepted an offer, if you reneged on it and it was reported to the school's career office, your graduation could be affected. I do know one person who accepted an offer and then learned information about the company or team that allowed them to get permission to renege, but generally it was something that no one did or did at extremely high risk.

When you are on your own, you are representing yourself. However, when you're a student on an internship, you are not only representing yourself, but your school. You could not only damage your personal reputation, but that of the school. That is bound to have repercussions.

If you're going to renege, though, do it as quickly as possible to give the company a chance to attempt to hire someone else for the position. You should also be up front with them about why - you received an offer for a position in a field that more closely aligns with your post-graduation goals. Being professional and curteous is the only way to minimize fallout.

  • Relationship with school isn't something I had considered. Excellent point. Thank you. – TheSaint321 Mar 8 '17 at 16:01
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In my opinion, if you use right formulation of words explaining, that you got better offer and you can imagine you elsewhere more satisfied, they might understand that. Key factor is: what you have signed. Is there any "bail-out" or any consequence based on that acceptance?

You might want to write them that you got better offer etc. and wait for their response. -> But as you are talking about internship, I think they will be willing to let you go. They did not invest in you so far, so if you would leave later, they would probably be more sad about your decision.

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    They probably have a list of other people and when OP cancels they will go to the next one on that list. – Snowlockk Mar 3 '17 at 9:18
  • @Snowlockk If it had been a week or so, they could have perhaps done that. After three months, they will likely have to go to market again. – Jane S Mar 3 '17 at 12:11

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