I'm a software engineer and team lead, with several years of experience that during the last 2 years was enrolled in an international Master program in Computer engineering.

In a few months I will need to start working on my thesis, that could be both a research project or an internship in some company. In both case I will be on leave from my company for a few months.

In some way I would prefer to work for a company in a position different than my current one to test the waters and potentially make a move and change job. My company would be okay with me working for a different company, but not so much to know that I could change job afterwards.

Problem is, I'm quite experienced and I think that introducing myself to a new company as an intern would prevent me from been considered for a serious role in the future but at the same time it doesn't make sense for me to be hired for a few months in a "real" position for my thesis project(both because I already have a job and because I can be there only a few months).

First of all, is what I want to do unethical or wrong towards my company or the other hypothetical company?

If it's not, what is in your opinion the best way to approach a new company and present my plan?

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    I'd suggest splitting up your question because each aspect calls for a pretty in-depth answer. Variations of your first question (looking to move on after graduating when you've worked as a student and/or feel indebted to an employer) have also been posted here before so you may want to have a look at those. – Lilienthal Sep 21 '17 at 19:01
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    Why not do the "internship" at your current company? – Khalil Khalaf Sep 22 '17 at 13:21
  • @KyleKhalaf: Why should I? – heapOverflow Sep 22 '17 at 15:18

First of all I do not think it is unethical for you to test the waters and build your career. As long as you fulfill all the duties you agreed to and give proper notice, you are fine. Most companies would replace you on an instant without so much as a pat on the back if they saw any financial gains in doing so.

Second, I don´t think introducing yourself to company as an intern should prevent you from being considered for a serious position - if you clearly do so as part of an educational program.

It could offer you a good setting for getting to know the other company and also showing you seniority to them. I think usually, if you already know a company, they like and trust you and know you´ve not only had a good education but also can make things work for real, you are perfectly set up to be considered for a serious position!

Only, I would just keep this to myself until you got to know them and then begin exploring your options with them. Then, if you know with whom to speak, state your interest in furthering you work relationship to them. If they follow along, see that you get a clean entry with you current employer, explaining to them that just some great career chance came up that you could not pass.

  • But as I wrote I'm currently a team lead. It could be weird to be hired as an intern, maybe followed and helped by junior members and to be considered for a very senior position after a few months. Would this make sense from the perspective of a company? – heapOverflow Sep 19 '17 at 15:29
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    Not sure about that "interns" are usually considered very junior roles and also I would be concerned that some one doing a masters did actually not do a project - this may be location dependant though. Id try very hard not to be called an intern call it a placement as part of your ongoing CPD – Neuromancer Sep 19 '17 at 15:29
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    Interns I saw around where sometimes considered for junior management. That where BA-Students and they often reported to some high-level mentor in management. There may be some benefit in getting to know the organisation "from below" although it may be awkward at first with your colleagues. Depends on how you present yourself during you intern and what your tasks will be. – Daniel Sep 19 '17 at 15:35
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    I did an postdoc "internship" with 7 years experience on my back. From wikijob: An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time. That's what it was, a contract for a fixed amount of time with specific goals. The actual position was not entry level, in fact I managed a small team of juniors. – angarg12 Sep 22 '17 at 14:08

I think you are equating interns with a junior position. That's not always the case. When you pick up internship, carefully look at the role. I would suggest you avoid the intern work offered to someone with no experience. Since you are in computer science, you could look at being an intern in the research division of some company where , if you have interest and a major, work on latest topics like machine learning, block chains etc. Work on something niche or something upcoming, and if possible, work on something which gives you an opportunity to contribute as an Individual contributor.

It is for companies benefit if they also get to test the waters with you as intern. The cost of a new hire is too much if they get a bad / misfit guy. Having someone intern and then get a job offer is not unheard of because they like the person too much.

As far as ethics is concerned for joining the new company, that depends on what sort of commitment you have made to your existing company. Have you resigned and joined the course or you are on unpaid leave? Did the company pay for your course? Did you sign a contract? And if so what is the exit clause.

Also, what is company putting in? Is there a promotion which is promised and waiting for you? Will you be getting a salary hike post successful completion of the course?

If there is no commitment but merely an expectation, then you have every right to look at other companies. If you have some contract, then you need to make sure its terms are respected. If it means paying a penalty ( in terms of money), then so be it. If the contract is iron clad, something like you have to work in the company for an year, then I think you should go back to your original company, but still intern for another company. If they like you, they will likely hire you whenever your contract period ends. Keep your situation open to the company you are interning. They will appreciate a person who keeps his word and likely wait for you to join then post your contract expires (subject to conditions, business environment etc etc.)

  • I'm still working while doing the master, I will be on unpaid leave only for my thesis. My company didn't give me any financial help and didn't promise me anything. They were even a bit skeptical about the master ("Do you really think you are going to need that? You surely have time to waste..."). My contract is permanent with the possibility to leave at any time with the proper notice period. – heapOverflow Sep 22 '17 at 15:16
  • If you decide to accept a position with another company, I will suggest you serve proper notice period. Don't feel guilty in trying to find a better offer. You should also negotiate a higher salary and possibly a higher position with the company. I am guessing after looking at the comments they made, they are unlikely to offer anything to you. – Rishi Goel Sep 22 '17 at 17:03

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