Without fail each year that I have worked in Career Services at Northwestern University when the weather starts getting nicer (taking a longer than usual this year) so starts the time when students have to make some tough decisions. Students are faced with multiple internship or job offers and for many this could be one of the most important decisions of their life.

Tough Decision #1: Which Internship Offer Should I Accept?
If students are lucky enough to get more than one offer for an internship, they often struggle to decide which internship should they take. The dilemma typically centers around the following:

  • Company A is a big name company so it would look good on their resume vs. Company B is a small lesser known company but could provide more projects and have a more intense internship
  • or… Company A has been a company the student has worked for over the last few summers vs. Company B would be a new company they have never worked with prior

And I am sure there are other scenarios out there… Regardless, my advice is typically the same. I will often ask the student with the dilemma:

  1. What are the pros and cons of each internship? (Classic technique but it works!)
  2. Does one pay or pay more than the other? (Let’s face it school is expensive and being paid for an internship might need to be weighed into the equation)
  3. Is Location a factor in your decision?
  4. Have you talked to your family or others about your dilemma? What do they say?
  5. What types of projects did the company say you’d be working on? (I like to ask this to help the student be able to visualize what it would be like to work there and what the outcomes would be)
  6. When you interviewed, where did you feel most comfortable? (Listen to your “gut” or that little voice inside you that tells you so much if you’re willing to listen… it’s often giving you the answer.)

I also will ask the students more about their future career plans and help them factor out what each internship could mean for those plans. Ultimately, it is all going to come down to how they communicate what they did in their internship to future stakeholders (i.e. grad school admissions, potential employers, selection committees).

Tough Decision #2: Rescinding an Offer
First, I must say that before students accept any offer they should make certain that this is something they want and can commit to. Offers for internships and jobs come at odd times of the year, or earlier than you would expect for a start date in June or August, but regardless students should not rescind (break your promise to take that internship or job) with an employer.

However, I am a realistic and practical person I know it happens. So I would like to address how to handle this dilemma:

  1. If you have received an offer and accepted it and now have a “better” offer on the table and want to rescind you must do all in your power to help the original offer company understand your decision.
  2. Meet with a staff member at my office or another career services office on campus to help you sort out your decision and also to find out what might be the ramifications of your actions. This is a very serious situation and students need to understand that their decision does not only effect them but other students at Northwestern as well. (i.e. This company may be so upset that they will no longer recruit at Northwestern or your decision might result in another deserving student missing out on an internship/job offer)
  3. Communicate well to the recruiter or contact that hired you and walk them through how you are feeling and how this new offer might be better for your future career plans. Please DO NOT email or no show to your first day! Be aware that you may have just burned a bridge and that this company may perhaps never hire you again.

This blog entry does have a very serious tone to it, but for good reasons. The decisions students make today will effect their tomorrow. And they alone have to decide what is best for their future. But know that UCS and my colleagues across campus are here to help and support the NU student and alumni populations. As my mom always told me growing up, “Life is hard, just take it one day at a time.” NU students and alumni, for appointments please call 847-491-3700.