You have been diligently following my guide 5 Ways to Find an Internship and the result is that you are now flooded with internship offers! In a perfect scenario, that is how it would happen right. Although you may not be “flooded” with multiple offers, it is exciting to just get that first offer.
Everyone has their eyes on that “dream” internship. The question is, what do you do when you get an internship offer but you still haven’t heard back from your “dream” internship company? Can I accept an internship but then turn it down later if I get my dream gig? How long will a company wait for me to give them an answer?
My best advice is that you should evaluate each internship offer on it’s own merit. Carefully weigh the positives and negatives of the offer at hand based on your genuine interest in the role, career goals, the company and the opportunity. Do you think you will enjoy it, will you be challenged to learn new things, is it an environment where you can grow? Ideally, you only applied to openings that you were at least somewhat interested in anyway.
If your transportation or housing situation has changed, you were made to feel uncomfortable due to your race, religion or sex during the interview, the position advertised was vastly different than what you expected, or it isn’t a good fit, those are incredibly valid reasons to turn it down. Nothing I’ve said thus far factors in the other call (that may or may not come). Step one is just to evaluate the internship offer for what it is, outside of the “what-if’s”.
Here are a few other things to consider when trying to decide if to accept an offer or wait on a better one.
1) Have you finished all of the internship applications?
If you still haven’t finished the application to company A and company B calls you with an internship offer, take the offer from company B. It is highly unlikely that the offer will stay on the table long enough for you to apply, interview and hear back from another company. If you feel good about the role, accept the internship. The time frame for responding to an offer varies from company to company, but it could be as little as a few days up to a few weeks.
2) Have you had an interview?
If you have had an interview with a company A and you get an internship offer from company B, try to get more information before making a decision. Follow up with company A to ask when they will be making final decisions. If they tell you it will be a few days, ask company B how long you have to make a decision. If they give you three days but you won’t know an answer from company A for three more weeks, you have to make a hard decision. There is still no guarantee that after three weeks, you will be the one they choose.
Yes, you could ask company B for a little more time to make a decision, but don’t be surprised of they tell you no. Don’t expect company B to sit around and twiddle their thumbs for a month. They need to be able to fill their internship openings and move on to the next phases of their process. If you wait too long to respond, they may just offer the internship to the next person on their list.
3) Is what I have better than what might come along?
The goal is to get an internship right? Ask yourself, if you have an internship offer to a company that you were interested in enough to apply, why not take it? What about the other opportunity you are holding out for is going to be that much more attractive?
If you had an interview for your absolute dream internship that you have been thinking about since you were a freshman in high school, that is a strong pull to reject all else and hold out for that and that alone. I get it. Maybe you are waiting for a paid internship and the offer you received is for an unpaid gig, I understand that as well. But, if the feelings aren’t that deep and the money isn’t a barrier, don’t shoot yourself in the foot for what might be a “slightly” better gig. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Don’t be swayed by the name or size or “coolness” of a company and overlook what could be an awesome experience elsewhere.
Technically, you could of course accept an offer to have something solid and still wait for that other call. No, it isn’t wrong and the internship police are not going to pick you up. There is, however, something to be said for integrity and keeping your word. Don’t accept an offer with the full knowledge that you will bolt if another company calls. When you take the offer, be honest with yourself that you are going to fulfill your commitment and be confident in your choice. If you can’t, maybe you should let the offer go and take your chances on waiting for the call that might come. We are not talking a life-long commitment here, it is 8-12 weeks.
You could play the “what-if” game for weeks and still not have an answer. At some point, you have to be decisive and live with your choice. Remember that although you may not want that particular internship, there is a student who might jump at the chance. By not making a choice, you are essentially holding up the line. If you don’t want it, that’s ok, but just move out of the way for the next person in line.
If you haven’t gotten an offer yet, keep applying and if your search has stalled, download my guide, 5 Ways to Find an Internship for some new ideas on where to look.