“It’s not you, it’s me,” is the most overused line in television and movie break-ups, and also a line that tends to apply when weighing the pros and cons of different internship and job offers.
So how do you make a decision? How do you maintain these relationships along the way? Below are a few key things to consider when approaching the decision-making process.
Make a wish list
Think about the experience you’d like to have in your internship or first full-time job. What skills or practices would you like to dive into? What size team do you want to work with? Take time to consider your interests, strengths and weaknesses, and determine two to four key things you’d like to improve or build upon. Consider your “wants” and “needs.” If you “need” Fortune 100 clients, it probably behooves you to have large agency on your “wants” list. If you want a tight-knit office and a wide variety of responsibilities, you may find yourself leaning more closely toward a nonprofit, small agency or unique start-up. Employers ultimately want you to benefit from spending time there, and you want to be just as excited about contributing to the organization’s mission.
Look at your offer(s). Are you excited?! (You should be — you’ve worked so hard to get here!) Do you have hesitations? It’s time to compare what you have on the table and what was on your wish list. This is also the time to consider the less exciting elements like hourly pay (if any), commute time and costs, relocation time and costs, and weekly hours (full time or part time). Your dream internship might be unpaid and 1,000 miles from school, but the financial investment now might pay off in the future. If another offer is paid or more conveniently located, you may want to consider the experience to help you later down the road and alleviate financial stress.
Whether you accept the offer or not, be gracious. It’s an honor to be selected, and the hiring team has invested time into reviewing your application and conducting your interviews. Make sure you abide by the timeline they provided — or make sure you communicate about needing more time or information before making the decision.
Unfortunately, “It’s not you, it’s me,” isn’t an acceptable email option if you decide to accept a different offer. Be as genuine as possible, express your thanks for their time and appreciation of the offer, and explain that you have decided to accept another offer that you feel is a better fit for you at this time. Offer to keep in touch — and make sure that you do keep in touch — and consider sharing something interesting you learned or admired about the organization during the process. If you feel you formed especially strong connections at an organization, this might be better done via a phone call.
I know there are many open-ended questions here, but this point in the process is one you are able to control. Make sure you consider all aspects of an offer; sometimes organizations have more than what meets the eye. Good luck!
Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a senior at the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.