Tue 15 October 2013
This was some great advice from Thomas Wolff, one of our Associate Deans
in the College of Engineering. He sent it out to the undergraduate students
at MSU. I am reposting it here with his permission. --titus
Dear Spartan Engineering Students,
I am writing you today on a matter important to your long-term
career. While I am certain that most of you understand the points made
below, it is important that they be heard by all.
As the economy improves, more employment opportunities are coming your
way (both intern and fulltime). As opportunities emerge, choices need
to be made. Some of you will (have) received multiple offers of
employment. This will force "tough" decisions, with some causing an
ethical dilemma. There is a difference between what is ethically
acceptable and what is legally acceptable.
Ethically speaking, once you accept a job offer, you should remain
loyal to that commitment, even if a better offer comes along. You
should withdraw yourself from other positions you are being considered
for and you should stop submitting new applications. You made a good
faith agreement with your employer to accept the position and this
needs to be honored. Certainly, there may be unexpected circumstances
that make this impossible (family and personal issues, illnesses, an
unexpected move), but even in these cases, you owe it to your future
employer to be timely and honest in withdrawing your
acceptance. Receiving a better offer is not an ethically acceptable
reason to renege on your acceptance.
If you decide to renege on your commitment (back out after
accepting) to accept a different offer, there may be
consequences. Before making this decision please meet with a faculty
member, academic advisor, or someone from The Center for guidance. The
obvious repercussions of your decision are the fact that you have more
than likely "burned a bridge" with that company and with the
individuals who were your contacts at that company (remember that
these individuals may one day work at a different company in which you
may be interested). A less obvious result of your decision is the
possibility that you develop a reputation within the field. Within any
employment field, there are networks and communities of
professionals. These colleagues will interact during professional
association meetings,conferences, professional development seminars,
business deals, campus career fairs, etc. and they may talk about
their experiences with you.
Finally, if you work for a company for a short period of time and then
resign, don't count on using that employer for a reference.
It is also important for you to know that there is nothing in the law
that requires an employer to keep a job offer open for any specified
time period. However, the practice of "forcing" a decision to be made
under unrealistic time constraints (within 24 to 48 hours) is
Our best advice, if you feel you must renege on your job offer (I am
not advising this), you should make contact with the company
representative as soon as possible (in person or on the phone) and
explain your decision. You should follow-up your conversation with a
written withdrawal (email or letter). You should also return any
advances, expenditures or gifts (signing bonus) that had been
presented to you.
Once you begin your job, another offer very well may come along. In
this case, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of resigning
from your current job. Even if you are not happy in your job, a good
rule of thumb is that you can do anything for a year. Sticking the job
out looks better on your resume, and certainly leaves your employer
with a more favorable impression of you (let's not forget those
Again, we urge you to consult with a faculty member, mentor or advisor
before finalizing your decision. Our Career Professionals, located in
the Center for Spartan Engineering can assist you with your decision.
Thomas F. Wolff, Ph.D., P.E.