Monday, April 25, 2016

A Pillow and a Soft Place: How to Field Multiple Internship Offers

Earlier this week, I met with a student during drop-in hours (yes, the Career Center has daily drop-in hours!) who had one of the best and worst problems I've heard. She had been offered not one, not two, but three internships - and was waiting to hear back on a fourth. Although she was overjoyed at her prospects, the idea of having to choose between three incredible opportunities was incredibly difficult. Like the title of my post suggests, although any decision would be a good one, it is a tough decision nonetheless.

So, we set to work, laying out all of her options and talking about ways she could narrow down her choices. We had a really productive conversation, and I was so struck by how complex the discussion became that I decided I just had to write about it in a blog post. Here are a few of things I told her to consider, and would recommend that anyone fielding multiple internship offers considers as well:

What will each position add to your value/experience as a future professional?

If you have two great but very different internships - different sectors, different responsibilities, etc. - you will first want to consider what each internship can offer you. If this is your first internship, you might want to consider pursuing the one that more closely aligns with your long-term career goals. That way, you'll not only get great experience, but you'll get a good idea of whether or not you'd really enjoy your potential career. If you've already had a few internships in a certain area, and you're torn between another similar internship and something new, you might want to take a chance and go in a direction you haven't explored previously. You'll diversify your experiences and your skill set, and you might find another field that you enjoy even more.

How well does each internship fit your ideals?

The student I met with was lucky in that she was choosing between some very different internships. One was a 40+ hour per week commitment, the other was a super flexible position at a start-up with a huge salary, and the third was a competitive full-time research program. But even in the face of very similar internship offers, you can make your decision based on other aspects of the internships. Are you able to set your own hours, or even negotiate your own salary? What are the extra perks of the internship - are there any amazing network connections you could make? What's the environment like? Who will you primarily be working with, other interns or directly under the CEO? While considerations like these may not seem as important as the actual internship details, these nuances allow you to choose an internship that is both personally and professionally satisfying.

Have you discussed your decision with anyone else?

While the Career Center is always here for you, speaking with many different people is always recommended. The student I met with mentioned that she found it difficult to talk about her situation with her friends, because it felt like she'd be bragging while they were still scrambling for internships - a totally understandable concern. If you don't feel comfortable sharing this with a friend, you can always talk it through with family. Or, if you know any, reach out to current or former employees for an insightful perspective on the organization's inner workings. (If you don't know anybody yet, this is a great opportunity to network in places like LinkedIn, where you can search for people by employer within Tufts networking groups.) And, of course, you can meet with a Career Fellow or Career Advisor as many times as you want to guide you through the decision.

Paid or unpaid? (The choice is clear.) 

If all else is equal except for payment, your choice might be easier than you'd think. When it comes right down to it, if you're choosing between a paid or an unpaid internship, I think most students would opt for the former. There will certainly be cases where this does not apply - if you want to be a teacher and are choosing between an unpaid teaching assistantship and a paid position in the circus, you could probably justify forgoing the juggling lessons. But for the most part, getting paid is too appealing to pass up - think of how much easier everything from rent to food to knowing you're valued at the organization will be.

By now, I've hopefully convinced you that choosing between multiple internships is not simple. It's a decision that takes time and a careful weighing of all options. Pragmatism will be your best friend, but don't forget to think about what you really want, and what you think will make you happy. And of course, whatever you choose, do not regret it by any means, because you're bound to gain something from any experience.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017

P.S. One last thing - whatever you decide, make sure that you stick to your decision once you've confirmed a position with an organization. Reneging on an internship for another offer is unprofessional, and could come back to haunt you in your future career. Hate to end on such a foreboding note, but it's an important note nonetheless!