Once you craft a perfect resume and a kickass cover letter that you’re sure internship coordinators will love, it’s pretty common to send the two out as bait to several potential companies to ensure that you’re able to reel in at least one internship. But what happens if more than one company takes the bait?
Michelle Lewis, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill, faced this sticky situation her sophomore year. She applied for three summer journalism internships, but since she had heard about how hard it was to get an offer, she didn’t get her hopes up.
“I interviewed for one position, and somehow during the interview when the editor was giving me a tour of the office, she started presenting me as ‘our new summer intern’ ...Even though I hadn't technically accepted the position,” says Michelle.
But Michelle was so excited to get an internship offer that she didn’t bother correcting the editor—or letting her know that she had applied for internships elsewhere as well. Which didn’t work out well when Michelle was offered both of the other positions that she had applied for, one of which was her dream internship.
Making the Choice
Michelle was lucky enough to know which of the three internships she wanted the most, but what if you don’t know how to decide which of the opportunities you’ve been presented with is best for you?
“If you know all the specifics about each internship, this will help when weighing which internship will be the best for you to accept,” said Colette Rodger, Manager of Internships at Penn State. “Obviously, you want to go with the internship that offers the most experience with what you want to do. Don't just always go for a big company name—sometimes it won’t give you the experience the small company can offer.”
“Another approach might be an additional call back to the prospective company to find out if the opportunity will provide you a chance to meet some of your key goals,” adds Bob Martin, the Assistant Dean for Internships and Career Placement at Penn State. “Ask them candidly if these goals are attainable, particularly when it comes to an internship. This approach may provide the clarity you need to make an educated decision on which position is the best fit for you.”
The most important thing to remember is that although your work as an intern will be beneficial for the company, this opportunity has to be tailored to what you want. It’s a big decision, so don’t feel guilted into accepting the first offer that is made to you!
“For me, I had to decide which internship would give me the most experience, and which experience I would enjoy the most,” Michelle explained.
Asking for More Time to Decide
So one of the companies offered you a position and asked you to get back to them with your decision in a week—but your dream company said they won’t get back to you for two weeks on whether or not you scored the position.
According to Martin, how you handle this situation depends on how much more you want the second internship. If you think that the two offers are pretty equal in value, but you prefer the second one simply because it’s a better-known company or it pays more, then he suggests accepting the first offer so you don’t jeopardize the opportunity.
“However, if you believe the offer on the table may not be as good as another, and you are confident that the other preferable offer will occur, simply request more time,” Martin said. “Be sure to provide them with a specific date that you can effectively get back to them with your decision.”