Goodbye unpaid internship...
October 27, 2011 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I am currently interning at a company and yesterday I was offered a job at another company. My problem is they would like me to start immediately next week and I have yet to tell my supervisor, where I am interning, that I decided to take the job. The internship had no set time or commitment and it is unpaid. How and what should I say to my supervisor by email? I intern three days a week and will not be able to see him today or tomorrow.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total)
Explain the situation.

You were offered a paying job. You regret not being able to give two weeks notice. You've enjoyed the experience and are grateful for being given the opportunity. You hope to be in touch in the future (but not too soon!) for a positive reference.
posted by entropone at 2:14 PM on October 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


While I'm glad I've had the chance to work with you, I've decided to pursue other opportunities. My last day will be today.

Thank you,

- Anonymous

Frankly, anyone who expects any more than that from his people should pay them.
posted by mhoye at 2:14 PM on October 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yes, you should e-mail your supervisor immediately. Tell them that you have really enjoyed working at this company, and you have been offered a paid position. You would prefer to give more notice but you have been told is only available if you start immediately. Unfortunately your economic needs are such that you cannot turn down a paid position now.

Then suggest some things you could spend doing the rest of the time to help with continuity, like documenting any processes you work on, or getting to a stopping point on a current project.

If they aren't paying you, they can't even expect this much, so trying to do the best you can in the week remaining will make a good positive impression.
posted by grouse at 2:16 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

You have just learned that you have a great opportunity for a job. Your last day will be whatever. You really value the learning experience you had at __________. You apologize that the timing on the situation meant that you could not give your leave in person. You hope for all the best for him and the company and express hope that you will continue to stay in touch.

(...any company that hung Mission Critical stuff on an unpad intern made the bed it will lay in, IMO.)
posted by griphus at 2:17 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, and if you haven't connected to everyone you know at the intership on LinkedIn, do so now.
posted by griphus at 2:18 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dear [Supervisor],

I have accepted a paid position, starting [date], therefore, my last day of my internship will be [date]. I regret that circumstances do not allow me to offer a longer notice period [optional brief discussion of handover notes or something, if you're working on anything that should be handed off to someone else].

I appreciate having had the opportunity to work with you and learn [valuable professional skills].

posted by EvaDestruction at 2:25 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to suggest talking to the new job and seeing if there is a way for you to work another day next week at your internship. This is good because it lets you wrap things up there, get contact information for future networking.

It also sets you up in their eyes as someone who likes/prefers to leave on a good note, and to finish your commitments. You want a workplace that doesn't only tolerate that trait, you want a workplace that relishes it.

The worst jobs I've ever had were the ones that wanted me to abruptly leave another position.
posted by bilabial at 2:26 PM on October 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you can't make it in person, call. Say you've been offered a job and that they want you to start immediately, so you won't be back. Ask if there's anyone they need you to talk to in order to hand things over. Thank them for the opportunity.

Follow up with e-mail about what a great opportunity it was, how grateful you are for everything you've learned and how wonderful everyone there is.
posted by IanMorr at 2:32 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't take mhoye's advice. It might sound cool, but it's a really great way to burn bridges early in your career.
posted by lunasol at 2:35 PM on October 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you believe in karma or you might one day ask your boss for a letter of reference then phone, don't email.
posted by caek at 2:36 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call. CALL CALL CALL. This is not an email situation. Talk in person, and the email you write afterwards should be a gracious thank you.
posted by sestaaak at 2:39 PM on October 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Do your best not to burn bridges (especially if you like these folks, but the contacts are valuable even if you never want to set foot in the place again), but your loyalty has to go to the people who want to pay you for your work. If they don't understand that, they are a bunch of jackasses. I'd second caek's advice and get your boss on the phone as soon as possible. Explain the situation, apologize for the lack of notice, and make some reasonable effort to quickly settle any affairs you may have outstanding (offer to transfer knowledge to someone else on any projects you're working on, write up a quick document explaining something you've built, recycle the suspension bridge over your desk that you've been building out of soda cans and paper clips, etc...). Thank them for the opportunities, and move on.

Congratulations and best of luck on your new job!
posted by zachlipton at 2:41 PM on October 27, 2011

Also, if it helps assuage any guilt on your part, consider whether your unpaid internship is even legal. A great deal of US unpaid internships are flat out illegal unless they are truly bona-fide educational experiences or the employer is a charitable organization. That doesn't mean this isn't incredibly common, but it's still wrong. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by burning bridges unnecessarily, but I wouldn't feel bad in the slightest about walking away from a potentially illegal employment relationship.
posted by zachlipton at 2:49 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Assuming you have positive feelings about the internship and you will be working in the same industry, I also vote for a call instead of an email.

My assumption is that your current supervisor will be happy for you. And a non-zero chance he will react by making a competing offer.
posted by mullacc at 3:41 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have time to drop by the office? Is it out of your way? Email would work in a pinch, a call would be nice, but stopping by in person is best, unless you're really worried they'll try to saddle you with guilt or a last-minute task.

I work in an office where we have unpaid interns. We're don't have money to hire people even part time, let alone pay interns. One intern recently had the same issue - she found herself a paying job, but was scheduled to come in so often. She came in, told us she really enjoyed the chance to get experience with us, and if she had time she would come back, but bills came first. We understood, and wished her the best. She didn't work very long, so we might not have a lot to write about her in a letter of recommendation, but she worked well while she was here.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:58 PM on October 27, 2011

Don't take mhoye's advice.

Hah! To be clear, I don't think you should include the bit after your signature, that's just some snark for the original poster.

OP: Lunasol's right, you shouldn't mail them my _entire_ comment. Just the thanks-I'm-moving-on bit.
posted by mhoye at 5:35 PM on October 27, 2011

Lunasol's right, you shouldn't mail them my _entire_ comment. Just the thanks-I'm-moving-on bit.

Nah, the whole thing is a bad idea. I would read that e-mail as someone trying to sever their relationship with me as quickly and conveniently as possible. While you aren't obligated to say or do more, your supervisor isn't obligated to help you out in the future either, with good recommendations or assistance in networking. Passing up those opportunities so you can send a brusque e-mail is a poor choice.
posted by grouse at 7:34 PM on October 27, 2011

I completely support filthy light thief. If there is any way possible, go to you place of work and speak to your supervisor. He/she will appreciate the courtesy. You will appreciate the ability to leave with mutual smiles on your faces and their wishes for your future good luck. This is building bridges instead of burning them.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:37 PM on October 27, 2011

Give notice to the supervisor, go into the office, and say goodbye to your former associates in person, unless told otherwise. Listen for those subtle pearls of wisdom.
posted by ovvl at 8:24 PM on October 27, 2011

IN person.

On the phone, only if you absolutely cannot get there in person.

But try your best to get there.

posted by calgirl at 8:46 PM on October 27, 2011

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