A Timely Reminder: Reneging is NOT Okay

This post, one of the most popular on our blog, was originally written in 2010.  However, it remains timely today as students heading into jobs and internships have to understand that reneging on a commitment can have consequences well into their future. – Editor

Why Reneging on an Offer is Bad for Your Career Mojo

By Claire Klieger

This is the time of year when people start to feel desperate about jobs or internships and may be tempted to accept something, anything, just because it’s a job and a job right before graduation equals peace of mind. So you’re thrilled to get any offer and you say yes so your parents and friends will stop hounding you about what you’re doing after the semester is over and you breathe a big sigh of relief. I mean, ok, so it’s not your dream job but the places you were really excited about never called you back. Except…sometimes they do.

Bad KarmaOccasionally, you’ll later hear from an employer that you’re a lot more excited about that you’re invited for an interview or even that you have been offered the position. And here’s where things get difficult. You may hear from family members and friends things like, “Awesome!  Just back out of that other job offer. What does it matter now that you have what you want? Plus, if you’ve just said yes on the phone and haven’t actually signed anything, it’s not like it’s legally binding anyway.” However tempting, this is seriously bad counsel.

Despite what you may hear, employers consider a verbal acceptance as good as signing a contract. While you’re not legally obligated, you’ve made a verbal commitment and there are definite consequences to reneging on an offer:

1)       First and foremost, you can be pretty sure that you are ruining your chances of chances of ever working for that organization. Employers’ memories are long and you will forever have that figurative little black mark on your file.

2)      In addition, you may be affecting your chances of working at similar organizations. Keep in mind that most industries are relatively small and that the people you angered by saying no may tell (warn) others in the industry about you. As you can imagine, this is particularly damaging in instances where the offer came through on-campus recruiting where recruiters from competing organizations all know each other, making it much less likely that such an individual would have interviewing options with any of those organizations in the future.  In fact, we’ve even seen cases where the thwarted recruiter has called the employer with which the student is defecting to explain the situation and the new employer has pulled their offer (leaving the student with no offers).

3)      Reneging on an offer damages the Penn reputation, and as such, future recruiting opportunities for Penn students. When you renege on an offer the employer doesn’t just think negatively about you, they also think negatively about Penn. In fact, we’ve often had to do serious “damage control” with employers who had one or multiple reneges from Penn students. It may only take one instance for them to conclude that “this is just the way Penn students are” and be less inclined to consider applicants from Penn in the future.

The way to avoid being in that situation is to not accept an offer without carefully thinking it through. You should never tell an employer yes if your plan is to continue to look until you find something better. It’s not fair to them and it’s untrue to you. There are always jobs out there and it is far better to wait for the right thing to come along than to damage your own career reputation by going back on your word.

Alumni Perspective: Travel Can Help, Not Hurt, Your Job Prospects

Worried about how “time off” to travel may affect your career?

Perrin Bailey Photoby Perrin Bailey

“When will you be back?”

My boss’s wide eyes and raised brow fixed on me from across his broad desk.

“I’m not sure,” I confessed. “A year?”

In 2010, I quit my steady job planning media for Disney at a small agency, sold my furniture and packed an ungainly Kermit-green backpack.  In this my 25th year, I ultimately made my way to 25 countries across four continents.  This adventure became one of the most constructive and fulfilling things I’ve done.

My sister Sarah quit her hot marketing gig at HBO to join me on the road, and she thinks the trip was the best thing she’s ever done, too.

But what happened when we got back home to New York, you ask?

My former client referred me for an internal position at Disney Interactive, and HBO welcomed Sarah back.  HBO even awarded Sarah the promotion she had passed up to travel.

Sounds lucky, huh?  Perhaps.  But we did follow a strategy not only to make the most of our time abroad, but also to ensure a successful landing at the end of our flight. Here are the four steps that worked for us and I offer to you:

  1. Seek Relevant Experience.  I work in digital media and love journalism, so I auditioned for an online travel documentary to be produced by Jet Set Zero.  With JSZ I learned about production and contributed to social media promotions, rounding out my skill set to become a “digital expert.” This while traveling Italy with most expenses paid. How did we find this gig?  Networking.

    Talk to everyone you know in your industry and attend as many local events as you   can, in addition to researching opportunities directly.  You never know what may come up!

  2. Pinpoint Your Passion.  Did you discover new interests or develop existing ones while traveling? Great!  Apply to jobs that relate.  I’d become consumed with creating and consuming travel videos, so I applied to program YouTube’s new travel channel.  It was the one time Google invited me to interview.  (I wound up continuing my relationship with Disney, but both were stellar opportunities!)
  3. Present What You Learned.  Reflect on the skills you developed on the road (e.g. negotiating, financial planning, resilience) and be able to articulate them in interviews.  For a sampling of job-related skills you can gain on the road, please visit our blog, www.thesistersbailey.com.  (Hint: One way to present your experience is to start a blog.)
  4. Do Memorable Work Before You Leave.  If you tackle the tasks at hand, find ways to expand on your job description, and build strong relationships, clients and colleagues will remember you.  If your former job does not have an opening upon your return, these skills and relationships will help you make a connection elsewhere.

Yes, quitting a good job to travel is a big risk.  But it can be a big opportunity.  So if you think you want to do it, think about how you can get the most from it . . . and go for it!

Perrin currently develops integrated marketing campaigns at Disney Interactive in New York City.  For more travel and work tips from Perrin and her sister Sarah, please visit their blog www.TheSistersBailey.com.

What’s Next?

Classes end today. Final papers, projects and exams await. And then comes summer. If you are beginning a job or an internship, please remember this message from Tom Friedman of The New York Times, who recently spoke here at Penn: “The world does not care what you know, it only cares what you do with what you know.”

As you start this next chapter, realize that you must demonstrate what you can do with all you have learned up to this point. Your Penn education can only take you so far. Once you are in the door, it is your responsibility to make the most of whatever position you have. Now is your opportunity to demonstrate all that you have learned, both inside the classroom, and in your other endeavors. This includes both academic content, and the more general, soft skills that can make or break a new hire, such as teamwork, initiative, communication skills, and punctuality.

A job or internship is a new beginning. Do all you can to get off to a good start. Show them what you can do with what you know. Good luck; have a great summer.

Earbuds & Success


From the looks of it,  this blog should be about earbuds.  It is, kind of.  I want to offer a few basic rules to make sure your earbuds don’t get in the way of your success in your new job or internship.

First, let’s consider a scenario:

It’s your first day on the job and the phone rings. You answer and an upset client is on the other end. You freeze, and get a bit freaked out, because it’s an important client and you don’t want to mess up, on your first day.

What do you do?

This is a scenario that many of you may experience on your first day.  It is one of many situations where you’re not quite sure what to do because you’re new.  So, what do you do? Listen, ask, and observe.  Sounds quite obvious, right?

You’re right.  These three simple words/rules – listen, ask, observe – can teach you so much.  Yet, if you have a moment where you tune out, maybe put in your earbuds and turn on some music to help pass the time or focus on a project, you could miss out.

I recently spoke with a new colleague here at Penn, and she reminded me of just how much you can learn from eavesdropping – the good kind. How do you handle an upset client on the phone? Listen to how another colleague handles an upset client.  What is going on in the office?  Look around and observe. How do you get invited to an important meeting, or even know if one is taking place? Again, listen and see.

These are three little things that can make a BIG difference in your first few weeks on the job. You may just get invited to an important meeting or lunch.  You can learn how to handle difficult situations. It’s important to make a good first impression. So, remember – listen, ask, and observe. Avoid putting in those earbuds to pass the time, because opportunity could pass you by.

Examining and Defining Yourself Via Social Media

by Panxin Jiang, W’13

Every semester around the time OCR rolls around, I discover that suddenly, a portion of my friends start disappearing from my Facebook chats and messages and these new contacts appear. We always hear horror stories about how employers checked up on a person’s Facebook profile and decided to not hire them or to retract their offer as a result of what they find. As a result, a number of people modify their names so that prospective employers would be unable to find them using social media.

However, what people need to realize is that you aren’t only recruiting during recruiting season. Headhunters and companies are constantly taking names and reaching out to prospective employees. We all have friends working for other companies who might suggest your name when a position becomes available. Recruiting does not just occur when you are actively seeking a job, but also at times when you least expect it. Because of this, shouldn’t our online profiles reflect our best every day and not just days where we are actively seeking a job?

Our generation grew up in a world filled with social media. We are accustomed to posting photos on Facebook and tweeting our feelings on Twitter at our whim. In fact, it is difficult for me to imagine a time where we could not connect with friends via Facebook or Twitter. I often find myself deactivating from Facebook only to reactivate my profile a few hours later. And while there may be a number of benefits that social media brings into our lives, such as connecting with childhood friends who we haven’t seen in years and who live across the country, there are a number of disadvantages that we need to be wary of.

What you put on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, or any other form of social media will stay with you forever. You might put up a potentially risqué photo only to take it down a few seconds later because of the nature of the photo. However, in the time it took you to delete it, a person, maybe a prospective employer, may have downloaded that photo onto their computer. Once you upload a photo onto the internet, you lose control of who has access to that photo.

Privacy settings may help, but in a world where we all know someone who knows someone, all it takes is a favor and everything on your profile could be leaked out to a company. Because of this, the best way to avoid having potentially damaging photo appear on your profile on any other social media site is to not put it out there for the world to see.

So, the next time you log into any social media platform that you use, look at your profile and think about whether it really reflects who you are and whether your profile is what you want portrayed about you. Who knows, it might even impress someone and land you a job.

Panxin JiangPanxin Jiang is a senior at the Wharton School concentrating in Accounting, Finance, and Real Estate. Asides from social media, she enjoys shopping, cooking, baking, and exploring all that Philly has to offer. You can find her on LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook.