Should You Return To A Former Employer?

10-point checklist to help you decide if it's a good career move

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"It's a small world after all..."

That Disney theme park song dances through my head every time someone tells me they are leaving a company. Why? Because in today's professional world, every job is temporary. You just never know when you might find yourself considering going back to work for an old employer.

10-Point Checklist For Determining If You Should Go Back

When clients tell me they are thinking about returning to an old employer, I give them the following checklist of questions to ponder:

  1. Are you eligible for rehire? Some employers don't believe in re-hiring old employees. You'll need to check with your old employer's HR department to see if you are even allowed to get re-hired.
  2. Do you know of a specific job that is available? When there is a job opening, a company is more desperate to fill it. This can work to your advantage because you have previous experience with them and could potentially hit-the-ground-running faster than other candidates.
  3. Do you have at least one ally still working there you can tap for advice and information? You are going to want an inside coach to give you the scoop on what you'll need to do to get re-hired. Information about current challenges and needs can help you make your case stronger for getting chosen for the job.
  4. Does your former manager still work there? Managers are humans, too. They often struggle when a person leaves because they feel it's a reflection on them. You should prepare for potential resistance if you didn't keep in touch and on a friendly basis with your former manager. Especially if they run the department you'd like to work for.
  5. Can you list all the reasons you left and address why they don't matter now? When we leave a company, there's always a list of people we won't miss and problems we can't wait to ditch. Have those been fully resolved? You don't want to get the job only to fall back into a pattern of disappointment.
  6. Can you share how you've changed as a professional and how that will benefit the company? Are you clear on how you've evolved? What new skills, traits and mindsets have you acquired and how will you use them to be even more valuable to the employer than you were previously?
  7. Can you list how the company has changed and how that positively impacts them as an employer? Have you done your homework and can you list how the company has evolved as a way to justify your return? What is new or different about them and how will that help you be an even better employee?
  8. Can you commit to staying there for at least 2 years? Are you ready to stay put and grow your career there? Do you see a path for progression?
  9. Are you doing this because you are having trouble finding employment elsewhere? Is this sudden interest in an old employer legitimate, or are you having a hard time finding a new employer and feeling like it would be easier to go back to the one who hired you before?
  10. Will you be moving your career forward if you go back to them? Is this a truly strategic career move that will help you in the long run? Can you validate how it will positively impact your professional future?

If you can't address all of the concerns above, then you may want to think twice before pursuing a job with your former employer. If you are desperate for work and need a paycheck, then do what you must. But, investing time and energy into getting hired by an old employer if you really aren't sure it's a good move to advance your career isn't smart. You need to seriously consider any possible negative affects if you were to take a job with them.

Pick Your Customers For Your Business-of-One Wisely

Remember, you are a business-of-one. Your employer is your customer. The better the customer, the better the business. Settling just because you know you can get the job may not be the best way to grow your business-of-one.

P.S. - First time reading my posts? Nice to meet you. I write regularly here on AOL. Here's a another post you might enjoy:

How to Get a Raise in 60 Days >>

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J.T., this is a great article. I made the huge mistake of going back to a former employer (A) based on loyalty and trust of our previously great relationship. Since I left them the first time, I've been employed by their most major competitor (B) in a different geographic area. I was going to relocate back to original area, where they both were and was going to be transferred within that company (B), however (A) got wind of my area return and urged me to come back to them and gave revenue numbers and projections that I took on good faith..very hard, but excellent, lesson learned. On day one, after quitting and burning the bridge with (B) (so incredibly foolish), I quickly realized inflated numbers and our difference of business direction for department I was heading. I lasted 5 long months before quitting with nothing else lined up.

Your article asks a lot of great questions; I hope readers learn from my experience-DO NOT make business decisions based on emotion or trust based on a previous relationship with that employer. Most especially in my case, when current employer is competitor, as it really ups the ante as to what the motives to rehire means to them. I got so defensive when realizing the misrepresentation I confronted the owner if he lied just to have me leave (B) and burn that bridge. Of course, his answer was no.

Bottom line, at the end of the day, I am to blame for not being my own best friend and job agent and packing the emotion away and doing my homework.

I really hope my experience enlightens someone else from the same mistake.

p.s. J.T., in one of your careerealism youtube videos, you discussed the questions "what are you most afraid of" and explaining employment gaps during interviews. At first, I said to myself "I'm not afraid of anything", and then I thought, no, I do have a fear, and it's whether to put this last situation on resume' and if not, how during interviews to explain the gap...again, thank you so much for really got me to think, yes, put the 5 months on so that its not 5 months more to have to explain, but the most short and relevant explanation in business sense terms...revenue misrepresentation/business and branding differences of direction...any thoughts on this?

January 06 2014 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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