Going back to a previous employer: Worth the risk?
One of the many reasons why people leave a job is to progress in their career. A better pay, a bigger organization, or better work are motivation enough for people to call it quits and move on. However, many a times, expectations are not met, and despite making more money, or having more authority, one ends up realizing that they had it much better at the previous job. In the context of the delicate condition of the job market, more self-awareness on the part of the employee and employers looking to cut costs, many people consider, and eventually go ahead, to join back their previous employers, and it doesn’t look like a blot on the resume as it used to.
‘Boomerang’ employees is the colloquial term coined to describe such people, who move to a new job, only to realize that they have left a greener pasture behind and eventually return. However, if the only thing you associate with such an act is the incessant jibes about being fickle minded or the awkwardness of joining back, you couldn’t be more mistaken.
A few things are of immense importance if you are considering joining back your ex-employer. On what terms did you leave your last job, and if you are still on talking terms with your ex-managers and colleagues? What were the reasons that you left that job in the first place? Was it due to problems at your end, or because of issues like being a cultural misfit, bad managers, or an unchallenging role? Next, you could realize that your new job was a mistake within six days of joining, or it could take you well over six months to figure it out. As long as the time duration can be counted in months, you have a window to move back, for the same is explainable. Lastly, when approaching an old boss to talk about the possibility of joining back, do not criticize your new employer endlessly, but clearly explain the reason why you feel the need to move back and test the waters by asking questions about things that have changed in the organization since you exited.
First off, keep in mind that going back to your previous employer must be considered only when you have exhausted all options to make the new job work. From talking to your boss about what is troubling you, to making a genuine effort to give your new role the best, an attempt to go back must be done only after you have made an attempt to stay. Next, consider how you performed in your previous job. If you have proven your skill and value in your past job, going back will be easier, and you can even negotiate a better role and pay. However, be prepared to discuss cutting back on pay or benefits. If, however, you join back with better pay and position than what you previously commanded, you might have to face the jabs and ire of your ex-colleagues, and it might take some time to rebuild your professional relationship with them.
You should research about your previous organization as if you know nothing about it. It is possible that since your departure, restructuring and realignment has lead to things being done differently, or the friendly ex-boss/manager you are betting everything on, has left too.
The silver lining to this entire concept is that employers are more open to take on boomerang employees than they were a few years back. The reasons are twofold; one, costs on recruitment and induction are reduced, two an employee with a sharper learning curve and cultural familiarity to the work will start contributing quickly, as opposed to a new hire.
Reach out to any employee who made the same decision, and ask them how their experience has been. Reach out to old colleagues and enquire if there is a possibility to joining back at the same, or a different, position. You need to be absolutely sure before you decide to move back because you might have to work there for a considerable amount of time.
If you are sure and clear about your stance and reasons to move back, it isn’t likely to hamper your career progression, provided you stick around for your second stint. Going back to working with a previous employer is more common today than you would imagine, especially in highly skilled, specialized and competitive industries that work in the same geographical frame. But, even if you happen to be best friends with your previous manager and colleagues, do not assume that you will be able to work your way back with no road blocks. Do not, under any circumstances, resign from your new organization, on a promise made by an old boss. Clarify with as much understanding as you wish, about the terms of your joining back: your role, team, pay and benefits.
Changes in the family, spousal transfers, or career breaks, are often instances where one might have to rejoin a previous employer, and as long as you are sure about the move. Remember, you need to focus on your future, and as long as you can confidently justify your decision to move back, it will not pose any challenge in the future interviews that you give.