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Should You Apply for Your Old Job?

Updated on August 8, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Focus on Why You Left Your Former Employer

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The Grass is Always Greener

You started your current job full of enthusiasm. You applied for the role because it had good promotion prospects or had better pay for fewer hours. Or you took it because you fancied a change. You have been with your new employer for some months now, but something is not right. You are not happy and want to move on. Perhaps the management is incompetent or your work colleagues are unfriendly? Whatever the reason, you are looking for another job.

Scanning the job ads you notice your old employer has vacancies. The roles on offer are similar to the work you used to do. Through rose-tinted specs you recall the good times. Why did you ever leave? What were you thinking? You did not know a good thing when you had it.

Stop right there! Before you apply for your old job, take a step back and reflect. You have already made one career move you regret. Do not repeat this mistake. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Mem'ries, may be beautiful and yet

What's too painful to remember

We simply choose to forget

So it's the laughter

We will remember

Whenever we remember

The way we were

— Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were

Signals That It's Time to Quit Your Job

Tap Insiders For Information Before Applying

You want to return to your previous employer because you know the company and its culture. But times change. Many businesses now expect staff to work longer in busy periods for the same flat pay rate. (No more time and a half for overtime.) The people you worked with have been promoted or have left. Probationary managers oversee reduced bonus payouts and new business priorities.

If any of your former work colleagues are still in post, make use of them. A five-minute chat should bring you up to speed on what it is really like to work there now. Tough targets can transform a busy work environment into a pressurized unhappy workplace. Take off those rose-tinted glasses and revisit the reasons you left.

Your former employer has a record of your time with the company. It includes the positive and negative aspects of your skill set. On the plus side, rehiring you could save the firm money as you should require less on-the-job training compared to a brand-new employee. You could also bring useful experience to a team of raw recruits.

Good Teamwork Helps You Learn New Skills

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Same Company Different Role

Since leaving your former job, you have gained life experience and transferable skills. Make these work to your advantage. Apply for your old job, but emphasize your ability to progress up the career ladder. There may be an opportunity for you to return in a different role.

Explain your previous actions by saying you showed initiative by leaving to seek more varied experience. You are now wanting to repay the career start you had here by applying to come back. Be prepared to discuss the reasons for making your application.

A survey by Kronos and Workplace Trends showed that most employers are more willing than ever before to consider boomerang employees (see quote below). This should give you confidence if you do decide to apply for your old job.

In a survey of more than 1,800 HR professionals, managers and employees .... 76% said they were more accepting of hiring former employees than they were five years ago. Nearly two-thirds of managers agreed.

Employees also reported feeling less anxiety about returning to a company, with 40% of those surveyed saying they would consider boomeranging.

Despite changing attitudes, the phenomenon is still relatively uncommon. Only 15% of employees surveyed said they had returned to a former employer.

— Rebecca Greenfield - Bloomberg News 01 Sept 2015

Why Did You Leave Your Old Job?

Occasionally any vacancy can seem a good option, but take care. You may be about to repeat your mistake of thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. Do not start back with an old employer just because you are desperate to leave your present one.

Not all boomerang employees act for the same reasons. Many leave due to life events like having a baby or going to college. Then they ask to return when their circumstances allow. An employer will view applications from these ex-workers in a favorable light.

Some disgruntled souls quit their jobs in a dramatic fashion. They tell their boss how much they hate him and everything about the work. If this describes your parting, you have burned your bridges. No employer wants to rehire someone who has behaved in such a negative way.

The video below shows Tony Schwartz's discussing why so many workers hate their job and what they can do about it. His book The Power of Full Engagement gives helpful advice on how to motivate yourself at work even if you dislike what you are doing. His says that by focusing on specific aspects of the job, you can manage your time better, be more productive and enjoy your job more. Sometimes it is best to stay put and make the best of your situation rather than leap off into the unknown with a new employer.

Avoid Burnout: How to Be Happier and More Engaged at Work

Decision Time: Should You Apply?

Any decision to apply for your old job is yours alone. Whether or not you are happy at work depends not just on your role and workmates, but also on your individual situation. There may be aspects of your personal life that encroach on your working hours and will influence your choice.

Think about the reason you left. Some things will not have changed since then. You can expect things that bugged you before to continue to irritate now.

Look to the future. Will this move benefit your career? Change can be unsettling, but new challenges are also motivating and refreshing. Will going back to your old job or company be in your best long-term career interests? I hope this article has helped you consider your options.

Which Direction is Best For Your Career?

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  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 months ago from SW England

    I went back to a former job which I left because I was moving and having a baby. I moved back, my former employer knew that and offered me my old job back - just lucky timing. It was still good because they had moved on but in a good way. The job was much more challenging and I had a PA position instead of just typist. They were great people to work with.

    People often say you should never go back; generally I think that's true but, as you say, the circumstances are the key.

    I had a job as a teacher at my own primary school. Because I enjoyed being a pupil there, I presumed I would enjoy teaching - very different kettle of fish of course and totally different staff, except one. Chalked up to experience now!

    Great hub!

    Ann

  • Alphadogg16 profile image

    Kevin W 2 months ago from Texas

    I personally have never left a job for greener pastures and considered going back, regardless of what happened at the new one. But circumstances could change things for some people, I would think it would really be dependent on whether you left in good terms/professionally. Letter of resignation or 2 weeks notice.