You left your old job for what you thought was a better deal, only to find that the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. The good news is that you can get your old job back - as long as you gave the proper notice and didn’t burn any bridges. Just because you can go back, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should: every new job has an adjustment period, and if you’re thinking of returning within a few days then it’s likely that you’re really just homesick (or jobsick, if you prefer) and you’re forgetting something. You did leave for a reason, after all.
So, if you’re completely sure that you do want to return and you’re definitely going to stay for a while, read on to see how you can go about it.
1. Reach Out to Former Colleagues
Assuming your wonderful colleagues are part of the reason you want to go back, then you probably stayed in touch with them after you left. Use those lines of communication to ask them about what’s changed since you left, whether your position has been filled and what you can do to be the person the manager really needs.
If the manager is the same, find out how they feel about you - do they remember you fondly or were they glad to see the back of you? If it’s a new manager, find out what you can about them and ask which of your colleagues would be willing to vouch for you. Job seekers are always told to use their connections and have references; you will actually be in a unique position to know everyone there - use them!
This would also be a good opportunity to find out whether your favourite people are still there. The last thing you want to do is beg to go back, find your friends aren’t there, and then leave again - that is most definitely not the way to prove to people that you’re reliable and loyal. Find out everything you can about personnel changes, management changes and any other changes that you might not like - the longer you’ve been away, the more important it is for you not to assume that you’ll be going back to exactly the same situation.
2. Reach Out to Your Former Manager
First, make sure that your former manager is still the manager. If they’ve left, they might be able to give you a good reference (or warn you not to go back), or they might have invaluable advice on what you can do to ensure you’ll get your job, but they won’t be able to respond to a "can I have my job back?" email in the way you’d like.
Email is often considered too impersonal, but in this case it’s better than calling and catching them off guard; send an email requesting a face to face meeting to discuss your interest in returning, and give them a chance to think about it and talk to others. When you have your meeting, keep it formal and light - you’re thinking of moving on from your new job and would like to give them a chance to add themselves to your list of new offers, would they be interested? If your relationship was good, tell them you’d love to rejoin their team; if it was bad, tell them everything you’ve learned while you’ve been gone that will make things different this time.
If they say no - and remember, that’s the worst they can say - find out what kind of no it is. Just because your position has been filled doesn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t take on a different role, or even a higher position now you have new knowledge.
3. Treat It Like a New Job
Whether the manager has changed, or whether your old friends have left the company or not, you should still treat the position as a new job. You still need to prove yourself (especially if management’s changed), therefore you should still apply just like anyone else, and you should do your research. These are the steps you need to take into consideration:
The longer you’ve been away, the more likely it is that there have been changes, and you need to make sure there isn’t anything you won’t like. If they’ve put out an advertisement for your replacement, compare that advertisement to the one you responded to: is it the same, or have there been restructurings that mean you need to approach the matter differently? Check with HR whether you’re eligible to return and whether the time is right for the company to be taking on anyone new - checking with HR and even the company website and LinkedIn may get you more accurate information than your colleagues.
- Your CV
Just because you’re returning doesn’t mean you can just show up at the door and announce "I’m back!" You should apply with a CV that proves you’re right for the job - and that highlights what you’ve learned and accomplished while you’ve been gone that makes you an even better asset now.
- Your cover letter
Your cover letter should both anticipate that they’ll be wondering why you want to come back and why you left, while you should also not dwell on the past. You’re writing a formal letter about why you’d be a great new hire, not a letter to your friend telling them how much you miss your old job and regret leaving. Mention why you left and tell them why now is the right time to take you back. If you’re writing to a new manager, this is going to be their first impression of you - they want to see how you’re going to help them going forward, not hear about the good old days.
4. Have a Backup Plan
Warning: "We’d love to have you back!" "Please consider coming back if you ever need to" and any other goodbyes along those lines don’t guarantee that they’ll want you back whenever you decide. They aren’t necessarily lies, but chances are that they’re not really expecting you to come back, and things change; it may just become impossible, regardless of how much they want you.
So the smart thing to do is to make sure you have a fall back plan in case your old company can’t have you. If you are desperate to leave the new position, make sure you don’t burn bridges with that company and use them as a reference to get a new job.
See Also: The 5 Worst Ways to Start a New Job
Despite what Thomas Wolfe said, you can go home again. It’s better to go sooner rather than later, but you should also give your new job a chance and make sure that there’s truly a problem and you aren’t just being nostalgic. As long as you left on good terms and you’ve done your research to ensure that there is something for you to go back to - even if it’s a different position - then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go back to a new job. Just don’t bounce around so much that your new job is suddenly the "old" job you want back; they might not be as forgiving if you’ve only been there five minutes.
Have you ever returned to an old job? Do you have any advice on knowing the difference between really wanting to go back and when you’re just homesick? Let us know in the comments section below.