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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Returning to an Old Employer

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You receive a job offer from the company where you used to work. When you worked there before, you weren’t unhappy with the company culture or your role. Rather, you were simply ready to level up and found that opportunity elsewhere. Or perhaps you took a break from the workforce for an extended period. 

Though the position you have been offered is an exciting opportunity, you’re nervous about returning to your past employer. What if they have expectations for you based on who you used to be? What if they want to hire you because you fit a niche that no longer interests you? 

Here, we’ll talk about the questions to ask yourself when faced with the scenario “my old employer wants me back.” 

Are you still interested in the company? 

Even if you loved the company before, that doesn’t mean you understand how the organization has evolved – or devolved. Even if you’ve only worked elsewhere for a few years, organizations’ priorities, leadership, and even culture can shift at lightning speed. 

So, don’t assume the company will be the same place you once appreciated. The same is true if you’re offered a role at an organization that was in flux when you worked there before. 

Instead, investigate what matters to you the same way you would if you were offered a position at a completely unfamiliar company. Explore, for instance, leadership styles, professional development opportunities, and flexible work options, among other things.

Does my boss recognize my professional evolution? 

One of the benefits of rehiring previous employees is companies feel they understand you. If you were a dedicated and creative worker in your previous role, then they assume you’ll be a surer bet than an unfamiliar hire. 

While this trust has benefits for you, as well, it can shoehorn you into a niche you are no longer interested in. Be sure to articulate what you want in the position, and be wary if your previous employer seems intent on fitting you back into a role that no longer serves you. 

Is the hiring manager already treating you like an employee? 

In this same vein, hiring managers, especially if you know them, may already perceive you as an employee during the hiring process. This perception does not serve you, as it assumes that the company doesn’t have to “woo” you. 

Joe Issid of Monster.com describes how important re-negotiating your offer and role. 

“Just because you are a returning employee does not mean that you are immune from negotiating the terms of your employment. You should approach all employment negotiations in the same way, regardless if the person across the table is your old boss. This negotiation will help set the tone for your future at the company so be sure to make sure that you are comfortable with all the terms involved,” he writes. 

Do your trusted contacts at the company think it’s a good move? 

In this same vein, talk to the connections you have at the company about the position you have been offered. While it is necessary to discuss the role with the hiring manager, it’s also important to get the inside scoop on the role and company. Why did the person who held the position last leave? Were they promoted or pushed out? Was the position newly created to fit a need after an issue arose? 

In other words, you want to connect with your contacts so you can both talk through company culture shifts, as well as deciding if the position is right for your current career trajectory. 

Are you willing to put in the work to reconnect with your colleagues? 

Another factor to keep in mind is how your colleagues will perceive you. Depending on how long ago you left the organization, many of the same people who worked there before will likely be your colleagues – and perhaps even your subordinates. 

So, it’s important to consider how they perceive your move away from the company. Do they view it as a slight? Do they see it as disloyalty? If either of those is the case, then recognize you’ll have to do more work to re-build those connections than you would at an unfamiliar organization. 

Boomeranging Back to Your Ex-Company

You may think it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be offered a position at a company you worked at before. But you may be faced with an instance when “my old employer wants me back.” According to CareerBuilder, 39 percent of companies planned to hire back their previous employees in 2018. 

The bottom line is this: when deciding if you should return to your previous employer, evaluate the opportunity as if it were at an unfamiliar company. This way, you’ll remain clear-eyed about the position, the company, and the way you’re being perceived. 

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