Should You Go Back to Your Old Job? Here’s Why and Why Not

Check out our guide for returning to a former employer, which highlights careful consideration, connections, a positive attitude, and recommitment.

portrait of Kristen Winiarski
by Kristen Winiarski

Published on May 23, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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Should You Go Back to Your Old Job? Here’s Why and Why Not
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When you leave a job or consider advancing your career, you are leaping into the unknown.

You may even consider going back to an old job if the new one isn't what you imagined — and you wouldn't be alone.

"More and more companies are embracing 'boomerangs' and appreciating the true value they bring, starting with reduced training time, navigating through the system's complexities, eliminating new hire 'hand holding,' and adding to the bottom line from day one," talent acquisition leader Yuliya Samoylenko said.

According to a retention report by the Workforce Institute, 15% of employees have returned to a former employer, and 40% would consider applying for a position at a company they've previously worked for.

Evaluate Why You Left and the New Opportunity

Before accepting an offer from an old employer or reaching back out to them, it is important to consider why you left in the first place. If the reason you left is still relevant, such as not getting along with your manager or a lack of growth opportunities, you may want to reconsider.

Then again, if the reasons won't apply to your return, it might be a good idea.

You also want to think over the specifics of your new opportunity and make sure it's a good fit. The job should align with your short-term and long-term career goals instead of just being a quick fix.

Reach Out to Your Old Manager

If you see an opportunity at your old job, reach out first to your former manager if possible.

Your application materials may get lost or automatically rejected if you get lumped with the huge pool of applicants. By reaching out to a former manager, you can have someone on your side to vouch for your return. It will also give you a chance to talk about why you want to come back and discuss the nuances of this idea.

You also can ask for more specifics about the job so you can assess if it will be a good fit for you. Try to meet in person or virtually or talk on the phone to get an honest idea of what you would be coming back to if you return to your old job.

Tell Them What Experience You've Gained

Returning to an old employer can be a great opportunity to reintroduce yourself. Be sure not to fall back into old habits. This can be a strategic career move. While working at other companies, you may have gained valuable experience to use in this job.

Make sure to capitalize on this by highlighting the new skills you have gained and what other industries in which you now have expertise. You may be returning to a higher position. So showing career growth can be essential in convincing your old employer to bring you into this new role.

Be Positive and Professional

When you look at returning to a company you worked at before, why you left the first time around will undoubtedly come up. It is important to be honest about why you left. However, try to remain positive, and emphasize looking forward instead of dwelling on the past.

If you bring up negative points about the company, the person you're talking to may wonder why you're looking to return. Make sure you don't talk badly about past employees or policies you may not have agreed with. Professionalism is key.

Be Clear About Your Career Goals

Returning to a former employer should align with your overall career goals. When you talk to them about returning, be clear about these goals.

If you had a problem with career growth in your previous employment stint, bring it up now. You don't want them to fit you into your previous role or not know what you hope to achieve.

Be clear about what you want from them, and what they want from you. According to Rick Palmer, regional vice president at Akkodis, you don't want to find yourself in the same position in a few years.

"Think back to when you worked there before," Palmer said. "What prompted you to leave? And has that changed? Focus on what you want to achieve, and wait for the right thing as long as possible."

Resetting expectations — on both sides — will help make sure this move is a good decision for you and the company.

Be Aware There May Be Negative Feelings

You did quit once, so there may be some negative feelings from a past manager and/or colleagues.

Give yourself some time and patience to fit back into the company. It may take people some time to get over hard feelings. People may remember your behavior and how you left things.

"Memories are long, and records are longer," Samoylenko said. "Grow a mental discipline to truly take it as a new opportunity with one new day at a time."

If you burned bridges when you left, you may need to build up trust.

Show Your Commitment

A great way to build up the trust that might be lacking is by showing your new commitment to your new position.

You need to let your employer know you plan on staying on in the long-term. They may be concerned you'll leave again the moment something seemingly better comes along.

Onboarding still takes time and costs money, so an employer wants to be confident in the decision to bring you back. Be as reassuring as you can to convince the employer that you want to be there. You don't want to return just because you need a new job or hate your current one that much.

Why You Shouldn't Return to an Old Company

It could be that you left your old company for an opportunity that wasn't what you expected. Instead of jumping back to an old employer, take a minute to reconsider and evaluate your decision.

"Try not to go back to a situation because you can or out of desperation," Palmer said. "The grass seemed greener. Now that you realize it might not have been, are there other opportunities you would entertain before going back to what you already experienced?"

If you didn't like your manager or the conditions you were working in, you shouldn't go back. If you left recently, the culture may not have changed, and your old manager may not be any easier to work for if you return.

Frequently Asked Questions About Returning to an Old Job

true What are boomerang employees?

Boomerang employees are people who leave their position only to return to their former employer. They are often the ones who decide to leave on their own rather than being let go.

The idea of the boomerang is an apt name for this since it brings up images of the object that is thrown, only to come back to you.

The hiring of boomerang employees appears to be on the rise. People are looking to return to work.

Reasons for leaving jobs during the pandemic vary. For many, they left because of childcare issues. So companies may be more open to people returning once they have secured adequate childcare again.

true How often do people go back to an old job?

The number of people who return to old jobs can vary. According to a retention report by the Workplace Institute, 15% of employees have returned to a former employer, and 40% would consider applying for a position at a company they've previously worked for.

If you look at it from the employers' side, a LinkedIn survey found that 4.5% of new hires among companies on LinkedIn were boomerang workers in 2021. In any case, a number of people go back to either their old job or at least their old employer in a different role.

true How do you quit a job you may come back to?

It is important to resign tactfully, and put certain things in place.

Make sure to give at least two weeks' notice, and follow all of the human resources (HR) department's procedures for resignation. Letting your immediate supervisor know directly is also a good idea before going over their head to HR.

If you took the time to let them know you're leaving, your old manager may be more receptive to your return. It is also important to use those last two weeks to wrap things up and help with the transition instead of mentally checking out.

Say goodbye to everyone nicely, and stay in contact in the event of a possible return.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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