Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance
This Week in Leadership
Holiday Planning as Global Shipping Turns into Mayhem
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It’s been a year, and the new job isn’t getting any better. Your new boss isn’t easy to work with, and everyone on the team seems perpetually anxious and burned out. The workload consists mainly of putting out fires. If only you could go back to your old job.
For many people in new jobs, this scenario is all too familiar. According to one study, 15% of people who leave jobs eventually return to their former organization, what’s known in industry parlance as a “boomerang employee.” By that math, of the 2.5 million people who left their jobs in May, about 375,000 of them could end up back in their old workplaces.
But returning to a former employer isn’t simply a matter of messaging your old boss and asking for your job back. “Returning to an old job can’t be about running away from a bad situation,” says Val Olson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. We asked Korn Ferry’s experts for tips on asking to return to your old role, or at least your prior organization.
Reflect before you act.
Answer these two questions before taking any action, says Mark Royal, a senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory who specializes in employee engagement. First, have you given your new job a fair chance? Second, why did you leave your old job? “Could you get what you want or need without changing jobs again?” asks Royal. “And if you go back to your old job, what will be different the second time around?” Being honest with yourself about the answers to those questions, he says, will go a long way to determining your next move.
Consider how you left.
According to one study, more than half of hiring managers said they give high priority to applicants who were previous employees who left in good standing. The “left in good standing” part is the key. If you burned bridges on the way out the door, gave only a week’s notice, didn’t help with transitioning your role, or stole the printer like the characters did in Office Space, forget about going back. “The ability to get your old job back is directly dependent on how you left it,” says Sean Carney, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach.
Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to former colleagues. “Stay in touch, even after you leave,” Carney says. Drop a line to your old boss after a month and see how things are going and if there are any questions or loose ends you can help with, for instance. Comment on former colleagues’ social media posts. Carney says maintaining those connections can help open pathways to a return if and when the time arises.
Talk up the benefits of the old place.
It’s important to frame a possible return not in terms of what you don’t like about your new job but instead around what you miss about your old job. What specifically is it about the old job that is better than the current one? Is it the culture, the people, the values? “You have to influence and persuade your former employer about what you find really important about them,” says Olson.
Stress what you’re bringing back.
Highlight what you’ve learned in the new role that will make you a stronger contributor if you return to your formal role, says Royal. Better yet, research other positions that may be available and show them how your additional experience and skills could be applied to those roles. “Give them a reason to take you back,” he says. “Don’t assume you are a sure thing.”