“Organizations thrive on change. Just because you lost your job doesn’t always mean that other opportunities won’t crop up in the future. The old adage, ‘[W]hen one door closes, somewhere a window opens,’ rings true with twenty-first century organizations. Maybe the window was closed when you lost your job, but it doesn’t mean another one won’t open once you’ve officially left. Before flying through the open window, step back to make sure the window’s big enough.”
This quote from Amy Andrews comes from a great post on my friend Chris Russell’s Secrets of the Job Hunt blog discussing how to decide whether you should return to your old company. In my days at Edelman, we used to call these people members of the “Comeback Club” or “Boomerangers.” Reflect on the following questions before joining the comeback club.
1. Why did you leave?
Be honest with yourself. Even if you left through a reduction in force or re-organization, were you relieved? Relieved that you were free to pursue more challenging work or that you no longer had to make that long commute only to work for an incompetent manager?
2. Who’s still there?
We spend more time at work than home, so friends in the workplace are a must-have. If you still have friends on the inside, this can make going back an appealing proposition. If they’ve all gone, you may find the dynamics you once enjoyed are lost and dissatisfying.
3. What’s changed in the organization?
Leaders come and go. With them come new initiatives and expectations. Don’t expect the organization to look the same as it did when you left. Find out who and what is new.
4. Will my benefits/vacation time be bridged to my original hire date?
Today, employees look for a generous vacation allowance and solid health care. If you’ve left, you may be viewed as a new hire, which could impose waiting periods for medical coverage and a new accrual clock for vacation. The twenty-five days of vacation you had accrued when you left may now only be fifteen.
5. When am I eligible for performance evaluation and merit increase?
Depending upon your start date and the annual performance cycle, you may have a long wait to be rewarded for strong performance. If you miss out on this date, consider an offer that rolls in the standard increase amount.
6. Did you leave with a severance package?
Severance is an agreement and is unique to each organization. Make sure there are no clauses that prevent you from returning either as an employee or a contractor.
7. Does the job meet your needs today?
Leaving an organization often opens our minds to ideas and possibilities we didn’t think were possible before. Review the job description closely to ensure that it matches what you want from your life today and not what you used to want.
Going back can seem like the perfect answer to a stressful time of weeding through the job market. Yet, sometimes, no matter how perfect it all seems, if we search beneath the surface, ask a few questions, we may discover we can’t go back.
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Updated September 7, 2010