You’re a few months to a year into what you thought would be your dream job. You left a perfectly good job in order to take this one because you thought it would be a better opportunity. But now that some time has passed, it’s clear you were dead wrong. Not only is this not the job of your dreams, it isn’t even close to as good as the job you had before.
The thought of returning to your old job has crossed your mind more than once, but you don’t know how to go about approaching your old company about the possibility of getting rehired. Here what to do–in this order.
Revisit Why You Left
Once you’ve begun fantasizing about returning to your past employer, you’re likely to start weighing a lot of factors at once: Would they want me back? Have they backfilled by position by now? Is there even room for me if they have? Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Before you can answer any of those questions, you need to reexamine the reasons why you left in the first place. Think hard about whether your motivations back then should deter you from rejoining your past employer now. If any major downsides from your last role led you to quit it and you’d have to face them again, you might want to think twice about rejoining the company. But if not, you’re all clear to reach out to your former employer.
When you resigned, you likely left behind a boss, mentor, or a champion in the company who knows you well. Reach out to that person–informally at first–and confidentially discuss your desire to return to the company. Ask for their honest sense of the feasibility of that happening, including the company’s perception of you, your work, your skill set, how well-liked you were, and (most important of all) how the company seemed to feel about the circumstances surrounding your departure.
If you left on great terms and the company has a need for you, go into “soft-sell” mode and talk about the new skills you’ve acquired since you left. You want to position yourself as an incoming employee who’s going to add new value, not just the same old employee who left and now wants to return. The likelihood of your getting rehired goes way up if you give your contact inside the company all the ammunition they need to go back and sell your candidacy to those who are responsible for hiring.
If your informal liaison gives you the green light, then have them put you in touch with a human resources officer or the person in charge of hiring for your position. But hang onto a job-interview mind-set for this stage–you aren’t negotiating anything just yet. You’ll need a well-crafted story for why your former employer should consider you; always assume there are other qualified candidates for the company to choose from.
But don’t downplay your experience since quitting. In fact, keep the focus of your story on the benefits of hiring you the second time around, since this is now what separates you from other candidates. Include new skills you’ve acquired in the meantime, plus your extensive knowledge of the company and the way it operates. Talk up the fact that you have relationships already in place with employees in the company, and emphasize how quickly you’ll be able to hit the ground running and get back up to speed.
Prepare For A Different Type Of Interview
Be ready for a very different job interview than what you might expect had you never worked at the company. That conversation will likely center around why you left and why you now want to come back. Expect some level of skepticism on the part of the company, since somebody who left once can always leave twice. The company might hesitate to reinvest in you if it can’t be sure you plan to stay, so your pitch needs to be compelling.
While you should focus on the main skills you’ll be bringing back to the company, the interview is also your chance to sell the new skills you’ll be bringing in this time around. Don’t hold back in making the case for yourself, and don’t be afraid to admit any mistakes you might’ve made in deciding to leave originally. You need to convince people that since you were a highly valuable employee the first time around, you can be an even more valuable employee the second time around.
Negotiate For More Than What You Left With
Salary, job title, responsibilities: You might hesitate to, but you should negotiate for more of everything.
Once you move successfully through the interview process and it looks like the company is interested in bringing you back, you’ve gained leverage. So use it! The narrative you told about being a value-add clearly paid off, so now you need to carry it through the negotiation stage. As a result, you should ask for more money, a higher job title, and more responsibility.
This approach lets you negotiate from a position of strength. If the company winds up offering you the same job or salary that you had before, the ball is in your court to decide if it’s worth taking. But whatever you do, never accept a lower title or less pay than you had the first time around. It will be uncomfortable for you and for everybody around you, especially if past subordinates later become your peers–and it’s a sign that your company doesn’t value you as much as it did the first time around. You’d be better off accepting a job elsewhere.