A woman shaking hands with a man and smiling. It’s her first day back working for a former employer.
Image: © djrandco/Stock.adobe.com

Have you ever gone back to work for a former employer?

24 Mar 2022

While there are plenty of tips out there for starting a new job at a new company, what do you need to know about going back to an old haunt?

We’ve covered plenty of advice over the years for people who are starting a brand new job, from helping you fit in to starting a new job remotely.

A lot of this advice is based on the idea that this new job is with a company you’ve never worked with before. However, it’s incredibly common for professionals to move around their industry and return to a company they have worked in before.

In this case, it might be a similar job with the same colleagues, or it might be in a completely different department. Whatever the case, the experience is different and therefore the nerves might be different too.

Should you go back?

You could be considering returning to a former employer for several reasons. The company might have an opportunity that didn’t exist before. You might have moved to a different role that you’re now not happy with. Or you might have been approached with a very appealing offer.

Whatever the reason, a little hesitation is understandable. After all, you left the company for a reason. However, it’s not always a bad idea and it might actually be the best step for your career, depending on what’s on offer.

The important thing is to weigh up your options and evaluate it like you would any other job offer. It is also important to think about the reasons why you left originally and make sure that they have changed in some way to make the prospect more appealing.

Top tips for returning

Once you make your decision and you’ve been offered a job with your former employer, a lot of similar new job nerves are likely to kick in, but there are a few other things to bear in mind.

Reconnect with old colleagues

One benefit of returning to your old haunt is the opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues. Once you’ve cleared it with HR, let your former colleagues know you’re coming back and catch up with them.

This will help ease you back in and calm your nerves before you actually have to start your job. You might even make plans to meet them for coffee or a virtual chat in your first week back. Even if you’re no longer working directly with them, seeing familiar faces will make things easier.

Familiarise yourself with changes

Depending on how long you have been away from the company, there may be some changes you’ll need to get used to. Others will have moved on, some may have been promoted, the company might be taking on new projects or going in a different direction.

If you’re moving into a completely new role or department, you may have to familiarise yourself with a whole new way of working even if it is within the same company. Figure out where the gaps in your knowledge are and get up to speed as early as possible.

Think about the skills you gained

It’s not all about catching up on what you missed. You will more than likely have gained new and invaluable skills in the roles that you were in since you left the company.

These will serve as a reminder to you that you’re not just going back to an old job but that you’re returning with a whole new skillset and perspective from other roles that you didn’t have before. Don’t be afraid to think about how you can apply these new skills in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Prepare to feel brand new again

Even if you are returning to the same department and working with many of the same colleagues as before, be prepared to still feel like a brand new starter.

It can be a strange experience returning to a former employer, somehow feeling like both a member of the ‘old guard’ and a newbie at the same time. It’s a feeling unique to returners and may take a while to shake.

The important thing is not to be too hard on yourself, especially if you don’t know everything. It’s still a new job, even if the role is similar to the one you were in before. Time has moved on, things have changed. So treat yourself with care and talk to your new – or old – manager as you make this transition.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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