The Return of The Prodigal Employee
THERE comes a time in every employee's life when he has to look back. To see what mistakes he has made and find out which ones he wants to make again. Think about it. If you have ever hopped jobs, chances are that you have, at some time or the other, been tempted to return to a former employer.
There are of course many reasons why an old employer should hire you. To start with you are an experienced hand - you are already used to the work culture and environment and you have proven your mettle. In one way or the other. But that again, from the employer's point of view. Why should you go back to an old job?
Going back to a former employer a few months or years down the line is no longer a forbidden territory. Even companies are not averse to welcoming cream employees back into their fold. Two recent studies by Gartner Group and Recruiting Trends state that 60% of organisations are routinely rehiring high-performing professionals. As a matter of fact, the phrase, `boomerangers' has been coined exclusively for such employees who leave a company only to eventually come back home to roost.
It could be that your new job was not what you had hoped it would be. It could be that you just miss the old days and the good times you have had. Whatever be the reason, prudence calls for caution. Make a little checklist of things before you head back to familiar shores.
Is it the homing instinct?
Some people are just reluctant to test new waters. You may have tired of your present job, but should you go back to the earlier one? Or should you look out for fresher pastures. An old job is much like an old flame - it may not be new and exciting but at least you know where you are going with it. It has a sense of familiarity and belonging. However, it may not always be the best choice.
Is anything new in the offing?
Ask yourself. Better still, ask others - your former colleagues and bosses - how the company has fared in the interval of your departure. Has it climbed the ladder of progress or has it slumped into a nadir of non-description.
Talk to former colleagues or managers who can give you an unbiased opinion of the true picture. Find out what is new in the organisation - changes in direction, procedures, power structure, goals, restructuring and so on. Are the changes for the better and will it use your new skills and expertise to the optimum?
Is it worth your while?
John O'Neill, President of the Center for Leadership Renewal in San Francisco, says, `Once you have left a place, you tend to forget the bad stuff and only remember the fun you had on the bowling team.' To avoid a rude awakening, think about what made you leave the organisation in the first place. If you have quit because of family problems or because you wanted to learn more and expand your horizons or because you needed a break, coming back to your old position may not be such a foolish thing to do. But, if you were forced to quit because of the lack of growth opportunities, monotony or office politics, it pays to clarify whether the same situation still exists or not. If everything that was wrong is still wrong, old problems will resurface soon and you will have made that fatal jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Can you wipe the slate clean?
The return journey is a baptism by fire - it is lined with numerous hurdles. There is the potential for embarrassment and loss of credibility. Unless you had a valid reason to quit and an even more valid reason to come back, you have to eat the humble pie and admit that you made a mistake by straying from the beaten path.
Getting reinstated at a higher level or pay will generate a serious amount of resentment among your colleagues. You will have to work doubly hard to forge bonds and reconnect with peers as well as managers. Also, re-establishing trust can take time as you have to overcome the lingering qualms that you may dump the job again.
Is there hope for you?
The success of your volte-face depends a lot on the manner in which you left. If you have taken care not to burn your bridges with your colleagues and the management, it should not be too tough. However, if your parting was far from amicable and if it resembled a catfight on a moonlit night, drop the idea.
Moreover, unless the employer himself offers to re-enlist you, do not expect the red carpet to be rolled out for your homecoming; there will be no open-arm welcome when the prodigal returns. In fact the opposite may very well be true as you will have to convince your boss to take back a `deserter'. Emphasise that you have a short learning curve, as you are already aware of the ins and outs of the company. Underline the fact that you are bringing along critical experience, updated skills and know-how. All said and done, do not hit the delete button when it comes to old jobs, they can become a threshold of the future. Boomeranging is not a retreat afterall; you can get ahead by going back too!
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