Returning to an organisation – is it ever a good idea?

The job market is incredibly buoyant right now, which gives candidates a great many options. But any change of job comes with the risk that you might not like something about the new role, organisation, or people you work with.  

A safer option might be to stick with what you know and go back to a company you previously worked for. But there will have been reasons that you left, so is returning to an organisation ever a good idea? 

I’ve written before about what to do when a new job doesn’t work out. Having had such high hopes for a new role, it can be difficult to manage the situation if it’s clear you’ve not made the right choice.  

I don’t advise against going back to an old organisation as a blanket policy. More important is to consider the range of factors at play to help you decide whether it’s the right choice.  

Weighing up what matters  

Let’s start with the obvious – why did you leave that organisation in the first place? Carefully considering the factors that made you move on will help give some balance to your thinking. Are they likely to have changed? If you left a manager rather than the organisation and that person has moved on, has that solved the problem? What lessons can you take from your first experience of working there, and how will they have an impact if you go back? 

If there were no fundamental issues – a huge difference in values, or a culture you didn’t fit in with – then going back isn’t doomed to failure.  

Eve Corry, development manager at Give A Duck, has recently returned to the charity after a spell working elsewhere. “I thought I missed working in an office in a big team,” Eve says. “I didn’t leave Give A Duck on bad terms and I didn’t hate my job. I just wanted to explore some of my other skills and to develop in a different direction, which I thought meant taking a role in a different organisation. 

“But the reality wasn’t what I expected and when I had my first family holiday in years it gave me chance to reflect on why I had left Give A Duck. I realised that, with a few tweaks, my old role was actually the one I was more interested in and that returning to Give A Duck was the right decision for me.” 

Eve is not alone, I have known a number of other managers who have stepped out to gain some different experience, to learn about a different organisation and then made the choice to return to a former employer. 

Then think about the future – what are your reasons for returning to that company? Is it the same role or a different one? Are there any reasons you shouldn’t go back?  

What has changed about you, what you value, and your career priorities in the time you’ve been working elsewhere? How might this impact the success of returning to the organisation? 

Talking this through objectively with someone you trust is a good way to explore the pros and cons of a return.  

Doing your research 

Just because you’ve worked at the organisation before doesn’t mean it will be the same as when you left. So looking into its strategic direction, values, and other important information to help you understand what it will be like to work there now needs to be part of your process. 

And whether you’re going back to the same role or a different one, doing your research to understand the scope and whether that fits with what you’re looking for – or just feels like an easier option than getting to know a new organisation – is a really important step.  

Having a fixed mindset about ‘never going back’ isn’t the right way to think about it. Once you’ve carefully considered all these elements, you’ll know you’ve made the right decision based on your own success criteria. 

Making a success of going back to somewhere you’ve worked before 

As with any new role, it’s important to set expectations from the outset – and probably even more important if you’re returning to a role or a team you already know.  

Set time aside with your manager to explore and understand what might have changed since you’ve been working elsewhere and to agree the expectations of you in this role. Don’t assume everything will be the same as when you left.  

If you can, having an open discussion about the reasons you left and how these may play a part in your return would be a really useful way to start, as well as a way of clearing the air in case of any assumptions about why you chose to leave.  

Eve adds: “I now have a new colleague in a role that was created just as I was leaving Give A Duck. We have discussed the split of responsibilities and working patterns, and I’ve been able to bring some ideas from my previous job to help us work together more effectively. I’ve learned lots about myself as a result of trying a different role in a new company, and I’m delighted to be back at Give A Duck.” 

It will be useful to be clear about your own expectations, aspirations ,and needs to so everyone is aligned. A recent client who was actually headhunted back to a former workplace said that they were very clear about what they needed from the company to agree to return and that this was fundamental to the move back being successful for both parties. In another case, a client was offered a different role at a more senior level than before so although they knew the organisation well, they found treating it just like a new job was the best way to restart their journey with the employer, which helped build relationships with their new team. 

The importance of leaving well 

As Eve’s experience demonstrates, leaving well gives you options to return to an organisation in future. For both the employer and the employee, making sure people have a good experience of leaving so they remain advocates and have a positive view of the organisation is a really important part of managing teams and your own career.  

On LinkedIn, making sure to stay neutral about why you left an organisation, instead focusing on the excitement of the new role, helps make sure you aren’t burning any bridges. Read my tips for using LinkedIn as you leave one role and start another here. 

And if you decide to go back to your old job or company, simply state that you’re pleased to be returning to a place you know you can do great work and get on with focusing on doing that. 

If you need help to talk through your next career steps – whether that’s returning to an organisation or taking on a different challenge – drop me an email to book a free first session.  

 Featured image courtesy of:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.