How To Ask For Your Old Job Back

Sometimes leaving one job for the greener pastures of another seems like a good idea… until you realize it wasn’t and find yourself wondering how to ask for your old job back.

The Wall Street Journal’s Sue Shellenbarger says that everyone is entitled to a few career “mulligans”, and that with a bit of finesse, you too can make an employment U-turn. Before you cry, “inconceivable!” and click away, check out these tips for how to ask for your old job back.

Don’t fear the word “no”

As we’ve talked about before, the word “no” is not cause for fear. If the very worst result of any action is being told “no,” you may as well do it because the worst is never guaranteed. After all, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get the answer you’re looking for.

The reality is, provided you didn’t burn every bridge behind you as you walked out the door, it’s easier for a company to re-hire a solid former employee than hire anew. You know where the extra staples are kept, you always make a new pot of coffee when you’ve emptied the old one, and no one has to go through a tedious hiring and training process – that’s a win-win-win. Of course, it helps if they haven’t already hired your replacement, and this strategy works best at smaller companies, as there’s less HR red tape standing in the way.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Your former employer may be willing to welcome you back, but perhaps they’re wary about why you want to come back. Perhaps they suspect you’ve done something to screw up your new opportunity, or they may feel like you’re just plain fickle (and no one likes being Plan B). Your best bet is to look for other opportunities in addition to approaching your former employer.

Apply up the ladder

Depending on how long you held your former position (and how long it’s been since you left), you can always try applying for a more senior position. In this situation, you’ll be spinning your time away as skill building and personal development, a strategy that works especially well if the job you’re returning from was a step up from your previous position at the company.

So what happens if your former employer has a ban on rehiring, to “encourage loyalty”? Frankly, it’s better to move on and not look back. Such thinking is short-sighted given that nobody keeps a job for life these days. In fact, there are even hiring managers who will keep tabs on recent departures will make them their first phone call when openings come up. Sure, not everyone will come running back, but it sure beats reading through hundreds of bad resumes.

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