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Returning to work for a previous employer - good idea or not?

21 Aug 2017

Eileen Moloney

Thinking about returning to work for a previous employer? Been wooed back by the promise of promotion, career progression and the comfort of a familiar environment? You’re not alone. More people have taken this step than you think.

In the past, both employers and employees have taken a negative view on returning to work for a previous employer. In fact, some companies have had strict policies against it. However, times have changed and now employers tend to give priority to people who have worked with the company before. Talent shortages, particularly in some areas such as IT or finance, go some way to explaining the shift in policy but risk aversion and morale boosting can also be reasons for employers to re-employ someone. The risk of hiring someone who may not work out is much less with a former employee than with an “unknown”. There is also a positive boost in morale with existing employees when someone has gone off in search of greener pastures yet still decides to return, especially if they’ve been working for a competitor.

There ARE some times where a move back to an old company is actually a move forward in your career. This could be an instance where you should definitely ignore all of the naysayers predicting doom and gloom and seize the opportunity. However there are some important issues to consider before you make your final decision.

Are you making this move for the right reasons?

Is this just a quick fix because you’re unhappy where you are and are planning to move again? If so, then definitely don’t make this move, it will only create tension and engender bad feeling once you leave a second time. You also need to really believe that your reasons for leaving in the first place are no longer a factor and that you can develop your career here.  Does this move benefit your career in the long-term?

Talk to former colleagues

Find out what has happened in your absence. Have there been any changes? New technologies and new processes, especially within your area should be taken into consideration before you decide to return. A change in management personnel or structure should also be factors in your decision to return. Are you going to be able to work in the new structure and collaborate with your team?

Perceptions of you within the company

Are you going back to a more senior role in the organisation? Be aware that some may perceive you as still being in your previous role which may cause problems especially if your new role is at management / senior level. You need to set boundaries early in a diplomatic fashion.


You know how the company operates. Your familiarity with the culture is an asset as is your experience gained elsewhere. Your learning curve will be virtually non-existent as you already know the company and most of your colleagues so you will be able to hit the ground running. 

You’ll also bring a fresh new perspective to your job with your newly gained experience. You can now take an objective look at the company and role and make changes for the better adding value to the company and furthering your own career development.

Whatever your reasons for returning, make sure they’re the right ones for you! Returning to work for a previous employer can bring new opportunities. It’s up to you to make that decision.