At my old PR agency, Edelman, we used to have a so-called “Comeback Club.” The club was reserved for those who left the company in good standing and returned a few years later. Edelman was a great place to work, so the Comeback Club was popular.

I myself was a member. After working there for two years, I left Edelman New York in 2000 to work at Computer Associates in eastern Long Island. When my husband and I moved to Chicago in 2004, I went back to my roots as a digital PR strategist in the Edelman office there. It was the right decision, and I stayed with the firm another four years before going out on my own full time in 2008.

A question many employees have faced is: “should I go back to my old job?”  Maybe the new job wasn’t as wonderful as you thought it would be and you are now able to see your old situation more clearly. Maybe you have gained some experience that has opened up a new opportunity with people you trust. Maybe your personal circumstances have changed.

When deciding whether you should go back to your old job, consider the following five questions before making your move.

1. What Led You to Leave in the First Place?

It is really important to assess whether the reasons for your departure still exist. For example, if you clashed with your manager, will you be working with that person again? If the organization’s culture was toxic, are you better prepared to cope this time around? You must assume that nothing (and no one) has changed before you go back to your old job.

2. Did You Leave All of Your Bridges Intact? 

Take honest stock of how your departure was received. Was your behavior universally professional? Did you go above and beyond to leave your job in good hands, and was this noticed and appreciated?  Before you go back to your old job, you want to be absolutely certain that there are no lingering hard feelings.

3. With Whom Will You Be Working?

As a former employee, you have the benefit of knowing the organization better than any brand new recruit, and you must harness this insider intelligence. Is the department you’ll be working with productive, efficient, and interpersonally mature? Ask yourself if your new manager is someone with a strong reputation, and if your team members are people with whom you can easily collaborate.

4. Will You Have to Start Over?

Presumably, you had to work a while at this organization to earn respect and increasing levels of responsibility. You’ve also gained more experience since you last worked there. Will your new position reflect these developments, or will all of your previous accomplishments be for naught? No matter how desperate you may be feeling, don’t take a job that’s a step backward.

5. Will the Work Be Meaningful?

In making the decision to take any new job, you should reflect on what the work will be like day-to-day.  Will it be a challenge you can sink your teeth into?  Will you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the organization?  If your progress was hampered by red tape or endless consensus building kept you from getting anything done before, it may well again.

Many of us leave organizations because we later realize the old but true cliché – the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes, it takes a change in situation to realize just how great we had it. However, it’s important to objectively evaluate what we’re getting ourselves back into and not rush into a boomerang.

(Photo credit: Businessman sitting on an armchair via Shutterstock)

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