Wishing you'd never quit?

You've had the leaving do, received a card from former colleagues with all good wishes for the future, and emptied your desk ready for the next step in your career. Goodbye to the old job and welcome in the new! Or is that too rosy a picture? How can you admit that you might have made a terrible mistake when you realise that you actually want to get your old job back? This is the thorny issue to address when your new job doesn't quite live up to your expectations and your old job, with its familiarities, beckons. Follow the advice and tips below to find out how best to handle the situation.

When to consider asking for your old job back

First of all, you really need to consider whether it's a good idea to quit a job you've just started and ask for your old job back. Focus on why, and ask yourself if you've given enough time and energy to the new role. A couple of days into a new job you're still nervous, unsure of how the IT system works, and you've barely spoken to any of your new colleagues. Don't fret. These are perfectly normal new job nerves. Remember your first day at a new school? It's just the same and it can be scary, but stick with it for a bit longer. If, after a couple of months, things still don't feel right and your mental health is suffering or you're being bullied, then it might be time to reconsider.

Should I go back to my old job?

To quit a job you've just started is tricky. It sours the relationship you might have started building with your new boss and there's no guarantee you'll be welcomed with open arms at your old job again. But you have to do what feels right for you.

You daydream about your desk at your old job, long to know if Emily in accounts really did nail that presentation, and crave the day-to-day routine that you knew so well. If this is the case and you left amenably, without getting fired, it might be worth considering quitting the job you just started and asking for your old job back.

You might be labelled a boomerang employee - a member of staff who leaves a company but then returns later on to work for that company again. It's not as rare as you might think. A study by Workplace Trends found that 15% of employees have returned to a former role, and 40% of HR professionals revealed their companies have hired roughly 50% of former employees who re-applied for a job with them. And if you left in good standing, 51% of managers said they would give very high or high priority to boomerang employees. So the statistics seem to fall in your favour, as long as you left your old job without any issues.

If you didn't, it is certainly time for a long, hard think. The chances are, if you left under a cloud, your old employer will be reluctant to even consider having you back. And would you seriously want to return to a place where there are bad memories or scars that haven't healed?

Tips on how to ask for your old job back

There's really no need to grovel to your boss. In a way, it's rather flattering that you want to ask for your old job back. You know that you can perform to a high standard, so why wouldn't they want you? Swallow your pride, assess the mood of your former employer, and go for it.

  • Think through your decision carefully before vocalising it and remind yourself why you left the organisation in the first place

  • Connect with your old boss to see if they're still in the same position, then reach out to them with regards to your plans in order to glean any useful insight into what's changed while you've been away

  • Highlight your increased experience, newly acquired skills, and your commitment moving forward, to prove you're loyal and trustworthy

  • Consider asking old colleagues for recommendations, to demonstrate that you're still worthy of the job and can work cohesively as a former and future team member

  • Remain professional at all times throughout the process, being sensitive to the fact that this is quite an unusual situation, while championing the idea that this is a wise move and one neither of you will regret

  • If your old position has been filled, yet you were really respected by your former boss, then show your enthusiasm and hopefully you'll be contacted once a similar position becomes vacant

Pros and cons of going back to your old job


  • You know how everything works: the IT systems, where the toilets are, and who to avoid at the Christmas party

  • The way that colleagues operate and the established work culture are familiar

  • From a business perspective, they won't have to spend time and money on training you up again; a plus for both you and the company

  • If you've been away for a while, your expanded skill set and experience can add to the role


  • It might take longer than expected to slot back into your old work life and acclimatise to it again

  • You may no longer be the best fit for the role, having been away for a while

  • Colleagues may be less than welcoming, viewing you with reduced loyalty to the company

  • It could feel like a step back in your career, a bit like moving back home after finding your independence at university

Next Steps

Aim to leave your current employer on good terms. You never know what might happen in the world of work, especially if you're staying in the same industry. If a role is available and you know you can do it, there's little reason to think you wouldn't be considered. 

Apply for the role at your old company, treating it as a totally new position. Why not get a free CV review from TopCV to mak sure you're painting yourself in the best light?

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