Returning to your old company in a new role could be your best career move

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As record numbers of Americans quit their jobs amid the Great Resignation, what’s old is new again, with some pursuing a new job with a former employer.

It may be a win-win situation.

That was the case for Deirdre Latour, who resigned from her role as vice president at global communications firm Edelman in 2004, ready for a change.

The Upper West Sider went on to work at GE as a manager, working her way up to chief communications officer before leaving to work for education company Pearson. Last summer, a phone call from a former Edelman colleague changed everything. They asked her to run their Hudson Square office as president.

“It was really intriguing. They said running the New York operation, you’ll have a profit and loss in addition to being a communications executive. Edelman also felt like home to me during a difficult time for all of us.”

Latour accepted the position last September. Despite returning to her familiar stomping grounds, she approached it as a new job.

“It is in some ways very similar to the place that I left, and in most ways entirely different,” she said. “It was the realization of ‘Yes, I know the senior leaders of the company I’ve known since I was 25, but the place has grown a tremendous amount and I’ve grown a tremendous amount.’ It feels familiar, but it’s not the place that it was.”

In fact, she embraced the changes.

Latour worked for GE and then Pearson before returning to Edelman.
Stefano Giovannini

“Assume that you’ve never worked there,” she said. “And by the way, who would want to go back to working at something that was 16 years ago, right? That would be so lame. You want it to change. You have to have a huge amount of humility for what you’re stepping into. Yes, there may be some people you know, the spirit and the vision are the same, the ethics and the values are the same, but it’s not the same place.”

Rob Barnett, a Summit, NJ, headhunter and author of “Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now” (Citadel), agreed.

“I’ve seen many cases where an employee left on great terms for a bigger role with more compensation on the outside,” he said. “When you prove that you have more value for a senior position at a higher price tag, you can return to a former employer at a level you may never have achieved without leaving.”

The company may have also progressed since you left, and be ripe for a mutually beneficial return. Lee Caraher, CEO of p.r. and communications agency Double Forte and author of “The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees” (Routledge), said, “Companies ebb and change like people do. What was tapped out for you at one stage in your career could now be a huge growth opportunity.”

To rekindle that connection, Caraher said, “Are you in regular contact with your former manager or other people who would be in a position to hire you back? Former colleagues who are happy at the company? Look at job postings to see if there’s something that is interesting and appropriate. If so, contact your former boss to see if it’s possible to return to that position.”

If not, then start slower. “Make sure you’re connected with them on LinkedIn,” said Caraher. “Ask for a ‘catch up’ call with your former boss where you could ask them for advice on the next step in your career.”

For Ken Marone, the reverse happened when his old boss reached out. After working for health care communications agency FCB Health in Midtown for five years, last July Marone resigned as an account supervisor and moved to Philadelphia. A self-proclaimed “in-person employee,” he landed a job at an advertising agency as a group account supervisor, and due to the pandemic ended up working remotely.“

I came to the realization that I had just led a team for 11 months without having met any of them,” said Marone. “It was possible to work remotely and be just as successful as working from an office.”Coincidentally his former boss texted him: “I have an opportunity.”One week later, they discussed how he could return to the agency. Three weeks later, he was back at FCB Health working from home as an account director with a new boss and more responsibilities in overarching strategy.“

FCB feels like home,” said Marone. “During my last stint, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best individuals I’d ever met — people who became mentors and friends. Having the opportunity to work with them again was a major plus. The network is also massive, which allows you to do things you might not be able to do somewhere else. For me, you can’t say no to that.”

The change of policy at FCB Health also worked for Shelby Rauen, who left in 2010 as group strategy director to work for another local advertising firm before moving to Cleveland to work for a Midwest-based agency.

Last year, recruiters contacted her and after exploring a few opportunities, she contacted human resources at FCB Health.

Deirdre Latour
Latour acted as if her job at Edelman as a new job altogether.
Stefano Giovannini

“There happened to be an opening that aligned,” she said. “It was a nice happenstance of all the right factors being in place.”

In May, Rauen returned as senior vice president strategic planning director, working remotely. Her secret sauce to a seamless return involved staying in close contact every year or two over e-mail or LinkedIn messenger with HR, her old boss and the chief creative officer. “

It was definitely a homecoming for me. Don’t burn your bridges.”

Caraher agreed. “Leave on a positive note. Give more than two weeks’ notice. Don’t fall down on the job after you give notice. Wrap everything you’re doing up with a bow — meet with people to transition work, write a wrap up e-mail or memo sharing where everything is, and say goodbye professionally to everyone.

Write a personal note to the people who you’re closest with. And say to your boss and your colleagues, ‘I hope we work together in the future.’”

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