Returning to a Company After a Lay-off

Career Blog

In this volatile and hyper-competitive economic climate, restructuring is sadly part of the corporate playbook. In my career I’ve been on both sides of the event and what I’ve learned is that no one relishes the action.

While your first impulse maybe to forever shun the organization that let you go, many professionals, especially those with niche skills or geographic restrictions could find themselves pitching or even being courted by an employer past.

Assuming you were let go as part of a corporate restructuring and there was no underlying performance issues or political minefields, reengaging with a prior employer could be a productive move ­– just make sure you do your homework before committing.

Understand the Backstory

The days of lifetime employment are long gone. Employees hop jobs more frequently. And employers, bending to both the will of the customer and force of global competition, operate on shorter cycles. Nowhere is this easier to see than in commoditized, customer-facing or production-based roles, the need for which can change radically depending on quarter-to-quarter results.  

While no company is immune to these forces, job seekers should be wary of organizations that have a history of routinely over-staffing and then purging non-contract workers. Before you sign on, ask why the event happened last time and what’s changed to prevent a re-occurrence. An non-answer indicates poor forecasting ability at best and outright deception at worst.

Highlight Your Capabilities

Let’s face it. Chances are they didn’t lay-off everyone in your department last time. Maybe the decision was tenure based, maybe the guy in the next cube was a relative of the CEO. Maybe.  More likely performance or skill-set was the deciding factor.

To ensure you escape the cut if the axe comes round again, update your experience, credentials, and education on both your resume and any internal talent system. You should also work toward rebuilding your brand. Social media offers a variety of options for showcasing your accomplishments and sharing your voice. Do it right and employers will come looking for you.

Let Go of the Past

It’s tempting to operate from an I told you so mindset when asked to return, but no good can come from it. Instead focus on the future by consistently showcasing – on the resume, during the interview and later, on the job, how you’ve grown professionally and personally during the time away.

If a political issue did you in, take stock of the current climate. Players change quickly so perhaps the manager you clashed with or the team that managed the restructuring is no longer there. Don’t spend time worrying about problems that no longer exist.  

However, if in your heart of hearts you suspect performance did play a part in the decision (cash strapped companies sometimes shed B players), take it in and move on. There’s no need to operate from an apologetic stance – just learn from the past and up your game.

In the end the decision to return is a personal one, influenced by a number of factors. Arming yourself with an honest view of the past and a healthy assessment of the opportunity before you will help you make the right call.

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