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I'm 6 months into my second job and it's destroying my mental health to the point I'm seeing a therapist now. I'm sorry if this question seems dumb or ill-researched but I haven't been able to think straight or sleep much since I started this job. I've realized that my old job was so much better in so many ways. The listing for my old position is still up - it's a very small company so there's only room for one person in that role. The sole reason I left was compensation, but that was just me being greedy - I made more than enough, and the benefits were fantastic at that job.

How should I go about asking if I can go back to my old position? What kind of questions should I be prepared to answer?

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Just ask your old boss.

You don't need to provide a whole lot of reasons, or come back "begging" or anything like that. Keep the inquiry professional and simple, and see what they say.

Right off the bat, you are saving the company a lot of money. The average cost of on-boarding a new staff is not cheap, and your return is a big bonus to them.

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    I suggest adding a small generic message TS could send to his boss, a little help – Martijn May 13 at 11:22
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    Something like "Hi Boss, [some kind of appropriate greeting/icebreaker]. I'm looking to make a change from my current job and saw that the listing for [position] was still up, would you be interested in having me back?" – Kaz May 13 at 14:09
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    Good example email, Kaz. I'd avoid the comma splice--"I'm looking to make a change from my current job and saw that the listing for [position] was still up. Would you be interested in having me back?" (two sentences). Sorry to be picky. Most bosses probably don't care. Important point is, no need to be overly wordy. You know your old boss; does she favor short, concise emails? (When in doubt assume yes.) – CynicallyNaive May 13 at 20:15
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    +1, just talk to him. Assuming your departure was professional and no bridges were burnt, in a small company especially a "simple" call or e-mail is likely to get the job done here. Quotation marks because these things tend to be anything but simple when your mental health is flagging. – Mookuh May 14 at 5:17
  • Being straight is usually the best way of getting things done. I've been in this situation myself twice (yes, I know, too many) and in both cases my previous bosses were more than happy. I'd call her and ask how's she doing. Just after the response, and even if she doesn't ask back, I'd go straight to explain my situation and why I want to go back to my previous position. Also, another lesson I learnt from this: never burn bridges, even if you hate your job. If you go back to your previous job, you should try to leave your current company in good terms, you might need it in the future. – Igor Rodriguez May 14 at 9:46
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As long as you haven't burned any bridges at your old job, it should be OK with returning. I was once in a similar position where I quit a job. The old boss was surprised at my leaving, and said that if the new job didn't turn out, I'd be welcome to return.

Sometimes we make mistakes and things don't turn out as we expect. There is no shame in it.

If you're still in probation time, you may have a shorter notice period than otherwise, which could make returning to your old job easier, if your old boss agrees.

As @Nelson stated, get in touch with your old boss.

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    This doesn't appear to actually answer the question. The OP is already planning to ask for his job back. He's wondering how to approach his former boss and what kind of questions said boss might have about this. – Lilienthal May 13 at 17:34
  • Though I'd say "Sometimes we make mistakes and things don't turn out as we expect." is a perfect example of something to say to him if he asks why the change of heart. – Blindy May 15 at 14:36
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I've done that in the past. I left a developer job to a leadership position in another company, after working on it for 3 years.

In the new company, I spent the first 8 weeks, working all 7 days, due to pressure and impossible deadlines. I had a chat with my manager, told him it was impossible to keep that rhythm, and that I would be taking at least one day off in the weekend.

Things kept worsening, including moral harassment.

4 months in the new company, I had a beer with colleagues from the previous company, told them the new job was a nightmare and that I was looking for a new job. One of them said he would tell that to my former manager.

On the next day, the former manager called me and asked if I would like to discuss the subject.

One month later, I went back to my former company, in a leadership role.

So, my suggestion would be:

  1. have a lunch or beer with former colleagues and mention that you are looking for another opportunity

  2. or send a message to your previous manager, asking if they want to have a lunch, coffee or tea, and ask about the company, and casually mention that you are looking for a new job at the moment. If they are open to your return, you will know right away :-)

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    This is almost exactly my experience. I left for a role with a great employer in a sexy industry but I just couldn't make that environment work for me. I'd proved myself many times over at the old job so after 5 months I was warmly welcomed back into the lead role which they were planning to offer me anyway. Even after leaving again 3 years later I returned for a final stint as a contractor. – LoztInSpace May 15 at 8:14
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How should I go about asking if I can go back to my old position?

Just contact your former boss and talk.

Something like "Hey, boss. I see that my old position seems to be open. Any chance I could come back and fill it?" should work.

What kind of questions should I be prepared to answer?

You should be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Why should we hire you back?
  • How can we feel confident that you won't just find another job and leave us again?
  • You left due to compensation. The compensation hasn't changed. What's different now?
  • What happened with your current job?
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    The immediate response from any boss will be "why would he want to come back?" along with "how long will he stay?". I guess those are things to delve into during an interview/call and indeed you mention them in the second part of the answer but wouldn't you recommend at least addressing the topic in the first mail? – Lilienthal May 13 at 17:36
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    This is a perfect answer. They're the questions anyone would want to know as part of rehiring. – javadba May 14 at 15:06
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I've been in a similar situation where the new job did not work out (and I thought I researched it much better than usual during the interview stage :-) ). One thing not mentioned in the other answers:

Be wary of nostalgia. An old (and familiar) job may look much more rosy in hindsight than when you were in it and decided to leave. One tends to forget the bad and remember the good. Be very honest with yourself and make a "pros and cons" (benefits and disadvantages) list of the old job, cons being all the reasons why you left or contributing to the decision. Then decide whether all those cons still apply, or have you learned some lessons in the mean time that would mitigate them? (Those lessons may be handy to keep in mind, polished up to be presentable, when you do contact your old boss - I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that you have grown in some way since you left.)

Also ask yourself whether you would not be better off looking for a completely new position. If you do go back to the old job, you will either continue there for very long, or you will be looking for another job after some time - which will be preferable to you, and which will serve your career goals better?

From what I've seen (and sometimes even heard expressed by managers), employers are often keen to take previous employees back, even multiple times, since they are a "known quantity" as opposed to a new hire - more so in your case. But different companies may have different views.

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In short: You learned an important life lesson. Money is not everything.

Some companies pay a decent salary, others pay compensation for pain and suffering. The 2nd is often way higher, because otherwise nobody would work there.

Having learned this fact, you are more appreciative of the good things your old company offered. So this alone will increase your loyalty.

If you have the email of your old boss, just drop one saying something like:

Hello Mr. Boss,

I would like my old job back. Could we have a phone call on how to best proceed?

Then you can explain the lesson you learned. Depending on your relationship, Id likely leave out the health issue bit. Just state that this isn't what you expected and that you know appreciate the good things of the old company. Be prepared to give a few examples.

I have seen this play out several times. It's entire possible they just accept you back without asking questions, and after you are back your coworkers ask curiously what happened. I have seen people come back after 2 days (!), a month, a year, or several years. In fact, I have a standing offer from my old company to come back, and I am in my new company for over a year now.

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    While "I'd like my old job back" is kind of the core message, this is so curt that I would go so far as to consider it rude, possibly even entitled. Why wouldn't you summarise the points you bring up in that email to give some context? Or add some pleasantries or acknowledge that they might not be interested? – Lilienthal May 13 at 9:23
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    imo it's a cultural thing, but if I were to do something like that, I would do exactly that, and not consider it rude. Then again, German culture is considered more to the point compared to a lot of other cultures. If the other side is interested, they are gonna reply. If they arent interested, they will either ignore this email, or simply reply no. I dont need to preemptively acknowledge the no. If anything, the 2nd sentence could be softened to: Could we have a phonecall to talk? But: if you live in another culture, phrase your request appropriatley. – Benjamin May 13 at 10:28
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    @Benjamin "I'd like my job back" is quite rude, even for German standards, unless you are on extremely good and informal footing with the former boss and left on very positive note; and in this case, we wouldn't have seen this post here. Why would OP assume that this job is theirs to take? One does not need to grovel, but OP wants the job back, so they should - as Lilienthal says - take into account the possibility that the other side is not interested anymore. – Captain Emacs May 13 at 10:40
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I was in exactly the same position as you. Left my job for a bit more money, but also more responsibilities, but not to my liking. After 4 months I was also doing mentally worse than before.

I just called my old boss, and after a chit-chat about new developments in the industry, I popped the question if he has a spot for me. He promptly gave me two options where there was a spot open, without official vacancy. Granted, this was a bigger company, so there could always be someone squeezed in, but it is still the best way to come back to your company, especially if you had a good relationship with your boss.

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