Sherry Bruck took a chance when she hired a creative copywriter who commanded a salary significantly higher than her other staffers. It was a financial strain on her business, but the investment paid off in new clients and a higher caliber of work.
Four months later, he quit. He took a job that offered about twice what he was making at Bruck's company, Harquin Creative Group. So when he called a year later asking for his old job back, Bruck and her business partner husband were understandably reluctant to give him another chance.
Holding your tail between your legs and asking for your old job back is not only embarrassing, it's rarely successful. But there are ways you can keep your dignity intact and convince your former manager to rehire you. It starts with giving your boss at least two weeks notice and finishing as many projects as possible. It's equally important to be up front about why you're leaving — and staying in touch while you're gone. A casual email once a month can go a long way.
Bruck says the creative copywriter handled everything correctly, which is why, after several days of contemplation — and peppering him with questions about whether he would leave after a few months again — she hired him back.
When he left after being recruited by a firm in Florida, he was honest about his departure. He told her that he enjoyed working with them, but that it was too much money and too good an offer to turn down. He then finished the projects he was working on and continued to freelance for them when they needed his advice.
"He followed through on his promises," says Bruck, who owns the Pelham, NY-based advertising and branding firm with her husband. "Throughout the year he was gone, I'd call and email him and he responded in a timely fashion. He made it obvious that he valued us and cared about the welfare of our firm. He didn't disappear into the wild blue yonder."
Perhaps the most important element in deciding to rehire him was his impeccable work. "We felt the value of the four months he was here," she says. "If we didn't see the great progress while he was here we wouldn't have considered hiring him back."
While it worked out for both parties at Harquin, it might not be ideal for everyone. Before you go begging for your job back, consider if it's even a good idea. After all, you left for a reason. "We tend to ignore the bad parts of a job," says Janet White, author of Secrets of the Hidden Job Market: Change Your Thinking to Get the Job of Your Dreams.
Create a "work profile" that lists your natural abilities and things you're interested in. Then compare your list with the tasks you did at your former job. If it doesn't mesh, don't go back, says Peg Hendershot, director of Career Vision, a career planning and coaching company in Illinois.
Next, consider what your dream job looks like. What type of things do you want to do on a daily basis and what type of company do you want to work for? "Hold that feeling of having that kind of job," says White . "This is the power of positive thinking. Train your mind to believe something that hasn't happened yet. It builds belief rather than thinking, 'It's hard out there and I'm never going to get my dream job.'"
From there, learn about your dream job by attending conferences, networking and talking to people who do it. If you need to go back to school to attain the position, figure out a way to do it. The most important thing is to move toward that position instead of going back to what's familiar.
If you've assessed your abilities and decided that your old job is the place for you, be honest with yourself about how you left. Did you give your boss enough notice, and were you professional in how you left? If not, contacting your old boss is a bad idea. Also, do your homework about the company — if they just endured a round of layoffs, then asking for your job back likely won't work.
Find out if your position was filled already. If so, talk to human resources and your manager about what else is available.
If everything looks good, make an appointment with your former manager to have an open discussion and ask for feedback. "This is a mentor relationship that may lead to an offer to return or new direction," says Hendershot. "Be prepared to be humble, but don't go overboard."
© 2012 Forbes.com