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January 10th, 2011,

By Patrick O’Connor

The New Year is only a week old, but the economic news 2011 brings has already excited employers, investors, and job seekers.  All of this good news brings new ideas and new opportunities, but it also brings a surprise – older ideas about returning to a well-know way of life.

As classes and training programs resume, job seekers who are working towards a new career may look at the good economic news and think “Maybe I could get my old job back.”  The idea of returning to a familiar workplace and career is easy to understand; most people like consistency in where they work and what they do, and if the economy really is getting better, there may be room in the future to go back to the past.

If you’re thinking about a career change that leads you back to where you were, it’s time to ask yourself these important questions.

Career Advice For Going Back to An Old Job

Is this really possible?
It wouldn’t be too hard to find out if your old job is going to open up soon.  Contacting your old employer – or better yet, asking a friend who still works there – is the best way to find out about hiring plans.  Since you’re a former employee, there’s a good chance they’ll give you an honest answer, and even if it’s the one you don’t want to hear, at least you’ll know.

Are there other jobs in my line of work?
If your old job isn’t available, there’s still a chance other jobs in your old line of work may be opening up – including that job you thought you’d never get a shot at.  Be sure to ask your old company if they know of anything else that’s open – and don’t be afraid to call a competitor to see what options they have.

Can I afford to do this?
If it seems like your old career has some options open, it’s time to break out the calculator.  Moving back to your job could mean moving back to a different city or state, breaking an apartment lease or trying to sell your house.  If you’re enrolled in classes, you may lose tuition if you drop them now, and if you’re employed somewhere else, you may lose benefits or retirement funds if you leave that job too soon.  Be sure you look at your financial picture – and if you need help, contact a financial planner.

Do I really want to do this?
You may want to go back to your old job because you liked it – but maybe you just want to quit your new job because you don’t like it.  That’s understandable; the economy put us all through a lot of changes we didn’t really want to take on, and it could be you took the only job  (or training program) that was available – or one that promised financial security, even if it wasn’t a job you liked all that much. If your desire for change is based more on what you don’t like about your new situation, think twice before heading back.

The improvement in the economy gives you a great chance to re-think your goals, and that’s never a bad thing.  As you do that, make sure you’re working with facts, not just hopes, and keep in mind there are some who say the economic turnaround will come to a screeching halt if gas prices hit $4.50 a gallon this year, just like in 2008.  The right mix of facts and hopes will keep you on the career path that’s best for you – make sure you listen to both.

As a counselor and college adviser for 25 years, Patrick O’Connor has helped unemployed workers, veterans, returning students, and new high school graduates learn new skills, earn degrees, prepare for graduate school and get better-paying jobs.  He’s a past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and author of the widely acclaimed college guide, College is Yours in 600 Words or Less. Most important, he’d like to help you realize your goals for college and career success.