The Silicon Valley Voice

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I Want my Old Job Back!

It may not be the uptick we’ve been wishing for, but statistics show the pace of hiring is accelerating. This is definitely good news, especially if you’ve been hungering for one particular job opportunity to open up.

Yes, I know your deep, dark secret. If the economy is really improving, then you could finally have a chance to prove your worth on your absolutely perfect, dream job — the job you so unfairly lost when the economy started going down the drain.

If you think this kind of thinking is unlikely, you need to read an article by Dennis Nishi in the Career Strategies section of The Wall Street Journal. The title of the piece, “Want Your Old Job,” sums up the situation perfectly, as does the reporter’s first sentence, “If you’ve been laid off and your former employer is hiring again, you might see the news as a chance to get back to work at your old firm.”

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At this point, you might want to take a breath, and ask yourself, “Why do I want that miserable, awful, doo-doo job back, when I hated every minute of it before?” The answer is obvious — it’s a chance to get a do-over; an opportunity to prove to the world that you never should have been fired in the first place. Plus, it’s a job you already know how to do. There’s no learning curve. You already know where the bathrooms are, and you’ll be able to start goofing off on the first day, just as you were doing on the last day before you got canned!

As you might expect, getting that old job back may not be a slam-dunk. “The odds of getting an old job back are good if you were let go simply for budgetary reasons,” writes Nishi. On the other hand, Jerald Jellison, a professor of psychology at USC, points out that even when the budget is really the reason, “sometimes there is some selectivity in who is laid off.”

Sometimes? Some selectivity? Get real, professor Jellison. There is always selectivity, not to mention injustice and a dollop of spitefulness, too. But look on the bright side: if your managers didn’t like you before, maybe they will like you better now — now that you’ve been beaten down and are totally defeated.

If getting that old job is not as simple as coming in at midnight and re-painting your name on your old parking space, you will need a strategy. According to the experts, the key is to treat the old gig you know so well like an exciting new employment opportunity.

“Fine-tune your resume,” Nishi writes. “Do research that shows you haven’t fallen behind on what the company has been doing, prepare for the interview, and be ready to answer tough questions.”

I’m not sure what the reporter means when he talks about “tough questions,” but I assume they are questions like, “Are you completely bonkers showing up here?” or “Did you really take the third-floor copying machine when you left?” or “What did you expect to happen when you put super glue on the steering wheel of the CEO’s Mercedes?”

Another tip for earning an encore is to “contact former co-workers who have kept their jobs to assess how things are now relative to when you were there.” I would recommend that the first person you contact is the traitor who took on your responsibilities when you were fired. You probably have intense feelings around this situation, so don’t feel like you have to chat — just two or three minutes of heavy breathing about four or five times a day should clear the air and the cubicle.

If you truly want to make a comeback, Nishi suggests that you also “contact your former boss or human resources department, assure them that you harbor no bad feelings about being laid off and are eager to return to work.” And if you can get them to believe you, you should immediately turn down your old position and demand a huge promotion. Anyone who can be such a convincing liar really should be in management.

“Don’t be discouraged if you get through the interview process and find out the job now pays less than you earned before,” the column concludes. I agree. Simply take the job and resolve to work even less than you did before. It’s difficult to imagine how you would accomplish that, but hey, if they’re willing to take you back, anything is possible.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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