Q: I was part of a pretty big reduction in force at my company. The company then offered certain people their jobs back, myself included. Part of me wants to return — job hunting is terrible, I liked my job enough, and it’s the easiest option. But what if I’m out again in a few months? What should I do?
A: Organizations going through reductions face a real challenge when selecting positions to eliminate, especially as there’s likely a financial goal involved. Companies are usually aiming for a specific number to reduce operating costs, and sometimes they realize they cut too deep. They may find they eliminated certain positions they really need — this seems to be the case in your situation.
How much you like your job and the trajectory of your career at the company should come into play. If you were happy, well compensated, and see a future, then return. If you’re just avoiding a job search, it doesn’t seem like you’re particularly invested in your role or the company. You can return and start looking for a new position while employed, which is challenging, or you can take the severance pay and start looking for a job you’re excited to go to.
Being laid off from and then invited back to an organization is a great public statement when explaining why you’re on the job market. Regardless of whether you go back, you’ll want to reveal this information as you look for a new job. The offer to return conveys to you and others that the reduction truly was a business decision and had nothing to do with individual performance — otherwise, they wouldn’t be asking you to come back.
Many people would choose to return, taking the easiest option and avoiding a job search, but you’re worried more cuts could be coming. In this case, the organization would likely be very careful about bringing you back and wouldn’t put you in the same position again in a few months. That being said, business is dynamic and unexpected changes happen all the time, so examine the state of your organization. Is it in financial flux? Does it seem stable for the long term? Look at the circumstances of your return, too — is it in the same role or a different one? Do you have the same manager or one with a bad reputation among colleagues? Assess your risk and take these issues into consideration.
If you return, you should still prepare for a future job hunt so you’re not caught off guard in the face of more cuts. Continue being a dedicated employee, but update your resume, check that your LinkedIn connections and profile are robust and complete, and think about what would make you like your job more than just “enough.”
Losing a job can leave you feeling hurt by the organization, and it can be difficult to return. This may take some getting used to, and you’ll have to work to keep yourself in positive frame of mind.
It may also be the impetus you need to take the next step in your career. Gather your energy and focus on what you really want to do and the kind of company you want to work at. Use your severance wisely as a cushion and pay yourself to look for a job. Network strongly, practice interviewing, and land in a place that you don’t fear will have another layoff soon.
Returning to an organization after a reduction in force is nothing to be ashamed of and, in fact, reflects highly on you. Any residual hesitation can be channeled into maintaining your general job search readiness — it never hurts to be prepared for future uncertainty. Either way, focus on being an employee who’s invested in career success, and not on just getting by.Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.