Pulling a Ricky Gervais: Returning to an old job

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I’m a big fan of actor Ricky Gervais. I like his sarcastic, biting humor, and I thoroughly enjoy watching both the British version of “The Office” and its U.S. spinoff. Yet even I found myself turning red, unable to look directly at the TV, as he offended one A-list celebrity after another during last year’s Golden Globe awards.

So I was pretty surprised to learn that, for the third year in a row, he was picked to be the award show’s host. I guess they say the third time’s a charm, right?

What’s interesting is that after receiving mixed reviews for his hosting chops in 2010, he vowed never to do it again. After the controversy surrounding last year’s run, he swore he was done with the show for good. Yet something keeps pulling him back in again and again.

Gervais recently sat down with Matt Lauer of the “Today” show to talk about his decision to step up to the Golden Globes plate once more. In the interview, which was broken up into two segments, he confessed that after people said he’d never be invited back, it became a challenge to him to prove them wrong.

This got us thinking about how his situation could apply to a “real” job. It’s not uncommon for someone to leave a job for a new one, only to find himself eventually back at his old job. Perhaps his new role wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Or he followed a manager, only to have that person leave shortly after. Maybe it’s because he missed the comfort and security of his old gig.

Whatever the reasons, there’s no doubt that new jobs can be tough. You don’t know anyone; you have to learn about new clients, processes and responsibilities; and you have to prove yourself all over again. It’s no fun feeling like you don’t know what’s going on, and during particularly trying times, it’s easy to look at the time spent at your old company with rose-colored glasses.

But going back to a past position likely won’t solve your work-related problems and, if anything, provides only a short-term solution. Chances are you’ll end up right back where you started — unhappy and wanting to escape.

“I used to work for [a fitness company] and left because I thought I had found a better opportunity,” says Morgan B., a social media specialist. “Soon I felt overwhelmed [at the new job] and began second-guessing myself and wanted to return to what I knew best. But I returned to a whole new [company]; the old one I used to work at had already filled my position, so it wasn’t the same at all. The procedures were kind of the same, but it didn’t make me happy at all.”

So how do you avoid a situation like Morgan’s? Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in Boston, offers the following key considerations if you’re unhappy at your current job or second-guessing your move to a new one:

  • Conduct an honest assessment: You need to honestly assess your personal strengths and weaknesses. Be honest about what skills you possess and what skills are needed in the roles you hope to pursue. Identify opportunities to develop the missing or weaker skills. Be honest about what you like and dislike about your current employer and your current role.
  • Have a plan: While it can be tempting to quit in a moment of anger or frustration, it is rarely a good decision. Be thoughtful about what you are looking for in a new job and a new company. Define a plan to research the industry and key companies. Network to learn more about the companies and the positions that interest you.
  • Avoid “buyer’s remorse”: Carefully consider what is truly bothering you about your current role. Is it the day-to-day work? Your co-workers? Your boss? The company? Its products or ethics? Knowing what the real issue is can help you identify possible solutions. Maybe a move to another group internally would be much more rewarding and would retain your years of service. Don’t rush to abandon ship without analyzing the issue and the possible solutions.
  • Remember the grass isn’t always greener: All companies have some issues, and not all managers are perfect. Don’t be so eager to make a change that you jump from the frying pan into the fire. Do your research and networking to learn as much as you can about the other company to make an informed decision. Don’t leave your current company without assessing the problem.
  • Don’t make hasty decisions: Don’t jump to quick judgment. If there are issues with the current job, talk to your manager to see if any changes are possible. Use the human resources department to share your concerns. Be sure you have a plan for moving forward before making a hasty decision you may regret.

Sarikas also says that bouncing back and forth between jobs may give a bad impression and put your loyalty into question. “[They may be thinking that] if you were ready to leave once, who says you won’t do it again? … You need to consider the potential negative impact on your career in doing this.”

So before jumping ship and running back to your old job, make sure you’ve given your current position a fair chance and you’re leaving — and going back — for the right reasons.

As for Gervais, he insists this is the last time he’ll host the Golden Globes, at least for a while.

We’ll see you again in 2013, Ricky.

Have you returned to an old job and regretted it? Or did you have a better experience the second-time around? Tell us about it in the comments section.

  1. Pingback: 3 questions to ask yourself about a new job offer : The Work Buzz

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