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Returning to a previous employer

By Gemma Raw

​As a locum social worker, you’ll be used to working short term contracts in multiple locations and you may have had several contracts working at the same organisation. However, if you’re working in a permanent role, making the choice to return to a social work job role in a previous employer can be tricky. The job description may be fantastic, and it could be a step in the right direction for your career goals, but is it the right thing to do? 

Taking on a new role at a former employer is more common than you think. After all, there’s something to be said for “better the devil you know”. If you’re contemplating moving into an old role, regardless of whether it’s a short term basis or a permanent contract, then it may help you to make a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list to weigh up your options. 

We take a look at some common considerations.

Seeing the positive opportunities

The most important factor to consider is whether you were happy in your role at the previous employer. Perhaps you felt that you were fully supported by your line manager. Maybe they offered fantastic supervision and training opportunities which helped you to make the most of your social work skills. You may have felt that you were able to enjoy a positive work-life balance and that you enjoyed a strong working relationship with your colleagues. We spend the majority of our week at work, so it’s incredibly important that we’re happy and content in our working environment. 

If you’re considering returning to a previous employer, you may also need to consider whether it’s the right thing for your personal career. Do you have a strong plan where you see the next 5 years of your professional life? The next 10 or even 20 years? If you dream of eventually becoming a head of service or you simply wish to move into a team manager role, will this new job help you achieve these goals? An often under-rated benefit of working in a locum social work job role is that you can move along your chosen career path more effectively. This is because you can choose the roles which will give you the experience you need to chase your dream.

Perhaps you’re considering returning to an ex-employer because of financial reasons. You may be offered a generous package which includes good holiday entitlement, pension contributions, and even a training budget. These are all positive things to factor into your decision-making process – after all, no one ever wants to move to a new job which would leave them financially poorer! 

Being aware of the potential pitfalls

It’s important to balance out the positives with the drawbacks of returning to an ex-employer. After all, if you chose to leave your position, there is a likely a reason why, so could this still be a relevant factor? 

Nostalgia can play a big part in making you think about returning to an old job – particularly if your new role hasn’t lived up to its expectations. Before making any decisions, speak to family members who may have different recollections of how you felt at an old job. If it was a role which made you overly stressed, or you were unhappy with certain working practices then nostalgia could be giving you rose-tinted memories.

You may also need to consider how you would handle the transition process. If you’re moving into a different team, then this isn’t necessarily a factor, but if you’re returning to the same team (and the same people) then handing your return could be harder than you may think. You may find that organisational priorities have changed (particularly if the employer has had a recent Ofsted inspection, or there has been another round of budget cuts). If this is the case, then working practices may be very different from what you remember. You may also have to deal with former colleagues working in different positions – for example, if it’s been a gap of several years, you may remember an NQSW who has since moved into a more senior role. If this is the case, you may need to consider how you relate to this person; after all, it’s likely to be a difficult transition for all involved.

If you are considering moving back to a former social work job role, but you’re unsure what to expect, why not call one of our consultants? We’re always available to talk through any new career move and to explain what the job entails and how it’s best for your career path.