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Be Like LeBron: Getting a Job at an Employer You Quit

The basketball superstar just did it. How you might be able to, too.

By Miriam Salpeter | AOL Jobs | July 11, 2014

(This article previously appeared on AOLJobs.com.)
 
With today’s news that basketball superstar LeBron James will return to his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, you may be wondering if you could go back to an employer where you worked before quitting. Here’s what AOLJobs.com career adviser Miriam Salpeter says:
 
Parting may have been sweet sorrow, but you now notice there's a new job at your old company, and you want to apply. What should you keep in mind to give yourself the best chance to avoid job-seeker mistakes and recapture a spot at the organization you left?

How you approach this opportunity depends on how, and when, you left your last organization.

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If You Left on Bad Terms...

If you departed in a ball of fire, burning bridges along the way and publicly cursing the name of the people on your team, don't hold your breath regarding another chance at the organization; it will be awkward, at best, applying to return.

Timing could play a role, too. If you left many years ago, even if many of the key players are no longer working there, often, there will be someone with institutional memory who will make a return engagement difficult. Or, you may get lucky and find no one remembers your departure.

If you're still set on a second chance, you'll want to take special care to ensure you make it clear that you are exceptionally well qualified. In fact, you may need to be so qualified that they cannot imagine anyone else competing for the job. This requires you to know a lot about the specific problems the organization is facing and what the person in the role of interest to you will be required to do.

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Use your sleuthing skills to assess how you can make a direct connection between what they need and what you offer. Tap into any friends or contacts you may have left at the organization, and don't forget to find others who may have left after you departed who may be able to give you insight into what the company needs now.

Make a solid case for why you're the best person for the job and be prepared to answer for your past behavior. If you really want this job, a negative separation history will be an obstacle, but depending on the situation, it may not be impossible.
 
If Your Departure Was Amicable...

On the other hand, if you departed on a positive note, and you were considered an essential employee, you could very well be in luck.

Instead of explaining away your past with the organization, you can highlight how much you accomplished and enhance those qualifications with what you have done since leaving.

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4 Tips for Trying to Return

Keep these tips in mind whenever considering returning to a company you left:

1. Don't assume anything. Even if it hasn't been that long since you left, it's possible many things have changed in the interim. Rely on new data and insights, not on how things were when you last worked at the organization. Recognize that you'll need to reintroduce yourself and, in some case, re-prove your value and worth to some decision makers. Be prepare to make a case for your candidacy, just as you would if you were applying to a new organization.

2. Have a good story. Even if a lot of people who like you are on the hiring committee, don't take anything for granted. Be prepared to sell yourself and convince them you are best for the job.

Explain why the role interests you and be able to describe how committed you are to seeing the company through to its next success. No one expects you to promise to work there forever, but, especially if your tenure in the past was short-lived, be ready to make a verbal commitment to the organization.

3. Don't get cocky. Even if you are ideal for the job, keep in mind: when you return to a past organization, personalities can help and hurt you.

Just as there are people who likely still miss you, it is just as likely that those who didn't care for you are still influential. Ask the right questions and make a case for why you are the best candidate that will overcome those objections.
 
4. Make sure you aren't making a mistake. Remember why you left in the first place. Are you sure you want to go back?

Write up a list of pros and cons and recognize that returning is likely to be as challenging as taking a new job elsewhere. Make sure you go in with a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish and why.
 
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of several books, including Social Networking for Business Success.