Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Working with your ex-boss

With the industry maturing, everyone realizes the world is fairly well connected. There are lots of people you have worked in the past whom you meet in newer settings. One standard request I hear from people is their ex-boss has set up a new office and asking them to join. Everyone in life has gone through these requests several times in life but how does one judge the right opportunity from the other ones. Here are some of the characteristics of relationships one should assess before jumping on to taking decision.

Excitement of Being Important

Some people may feel excited that their ex-boss thinks them as very important person hence you are being considered for the new job. Some cases this may be true but probably not all that true if you know how to discuss or judge your ex-boss. Here are some of specific pointers to know before getting all excited about these opportunities.
  1. Know your strengths vs.  weaknesses - Although, most people get hired by their strengths some by their weaknesses as well. Interestingly, when people have some natural strengths in certain areas in most discussions their knowledge in that area gets exploited and you are put in the silos of being the person good in those departments only. Thus you do not get to expand the role where you will like to explore for yourself. In your discussion be careful if you are being exploited in a discussion on those. If you are good in technology and management skills the interviewer may focus only in technology discussion so that she can convince in you believing that you are only suited for a technologist as a career.
  2. Look at the inner circle hiring - Look carefully at the people who have been hired by your ex-boss. Are they the same set of people who have been hired by him earlier? Do you have a similar relationship as they have with him? If not there is no need for you to feel very important. You are the cheapest search cost employee for him.
  3. Career Level Movement of yours vs. your ex-boss - Another important factor to know is the career levels you have made vs. your manager has got in his career. In terms of a non-standard metric it's likely that both of you may have been through a different level of career movement based on how you have transitioned. Be aware of all those before you meet for the discussion.
  4. Be respectful but deterministic with a viewpoint - Have a viewpoint on all your career decision. Many people feel they did not want to make their ex-boss unhappy and respect the relationship and in doing so felt in the receiving end of the discussion.
Interviewing your ex-Boss

Your ex-boss is not your boss yet. Hence you need to know that you have every right to evaluate him as much as he is evaluating you only being a bit discrete. Here are some of the tips of interviewing your boss.

  1. Listen carefully - One of the standard discussions in life when you talk to someone who is at high places is there will be a reference to times when you left him and how the world had changed after your left and how the whole of the company reached moon. Just validate those with what you have read or known about the company from the press. Even if your ex-boss says we did great when you know the company balance sheet shows otherwise then there is little to believe. There is definite point in his justifying your come back but at the same time it's important to know how matured the discussion is.
  2. Let him speak on cause of your departure - Most manager will impress upon their employees on their cause of departure no more is relevant. But assess the cause with the real reason of departure. Put forth your real reason of departure and assess his understanding (acceptance and rejection of the cause).
  3. Appreciate a person or situation which he may not be agreement with - This is more like a viewpoint sharing session where you put forth your thoughts and try to see how much of value your ex-boss is giving to your understanding. And how is he deviating or reasonably justifying his negative viewpoint.
All these can give you a fair idea of his understanding of you as a person and your viewpoints. In no appraisal can you get direct feedback that can give you such insight. Most importantly be respectful, draw your limits and boundaries and deal at arms length.

Roles and Responsibility

It may have been sometime since you have interacted with your ex-boss. Your organization skills, dealings and organizational learning may have changed substantially over the period of time. Be focused in understanding if he is valuing those additional acquired skills. Observe of he is hiring you or a person of same years of experience as you have for a function you are undertaking. If it's the second kind there is definitely no value pursuing further considering your current role covers most of it. Unless your ex-boss sees more in you than your current role it's probably not worth pursuing further.

More over when you hire a person you know you are hiring for 1.5 persons. One for the role he is hired for and half of the role he had executed earlier of value. But if you are getting hired only for your current experience there is definitely nothing unique your ex-boss is looking beyond regular transactional work. When you are sure you are not getting evaluated for the person but for a specific role there are aspects which you can discuss that definitely can make you radically different than their mindset. After all you will like to be remembered as a person who is good but radically different that does no harm to your overall person.