Going back to your ex (employer)

Chances are you aren’t going to stay in the first company you work for, and for David Clare, now programme director at PR agency Hotwire, it was nearly four years after starting at Hotwire that he decided it was time to move on: “I began my career at Hotwire, in the digital team, and after nearly four years in the company I decided to go out into the world and explore the other opportunities."

In his time away, Clare worked at another PR agency and a digital health startup, where he did something completely different, project managing websites and apps. So what made him decide to move back to Hotwire? “After a few drinks at a PRCA event, some of my ex-colleagues had convinced me that coming back to Hotwire would be a good idea. I agreed, and re-joined one year after leaving, coming back as a programme director.”

Describing how working at other companies made him appreciate his ex-agency, Clare says: “When you leave a company you usually remember the bad things. But when you experience other companies, sometimes it highlights just how extraordinary the company you left was. This was my experience. Leaving reminded me of how great the work-life balance is at Hotwire and how supportive it is in helping you build out your passions, mine being digital health, an area we’re actively exploring."

“My advice is, if you want to leave a company, do it on good terms and never be afraid to come back – the grass isn’t always greener, so keep those bridges well built.”

Forwards not backwards

Tom Horn, now Account Director at PR agency Eulogy, also found that he particularly appreciated the agency after he left it, saying: “The prospect of returning to Eulogy was always alluring." However, Horn didn’t want to feel he was going backwards by returning: “In true form to my competitive and ambitious nature, the choice to return could never be ‘a step back’ to the comfortable embrace of an old friend. Rather, it was the opportunity to embrace new challenges and thrive professionally that brought me back – having a stronger hand in shaping the direction I want my career to take, alongside a high-calibre senior team that would both push and support me to realise this ambition. This was essential for me and I think should be for anyone considering returning to a former workplace. It can’t be a return to the same-old. It has to be an ambitious step that opens new opportunities and challenges. Anything less is of no benefit to you, or your employer.”

Horn says that Eulogy has a reputation for seeing people leave and then return (the current ‘returnee’ count sits at four) which is testament to how the agency must be doing something right. Horn explains: “I’m a believer that an agency’s performance is simply a reflection of its people – how passionate they are about their work, but also how much they enjoy it.”

Same, but different

Someone who took a sizeable break from an agency is Kate Gibson, now director at PR agency Cirkle, who was away from the agency for ten years. Gibson found that the key ethos of the place has remained constant even after such a long time: “Cirkle’s culture is the same as it’s always been which is why I feel so at home after just four months since I returned.”

However, there has been plenty of expansion, and Gibson is pleased to find how the agency has evolved: “Whilst still as ambitious and invested in its people as it always was, Cirkle is now entering the next chapter of its life. Looking around our new offices, it’s a pretty different picture for a second-timer. Not least because the team of just five people from my original Cirkle days has grown to 35, from diverse agency and in-house backgrounds including our MD, Ruth Allchurch, who worked as ex-head of brand PR for Diageo Western Europe. And 14 years on, not one can of spray mount in sight to remind me of the olden days."

“I left Cirkle as a senior account executive and have rejoined as a director in the consumer division, so it goes without saying that I have a very different perspective to the one I had back in 2001 when I was fresh out of uni looking for my first job in PR. I now have the opportunity to play a key role in Cirkle’s new phase of growth during a really pivotal time for the industry. It couldn’t be more exciting because there’s everything to play for.”