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Considering Becoming a Boomerang Employee?

When returning to your ex-employer makes sense and when it doesn't


(This article previously appeared on Workcoachcafe.com.)

A boomerang employee is one who has left (usually quit) an organization to work somewhere else, or to drop out of the workforce for a while. Then, later, he or she returns to work for that employer again, like a boomerang returns to the person who threw it.

Why More Employers Want Boomerang Employees

In the past (pre-2000), the majority of employers had a never-rehire policy. Once you voluntarily left their employment, you couldn’t return. Done. Over. Never working there again. Today, many employers are reconsidering that policy, viewing it as a bit short-sighted and, perhaps, no longer realistic. Time and a tighter job market have combined with a better understanding of the benefit of having new employees who understand how things work.

Boomerang employees “hit the ground running” because they are familiar with the organization and how it works. These days, employers often actively recruit former employees through a “corporate alumni” group on LinkedIn or Facebook because of the obvious benefits in hiring someone who doesn’t need to be trained or in a job for several months before being effective.

If you didn’t like the way you were treated, check to see if things have changed for the better since you left.

Benefits of Being a Boomerang Employee

One colleague of mine recently was re-hired by a former employer, a place where he had worked five years earlier. He discovered they it a job open when a friend (a current employee) told him about the opportunity, which was a step above his previous job there.

My colleague was not particularly happy in his current job, so he sent his friend an updated version of his resumé. That friend passed his resumé on to the hiring manager. Within a month, he received a job offer from his former employer, which was essentially a promotion from his previous job with a nice increase in pay.

I’m sure that returning doesn’t always work out this well — a promotion and a pay increase. But this probably happens often enough to consider checking out a former employer, particularly if you have friends who still work there.

3 Questions to Answer Before Boomeranging

Before you jump at a job offer to boomerang, though, ask yourself these three questions to determine if you would be happy — or happier — working there now:

1. Did you enjoy working there before? If you didn’t, has the organization changed enough so you would be happy working there now? Large organizations, in particular, change very slowly unless new senior management has decided to shake things up.

If you didn’t like the way you and/or other employees were treated (or how customers/clients were treated), check to see if things have changed for the better since you left.

If nothing has changed, you probably won’t like things now unless you have changed your mind or your perspective.

2. Is the reason you left still valid? The most common reason people leave an employer is because they don’t like their boss. Perhaps the boss you hated is still there, and you would still be working with, or for, that person. If so, you might not want to relive the experience.

3. Would this employer be a good, or better, fit for you now? Some things may have changed since you worked there. Ask questions of any friends who still work at your former employer and also in job interviews to see how the organization currently works.

Look particularly into how the employer handles the things you didn’t like when you worked there before.

How to Become a Boomerang Employee

If you’ve decided you do want to try to boomerang, the first place to start for most professions is LinkedIn.

Begin by checking out your LinkedIn contacts using the “Advanced” people search: Are any current employees first-level contacts for you? Are any former employees first-level contacts?

Reach out to current employees to see what is going on, particularly related to the employee referral program, Also inquire about other changes since you left — new products or services, new organizational structure, new management, new locations, etc. Other questions to ask: Is it a better place for you to work than in the past? Is the employer interested in rehiring former employees?

Next, contact former employees who appear to have left recently to understand why they left. See if you can discover what  — if anything — is happening inside the organization that caused them to leave. Maybe they just received offers they couldn’t turn down. Or maybe a reorganization is happening because revenue or profits have dropped or increased.

Then, search for the employer’s name in the search box at the top of most LinkedIn pages.

Look for a “company page” near the top of the search results. If there is one, click on the links to see what information you can find. Look for “Groups” associated with the employer’s name, hopefully including “corporate alumni” (former employees) as well as current employers, products or services. Finally, look for “Jobs” links; they’ll go to current job postings on LinkedIn for that employer. Scan the jobs listed to see which jobs are being filled, and, in large organizations, which part of the organization is hiring. When you click on a job, you will see the description (or a link to it) and you will also see the people you are connected to on LinkedIn who still work there.

Collect information on the current (or recent) organizational atmosphere, direction, and success (or failures) before you consider returning.

The more you know, the more you’ll know whether boomerang is a good idea.

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Susan P. Joyce
By Susan P. Joyce
Susan P. Joyce is editor and chief writer at Job-hunt.org and and chief blogger at Workcoachcafe.com, websites devoted to helping job seekers find employment. She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management.@JobHuntOrg

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