Should You Consider Going Back to an Old Job?
Known as boomeranging, returning to a former employer isn't necessarily a step backward.
Let’s say you leave your company for one reason or another—maybe you’re starting your own business or maybe you got a job elsewhere. But, unfortunately, things don’t turn out as you’d hoped and you want to reverse course. Is going back to an old job actually possible and, more important, wise?
Referred to in the workplace as boomeranging, this type of career move is not generally a planned activity. But if you've left a former employer with a good impression and without burning bridges, it's worth some consideration if you're in the job market again.
Could You Be a Boomeranger?
Think about going back to an old job if you spent at least five years on good terms with your previous company and left for any of these reasons:
- family matters: birth, bereavement leave, or extended illness in the immediate family
- relocation/spousal transfer, etc.
- return to school
- opportunity for professional advancement or to learn new skills that could help you advance your career
- career break or sabbatical leave
If you left on negative terms or had an overall unpleasant experience during your tenure with the company, the only reason you might consider boomeranging is to land a survival job.
In the wake of the Great Recession of 2021, some experts predicted that many employees who walked away from their jobs will eventually boomerang. But these experts urged potential boomerangers to take a hard look at the reasons they left their jobs in the first place. In short: What, if anything, has changed that will make your experience in your old job better than it was previously?
To help ensure boomeranging is the right step for you to take, make a list of things you disliked about the company before. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do those problems or personnel still exist?
- Will a position with the employer help you return to your career path, or put you on a new one you want?
- Can you expect to add to your knowledge and skills or apply those you learned while you were away?
Before You Boomerang…
If you can check all the boxes that give you a green light to boomerang, there are a few additional steps you should take before firmly committing to pursue your old job.
Do Your Homework
Research your former employer as though you had no history. Things will no doubt have changed in your absence, and there may have been turnover or organizational restructuring. If you are going to approach the company, make sure you are informed about its current situation and goals.
Test the Waters
It’ll be easier to re-join your old company if someone else has already successfully made this return trip. Find out if others have boomeranged to your old employer, and talk to them about their experiences. If you respect and can trust your former supervisor (or another manager), call them or email them directly and share your thoughts about returning.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Going Back to an Old Job
Pro: You know what to do. Many companies concerned about cost containment and increasing global competition now opt for a workforce with a shorter learning curve. And who has a shorter learning curve than someone who previously worked for the company?
Con: You might not get back what you had. While employers may be interested in rehiring experienced candidates, they may do so without reinstating former benefit status. The prospect of returning to your former company as a contract worker is one possible downside.
Pro: You can skip the awkward new-kid phase. In addition to knowing how to do your job, you’ll also be returning to a familiar company culture and you’ll likely also have a handful of coworkers who are glad to see you back in the saddle.
Con: Not everyone will rejoice at your return. While loyalty can certainly be overrated, be prepared to face resentment from coworkers who saw your prior exit as a slight, and it could take a while to re-establish trust.
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