You’ve probably heard the term “boomerang” used in recent years, most likely referring to adult children who move back home after college. But another type of boomeranging is also on the rise: employees who leave a job only to return to it years later.
Workplace boomeranging can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re laid off, but when lean times are over, your employer invites you to return. Or perhaps you just want to take time off to get a degree or travel the world. Jennifer Liou left her marketing job because she wanted to learn new skills, for example. She’d been working for a year and a half at consumer electronics company Belkin when she decided to leave. “I reached a point where I wanted expand my skill set to include creating web banners, photography assets, creative collateral, understanding target audience, communications and more,” she tells Mental Floss.
Liou moved to Hong Kong to work for a gaming company, where she learned an entirely new set of skills. Later, when her former boss offered her a new position back at Belkin, Liou decided to boomerang. “My original boss and I kept in touch the entire time from when I left Belkin,” she says. In fact, her boss even became a mentor. “She let me know that the marketing department had evolved and that I would continue to sharpen my skills and grow as a marketer.”
While it probably sounds like an ideal scenario, boomerangs should keep a number of factors in mind before swinging back to a job. “I’ve been on this side of rehiring people many times and I can say that two out of three people who are rehires will leave within the following year,” says Lindsay Mustain, a former talent acquisition professional and founder of Talent Paradigm. Most importantly, the company culture has to be welcoming to returning employees—which may explain why a company like Belkin, in particular, has so many boomerangs in its employment.
For their part, Belkin makes it a point to stay on good terms with workers when they leave, benefiting from their growth if they ever decide to come back. In a recent survey, 76 percent of human resources professionals say they’re more willing to accept boomerang employees now than in the past. “The other issue with boomerang is that most hiring managers don’t want to rehire once you’ve left because you’ve already decided to leave one time, so be sure if you choose to return that you know it can be just as hard as getting in the door as the first time,” Mustain adds.
“I entered the business quite young and had been at Belkin for a few years, stepping up from my original position into a newly created role,” Aniela Fleming, head of marketing at Belkin International, tells Mental Floss. “At the time, I felt it was important to broaden my experience and learn more about the inner workings at other organizations, and other industries.” After parting on good terms, the company later reached out to Fleming after she expanded her skill set and experience. They offered her a role in which she would lead their Australia and New Zealand marketing teams. “It’s hard to wonder ‘what if,’ and they are hard decisions for a reason,” Fleming says. “That said, I’m even happier that after growing professionally and personally, I was able to return to a company that I love and add even more value because of my new experiences.”
Aside from ensuring the company culture is conducive to boomerangs, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you’re thinking about returning to an old job—whether you’re about to quit, or you’ve been offered a new role.
UNDERSTAND WHY YOU’RE QUITTING
Take time to be introspective, suggests Liou. “Instead of quitting out of frustration, have a concrete reason for leaving.” That might mean you want to learn very specific skills, work in a different industry, or just go back to school to get a degree.
And if you have an issue with your current boss, for example, try to work it out even if you know you’re going to quit later. Years later, if you do decide to boomerang, that boss may not even be in the picture, and you’ll have maintained your ties with the company instead of being the angry employee who quit in a huff. “As a manager, I would want to understand what that reason was if an employee wanted to leave and would want to see if there is a way to resolve the issues,” Liou says.
When you return, it’s important to remember why you wanted to leave in the first place, too, Mustain adds. Was it an issue with your manager and has that manager now changed or been replaced? Was it policy and has the policy changed? Did it have to do with company culture, and has the culture adjusted enough for you to thrive in it now? “In order to be successful to reintegrate into the original job you need to do a deep dive into why you left in the first place,” Mustain suggests.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Of course, if you want to stay on top of new opportunities, it helps to keep in touch with employees and stay up-to-date on company changes. “Connect with all your previous contacts at the company and ask how other functions are doing. Ask how other managers are—do the homework—to help inform your decision in coming back,” Liou says. “Also know that there needs to be a fit between you and the company for the relationship to work.”
If and when you’re ready to return to a previous employer, reach out to any former managers or colleagues you’ve worked with. Ask for their feedback or advice for approaching the company as a boomerang.
BE PREPARED FOR CHANGES
It’s easy to come back to the company and expect everything to be the same. You might start to use the same approaches that worked in the past, only to discover that’s not how they’re doing things anymore. When you return, make sure to look at the opportunity with a fresh perspective, as you would starting any new job. And make sure to reassess the company culture, as it may have changed, too. During the interview, make sure to ask the same questions you would at any other interview. What does the company value? What are their goals? And what goals do they have in mind for your specific role?
“Culture fit and personality [are] as important between an employer-employee as [they are] in personal relationships, and connecting and embracing a company’s ambitions and aligning them with your own career goals isn’t something that happens as often as you might think—I got lucky,” Fleming says. “If you have this with a former employer, and you still believe you can continue to grow and be challenged in your career, then this is a wonderful opportunity I would always recommend."