Boomeranging: Going Back to an Old Employer

It may feel like an old shoe, but you have to be open to what is new.

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Just because you leave a company doesn't necessarily mean your past employers have triple-locked the doors and tossed away the keys. After all, businesses often benefit when talented former employees return. Some companies are even using corporate alumni networks to stay connected with those who have left.

Jay Hargis, managing partner of the human-resources consulting firm Talent Insight Group, spoke with U.S. News about what's known as boomeranging. Excerpts:

What advice do you have for people who are leaving a job but might consider going back?
The No. 1 rule is don't burn any bridges. You need to set up boomeranging before you ever quit. That means you complete every project on your plate; you take the time to transition all your work; you document everything you're working on. You let everybody at the company know how much you liked working there and really don't say anything bad in your exit interview.

What incentives do companies have for rehiring a valued employee?
There are huge benefits. What they get back is an employee who knows the drill, understands the culture, who already has relationships within the culture. You can get up to speed in a third of the time when you return to an organization, and a lot of times you return at a higher level because you've picked up new skills since you've been away. And I think one of the biggest benefits is you're a known entity.

Does boomeranging look good or bad on a résumé?
Neither. I would say 15 years ago it would have been frowned upon, but as the labor market tightened up and as companies are having good experiences with boomeranging, it's really become a nonissue.

What challenges might boomerang employees face?
For some strange reason, when a person leaves a company and then comes back years later, it is like time stopped in the minds of the former coworkers. They are often surprised that the person has come back at a higher level and higher rate of pay because they forget that the person has developed new skills and all sorts of development happened to them while they were away.

And the employee needs to understand not everything's the same since they left. The company has moved on, and there are going to be new people, new systems, new processes, things that have improved and things that have declined. You don't want to get into "This is how we did it five years ago." You have to have an open mind.