How to Become a Boomerang Employee

WorkCoachCafeA  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, they return to work for that employer again, like a boomerang returns to the person who threw it.

More than 2% of all employees (nearly 3 million people!) quit their jobs in August, 2016, according to the US Department of Labor. And, this number has been increasing for several years.

So, many of us have former employers we could work for again, if we wanted to…

The Rise of 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 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. Now, 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 in their jobs.

Benefits of Being a Boomerang Employee

A colleague recently was re-hired by a former employer, a place where he had worked 5 years earlier. He discovered they had 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 employed but not particularly happy in his job, so he sent his friend an updated version of his resume. That friend passed his resume 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. And, the friend who referred him may have received a nice bonus, too.

I’m sure that returning doesn’t always work out this well — a promotion and a pay increase with a bonus for the referring employee. But this probably happens often enough to consider checking out a former employer, particularly if you have friends who still work there. If you think you would be happy working there again, do look into it.

Things to Consider Before Boomeranging

Before you jump at a job offer to boomerang, carefully consider these issues to determine if you would be happy — or happier — working there now:

1. Did you enjoy working there? 

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

If you didn’t like they way you and/or other employees were treated (or how customers/clients were treated) in the past, check to see if things have actually 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, is that what you really want to do, again? Or, would you end up wanting to leave again too soon?

3. Would it be a good, or better, fit for you now?

Some things may have changed since you worked there, perhaps improved or perhaps not. Ask questions of any friends who still work there and also in job interviews to see how the organization works.

Learn if the organization has changed, particularly changed in how they handle the things that you didn’t like when you worked there before.

Be sure to understand if things have changed enough that you would enjoy working there now.

How to Become a Boomerang

The first place to start for most professions is LinkedIn.

1. Check 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. Is it a better place for you to work than in the past?

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 an offer they couldn’t turn down, or maybe a reorganization is happening because revenue or profits have dropped or increased.

2. Then, search on the company name in the search box at the top of most LinkedIn pages.

You’ll potentially find very useful information:

  • Look for a “company page” near the top of the search results. If there is one (or more), click on the links to see what information you can find.
  • Look for “Groups” associated with the employe name, hopefully including “corporate alumni” (former employees) as well as current employers, products or services, etc.
  • Lastly, look for “Jobs” links which will 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.

3. Reach out to friends who are still employees.

Employers favorite way to hire is the employee referral program (“ERP”), and that often still applies to to boomerang candidates. So, reach out to a current employee to see if that person, and ask them these questions:

  • Is the employer interested in re-hiring former employees?
  • Does the ERP apply to employees who refer former employees?
  • How happy are they to be employed by this company now?

Being referred by more than one employee can be an awkward situation, so it’s usually best to approach one person at a time rather than putting out a message inviting everyone to contact you.

More About Boomerang Employees

How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You

Referrals Close the Sale for a Successful Job Search

Express Lane to a New Job — Employee Referral

Finding a Job Without a Job Board


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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