Thinking About Becoming a Boomerang Employee? What You Should Know About Returning to a Role You Left

Smiling black and white coworkers looking at camera in the office.
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As part of the workforce climate that resulted from the pandemic, many employees joined in the Great Resignation and quit their jobs to pursue other opportunities. Now, a couple years later, many of those who left in search of greener pastures want to return to their former employers — hence the rise of “boomerang employees.”

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A boomerang employee is a person who returns to work at a company that he or she previously left. While both employer and former employee can benefit from a rehire, it’s important to tread carefully. Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about returning to a role you once quit.

How To Share What You Learned With Your Team

“Boomerang employees often pick up new skills and information, which they can bring to the company,” said Jim Sullivan, HR professional, CEO and founder of lead recruiting agency JCSI. “They can share their knowledge if it is pertinent to the business or employees which might help to improve certain aspects of work.”

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Maria Flores, chief operating officer of MediaPeanut agrees that boomerang employees might have valuable information to share.

“Whenever we have a returning employee, we often check on their latest portfolio to see what they have gained and learned while working for other firms,” said Flores. “This way we get to ask them if they are willing to share best practices and train other employees of skills they have picked up from other companies that might be useful in our operations.”

Here are some expert suggestions on how to share what you’ve learned with your team:

Consult With Management Before Sharing

“You should always bring these ideas up to management to see what their thoughts are,” advised Sullivan. “You should never choose to implement things you have learned without asking first. If you also have acquired a new skill while being away, you should mention how this might be able to help the company.”

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Use Anecdotes

“While integrating themselves back into a team with people they already know (or new hires), I find this is best done anecdotally or informally,” said Stephanie Perez, associate director and internal talent specialist at The Bachrach Group. “An employee doesn’t want to come off as a know-it-all, but I find that by anecdotally using stories or situational examples, they’re able to pass on some knowledge without it coming off condescending.”

Focus on the Skill or Strategy

“Keep the focus on the strategy, policy, or knowledge you’re sharing, not the company where you learned it,” said said Michael Moran, owner of Green Lion Search Group. “You don’t want to be that coworker who starts every sentence name-dropping a previous employer — this can get obnoxious, and prevent people from seeing the full value of your suggestion.”

How Your Employer Can Help You Reintegrate 

While you may have valuable experience to share with your former employer and team, you’ll also need to be open to learning about what you’ve missed while you were gone. Here’s expert advice on how your employer can help you get back into the swing of things:

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Require a Full Orientation

“Start by giving them a full orientation, even if they don’t need any more training in the skill sets or processes of the role,” said Moran. “This gives the rehire a refresher on your specific policies, rules, and expectations, as well as ensuring they’re caught up on any changes that have happened in their absence.”

Arrange Weekly Reintegration Sessions With Coworkers

“Companies can pull together small teams from each division/department to welcome boomerangs back,” said Kathleen Quinn Votaw CEO of TalenTrust, author and speaker. “Conduct weekly sessions at first focused on what happened while you were gone in each department. Start with the people and who changed positions; then review any systems and processes that changed during their time away. After the first month, these sessions can be reduced to monthly or quarterly. Also, assigning a ‘reentry’ mentor is a great way to help boomerangs re-assimilate.”

Require Meetings With the Direct Manager During the First Few Months 

“I would also recommend having the direct manager set up one-on-ones to touch base in their early months of re-employment,” said Moran. “Have the first meeting immediately after orientation to address any follow-up questions they have, then have another a few weeks later to check up on how they’re settling in. This second meeting is also a great opportunity for the manager to ask for feedback from the employee and get their insights on what was done better at other places they’ve worked.”

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Tips for Gracefully Returning to a Former Employer

As with any major employment move, there are ways to go about it that will make the transition smoother. Here is some additional expert advice:

Maintain a Positive Relationship

If you’re thinking about returning but haven’t approached it with your former employer yet, Sullivan offered this advice. 

“Always keeping in contact with former employers and not burning bridges is a major factor when thinking about returning to your previous workplace,” said Sullivan. “This will not only help you to ease back in, but will also make it easier for employers to remember who you were, which increases your chances of being rehired.

Share How You’ve Improved Without Glorifying Another Employer

“When being rehired it is also best to simply highlight the assets you have acquired while being away,” said Sullivan. “You do not want to speak more highly of the other workplace as it might come across as you preferring it. Although you can talk about it positively, you don’t want to make comments that could reflect negatively on the place in which you are trying to reenter.”

Keep an Open Mind

Laura Barker, a career coach and owner of Laura Barker Coaching, had this advice to offer to make a smooth return to a former workplace.  

“Regarding the act of returning to work at a former employer, my advice is to stay open-minded,” said Barker. “Don’t assume things are the same because they’re not. Systems, processes and people change. Accept that graciously and you will be successful in your new role at your old company.”

Be Self-aware

“Boomerang employees need to bring a good dose of self-awareness when returning to their former employer,” said Jordan Fabel, founder of Approved Course. “It would be arrogant and naive to think that your experience away is going to revolutionize your former workplace. At the same time, there may be truly valuable lessons and ideas that you can share with your colleagues, on both micro and macro levels. Ensuring you find a balance between these two perspectives is essential for a graceful return.”

Treat the Position as if You Were a New Hire

“Approach the position as if it’s a completely new job, even if you’re working at the same level of the hierarchy as during your previous employment,” said Moran. “Put the same effort into establishing relationships with coworkers and managers; don’t simply fall back on workplace friendships you had during your first round. Similarly, follow the workplace rules and standards, and don’t expect to be given special leeway or consideration based on previous seniority.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 15 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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