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Career Tips

Thinking of returning to a previous employer?

by Brought to you by ACS Career Navigator
February 5, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 5


An illustration of a person going through a doorframe.
Credit: Shutterstock

Are you a boomerang? Is it ever a good idea to return to an organization you used to work for? This career trajectory is becoming more common—and more acceptable to human resource professionals. Former workers are a known quantity (both their good and bad qualities). Those who are rehired are referred to as “boomerang employees.” If you are considering a boomerang move, here are some things you’ll want to think about.

Why did you leave? You did not make the decision to leave lightly. Were your reasons professional (such as wanting to grow your expertise in a different direction), personal (needing to take a step back to care for family or relocating to follow a partner, etc.), or did they have more to do with the company itself (poor management, lack of opportunity, a toxic corporate culture, etc.)? Carefully evaluate what has changed since you left, and make sure you won’t face the same issues that made you depart the first time—even if you would be going back to a different division.

How did you leave? Did you give sufficient notice, turn over all projects and files in an organized manner, and continue to speak well of your former employer? Did you offer to support ongoing or upcoming projects with advice or as a contractor? Did you maintain friendly relationships with your former supervisor and coworkers?

When did you leave? Have you been gone long enough to have expanded your professional expertise and make yourself a viable candidate for a higher position? Have you proved that you can handle bigger challenges? On the other hand, has it been so long that no one at the organization even remembers you? Have its culture and procedures changed significantly? Has time diminished your value as a returning employee?

Undoing the leave. What is the organization’s policy on rehires? Is it acceptable if you have a good recommendation from your previous supervisor, or is it prohibited so you shouldn’t bother trying? Most organizations have a “do not rehire” list (which hopefully does not include you) but very few have an official “want to rehire” list. Former coworkers can be valuable sources of insight about the current environment and what has changed—and how welcome you would be.

If you do decide to return, you could point out that you will have a shallower learning curve than a new hire and will bring a fresh perspective from your outside experiences. You will need to indicate that you are committed to the company for the long term. If it needs your know-how but is hesitant about full employment, consider exploring a consulting role.

It’s decision time. Returning to a familiar environment could be a great comfort, or you could be making the same mistake again. Take the time to consider all the reasons you left and why you want to return. Are you running to something good or just away from something bad? Once you have convinced yourself that going back truly is the best step forward for your career, use that same logic to convince the organization that it will be lucky to have you back.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Send your comments and ideas for topics for future columns to


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