'Be cognizant of why you left': Tips for boomerang workers who want to get an old job back

"Practice in front of the mirror and get any emotional responses out of your system."


Younger workers were known for not sticking around at one workplace for too long. With the added stress and burnout from the pandemic, more and more Americans of all ages are deciding to leave their jobs this fall. A record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September alone as part of The Great Resignation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

That's an increase of roughly 164,000 employees who left their companies in August.

Though many people are rage quitting, some other workers who left either during or before the pandemic already want their old jobs back. Those who get rehired and who are returning to their ex-employer after some time away are being called "boomerang workers."

Here's how to approach an old employer if you're ready to try again.

Get ready for an honest conversation

It could actually be mutually beneficial to return to an old gig, experts say. Boomerang workers may need less time and resources to get up to speed. Plus they add a familiar face to the staff.

You must open the lines of communication with your old boss or human resources department if you're looking to return, though. Be ready to discuss why you left, and why you want back in.

While there's no definitive timeline to wait to ask to return to your old job, says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi, you'll want to stay in touch and keep a good rapport so they don't forget you. An email or phone call could give them a heads-up that you're interested in potentially coming back.

Be humble when talking about what happened, she explains: "You can say something like, 'The grass isn't always greener … and I think I made a mistake.' There is not necessarily a template for this, so convey something authentic and communicate why you are interested in returning."

If you left because of a specific issue, focus on how to remedy the problem rather than pointing a finger. "You're going to want to practice in front of the mirror and get any emotional responses out of your system," Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs, previously told Grow. "The key is to come up with an answer that doesn't place blame on anyone. Rather than badmouthing your manager, talk about the kind of manager you thrive under."

Keep the focus of the conversation on how your return could be great for your ex-employer, experts advise. Talk about how your knowledge of the company, as well as any skill you picked up during your absence, can allow you to get back up to speed and hit the ground running.

'Identify why you left to see if you truly want to come back'

There were 10.4 million open jobs in September, according to the BLS, so many workers aren't short of options. Rejoining a company you left may seem like a more comfortable experience than joining a brand new one, but you want to make sure you are coming back for the right reasons and are ready to stick things out.

"Be cognizant why you left in the first place so you don't return with rose-colored glasses," Salemi says. "Did they pay you properly, value you, recognize you, support, and advance your career? Was it toxic or healthy? Identify why you left to see if you truly want to come back."

If you realize you made a mistake, remember that "you're human," she adds. Talk to your boss about your concern: "You won't know if a return is possible unless you start the conversation."

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Video by Courtney Stith

When quitting, 'don't burn your bridges'

There's no shortage of stories about retail employees quitting over the store's intercom or in other showy ways. It's important to stay professional when you resign if there's a chance you may come back, though, says Salemi.

"Leave on good terms and don't burn your bridges," she says. "Stay polite and professional when you give your two weeks' notice, and don't negatively badmouth your boss, your job, the employer. Thank your boss and colleagues for the skills and experiences you gained there."

One thing to remember, she adds, is that "your reputation will follow you after you're gone."

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