Jobs

Can you go back to an employer you left years ago? And how?

A recent survey by staffing firm Spherion found that one-third of workers surveyed had gone back to a previous employer.

Spherion's study found a growing acceptance for "boomerang employees" in the workplace. (Jennifer S. Altman/The New York Times)

As long as you didn’t burn any bridges at your former workplace, you shouldn’t feel weird about returning to a previous employer.

In fact, being a “boomerang employee” — a worker who returns to a job after some time away — is becoming more common, a recent study by Spherion Staffing Services found.

Spherion’s online survey among 1,000 full- and part-time workers reports that nearly one-third of U.S. workers have boomeranged at least once in their career. An additional 41 percent of workers surveyed said they would be open to returning to a former employer.

Local career consultants said Spherion’s findings were unsurprising.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole, founder of consulting firm First Beacon Group LLC and a contributing writer for Boston.com’s Job Docs column, said she’s never seen a stigma attached to boomerang workers among her clients.

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“I think it’s a great practice if the person had sort of a successful run the first time,” Hunt Sinacole said. “They often know the culture, the competition, and a little bit more about expectations and how decisions are made, assuming they haven’t been gone for 45 years.”

Hunt Sinacole said many companies she works with actually prefer recruiting former employees.

“Often, my clients say,  ‘It takes so much time to get someone new up and running,'” Hunt Sinacole said. “Hiring boomerang employees shortens the orientation period.”

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Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at career management firm Keystone Partners, agreed, saying organizations have grown far more accepting of boomerang workers, provided they maintained a good relationship with their former employer. Varelas is also a contributing writer for Boston.com’s Job Docs column.

“The best thing you can do is leave well,” Varelas said. “Don’t bad-mouth an organization on your way out the door. Don’t throw your colleagues under the bus. Talk about the positive experiences you had in that place and talk about the things you want to gain in your new position.”

Even after you’ve left an employer, Varelas said you can continue cultivating a positive relationship by sending talent or business their way, if appropriate.

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“Do everything you can to support the business efforts and activities of the organization, and then you haven’t let anything negative fester between that relationship,” Varelas added.

Despite the rise in boomerang workers, some employees are firm about permanently closing the door on former employers.

One in three workers Spherion surveyed reported they would not consider going back to a previous company, deeming such a move either a “step back” in their career or considering the company culture a bad fit.

Still, with companies casting a wider net for talented workers, you might want to think twice before sending that scathing “goodbye” email, or tweeting out your dramatic exit from a job. As Hunt Sinacole pointed out, “Sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

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