There was a time when it was common to work for the same company for 10, 20, or even 30 years, making it extremely rare to have the same employer twice in one lifetime.
While the concept of boomeranging, or returning to a former employer, would be completely foreign in previous generations, the trend has grown significantly in recent years.
According to data compiled by Workopolis, the proportion of Canadians that have started a job at a company that they’ve previously worked for has more than doubled in the last 15 years. In 2015, 2.57% of Workopolis’ successful applicants, or more than one in 40 employees, boomeranged back to a former employer. By comparison, only 1% of those hired through the Workopolis platform were boomerang employees in the year 2000.
The data also found that the most common industry for boomerang employees is education, followed by healthcare, financial, retail, and government.
With boomeranging on the rise in Canada, here are five things to consider before returning to a former employer.
1) Think about ways you’ve improved in the interim
After discovering that the grass wasn’t as green on the other side you may find yourself gazing once again at the lawn you abandoned, but leaving is always easier than returning. Before you begin making a new plea to a former employer, consider the ways in which you’ve evolved, changed, or improved during the interim period.
“If there was a particular incident before, or if there was something that was constantly coming up as an area for development, be prepared to say what’s changed in that area,” suggested Cissy Pau, the principal consultant of Vancouver-based Clear HR Consulting. Pau adds that candidates can’t assume a former employer will welcome them back with open arms. Instead they need to be prepared to demonstrate how they’ve improved their skills during the time at a different company.
2) Be cautious of the conditions that caused you to leave in the first place
If your former employer now appears to have the greenest lawn in town, it’s important to be cautious that you’re not falling victim to a common fallacy, one which makes everything look more appealing from the outside. Before putting in an application with your former employer take the time to consider what caused you to leave in the first place, and the reasons you have to believe conditions have improved.
“When you’re considering coming back, a lot of folks will have those rose-coloured glasses on, thinking their experience was so great, so really take an inventory of why you left, if those reasons still exist today and if so, is it a deal breaker?” explained Meagan Lettau, a human capital manager in consulting at Deloitte, who boomeranged back to the consulting firm a year after leaving for another employer.
3) Don’t assume things will be the same
While those who had negative experiences with a former employer should seek to find reasons to believe the situation has improved, those who have nothing but positive memories may be setting themselves up for disappointment.
“Maybe the leadership has changed, maybe the culture has changed, maybe the office has moved,” said Pau. “You have to be a bit open and accepting that the situation may no longer be what it was.”
In other words, if you’re considering returning to a former employer, be sure that it’s a new opportunity that excites you, not a desire to relive the past.
4) Address lingering issues head on
The boomerang trend should be reason enough not to burn any bridges on your way out the door, but whether you left on good terms or bad, there are always lingering issues that need to be addressed before making that glorious return. After all, if things were perfect, you likely wouldn’t have left in the first place. While many issues are not insurmountable, most require some sense of closure before both parties are able to move forward.
“The big consideration is, what were the circumstances under which the employee left in the first place? That’s the one both sides need to consider,” said Pau. “If there were specific issues from before you should address those head on,” she added, suggesting that any lingering issues should be addressed during the interview process, and can be used by the employee as an opportunity to demonstrate how they’ve grown and improved.
5) Get yourself up to speed on what’s changed since you left
Whether you’re returning to a former employer after a few months apart or a few years, odds are things have changed since you left. Even if the employer is kind enough to move their old colleague’s resume to the top of the pile, the employee will still need to demonstrate a clear understanding of how the business has evolved since they left.
“A person early on in their career is a completely different person than when they’re mid career, and same with the company. A startup is a very different environment than a more established company,” said Pau, who believes that in the end, if you’re thinking of going back to a former employer, there’s one thing you absolutely need to do: your homework.