The Great Return of the ‘Boomerang’ Employee

boomerang employee trend cat

The pandemic has thrown quite a few curveballs at the workforce (the sheer number of women experiencing job loss or quitting voluntarily, for example). But what about folks who leave and then…come back? Welcome to the ‘boomerang’ employee, 2021’s newest, in some ways most predictable, career trend. Here’s everything you need to know.

First, what is a ‘boomerang’ employee?

A boomerang employee is someone who had to leave their job during the pandemic due to circumstances beyond their control, and are now looking to get their old job back. (For reference, nearly 20 million voluntary resignations were handed in between April and August of 2021 alone.)

Why are people doing this?

When the pandemic hit, the Great Resignation—which is still a thing, by the way—led many to quit their jobs and take several months “off” to recharge and recalibrate. But now, hiring managers are seeing an uptick in former employees reaching back out, once they're in a place to begin working again and have come to realize their old jobs weren't so bad after all. Or, maybe it's that they feel they're in a better place to negotiate for salary or perks they wished they'd ask for originally. Research out of Cornell University both corroborates the trend and illuminates the benefits of the boomerang rehire--namely, the fact that returnees are almost always higher performers than their peers.

What's the best way to ask for your old job back?

According to Andres Lares, managing partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute, start by considering who you have to approach first—is it your boss? HR? If it’s a hiring manager you don’t know personally, you may want to think about looping in an internal reference, Lares advises.

To make your pitch, there are three additional things to keep in mind, he says:

1. Script your argument ahead of time. Don’t wing it, and instead map out your argument in advance, says Lares. “This could range from words or phrases to make sure you bring up or avoid, to scripting out different scenarios to see how you will respond,” he explains. It’s also worth having a list of questions at the ready. (What is the team currently working on? Have there been any changes to the organizational structure? Are the top clients the same as they were last year?)

2. Consider the reasons they may not want you back. Empathy is critical here, Andres explains. There are many pros to rehiring former employees, including saving time and money on recruiting and onboarding or time spent socializing a new hire into a company’s culture. But the pattern of leaving and rejoining can be seen as a red flag, and you’ll want to stave off any fears that you’re fickle, or likely to leave again. In your resumé, cover letter and any verbal conversations, Andres recommends keeping the focus on your strengths and impeccable work ethic.

3. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. A return to the office goes hand in hand with conversations about pay and benefits. Per Andres, boomerang employees may actually have an upper hand here. “They can use their existing knowledge of the company and their last offer as leverage,” he says, or negotiate better perks or work structures. For example, to return as a part-time or contract employee; more flexible or remote work hours; a new job title, etc.

All in all, the trend of picking up where you left off, professionally speaking, can be a smart choice for many looking to reenter the workforce.

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Rachel Bowie

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...
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