Navigating Your Way Back: The Best Way to Return to a Previous Job

Navigating Your Way Back: The Best Way to Return to a Previous Job

Workplace Trends’ Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study discovered that 15% of workers have gone back to previous employers, and a further 40% reported that they would consider returning to a former workplace as well. 

These workers are known as “boomerang employees”, and often leave on good terms for reasons such as starting a family, health, caretaking, or seeking professional growth opportunities elsewhere. Boomerang employees are also an incredible investment for companies expanding their talent pool.

Benefits of Returning to a Previous Job

Returning to a previous employer offers up a fresh start, often with some new faces mixed in with the old. Rehires are, in many ways, the ideal hires. Boomerang employees bring with them a valuable blend of institutional knowledge and experiences and insights gleaned from other opportunities. This puts them at an obvious advantage when applying to either fill their old position or take on a brand new one at a previous company. 

Other benefits of going back to a former employer often include the following:

  • Higher salary: Returning employees know that they offer a unique perspective and that they deserve to be compensated accordingly. Even if they’re coming back to their exact same position as before, they do so with new ideas to refresh and revitalize business processes. 
  • Smaller learning curve: Some aspects of the company may have changed while the boomerang employee pursued other opportunities, but in general most of the core operations, culture, and goals will remain the same. Returning workers may still encounter a learning curve, though the severity will likely be greatly diminished.
  • Improved coworker relationships: Hitting the reset button when going back to work for a previous employer also changes up coworker relationship dynamics, especially if the returning worker now occupies a management position. This is a good thing, however, as it opens up the chance for all parties to deepen positive associations and repair any relationships between coworkers on shaky terms. 
  • Appreciate growth: Many employees who eventually boomerang back to a company do so during periods when growth is stifled or otherwise impeded, choosing instead to pursue opportunities with more chances to expand skill sets and explore other professional interests. Returning to a previous employer provides some healthy perspective on the positive trajectory taken during time away and a greater appreciation for all the positive changes made and positive changes to come.
  • Establish new habits: A fresh start makes it easier to develop healthier work routines than before. The familiar environment may encourage backsliding into less-than-satisfactory habits, but this is a chance to build something newer, better, and stronger. 

Understanding what benefits boomerang employees bring to the table is empowering. It can still be a little intimidating to return to an old job, however, even with history and familiarity. Knowing what to do when you’re rehired ahead of time helps calm some of the nerves regarding returning. 

Preparing for Your First Day Back

Going back to a former employer comes with a different set of anxieties than the ones that occur when beginning a brand new job at a brand new company. Many boomeranging employees face a heightened sense of needing to constantly justify their reappearance. Others may fear more scrutiny from coworkers and management. These are all very normal feelings. Invest some time before the official start date to create a game plan. 

Consider taking the following steps before the first day back:

  • Remember all the benefits to being a boomerang employee.
  • Reach out to any friendly employees from the “old days” for insight into what to expect. Or just reach out and say hello with well-wishes for the incoming “new days”.
  • List out goals and start thinking about possible paths toward growth provided by this new opportunity.
  • List out the most valuable skills gained while away and contemplate how to implement them in the new role.
  • Take note of any supplies or resources needed to make the onboarding process run smoother.
  • Find some personal ways to instill positivity, be it meditation, exercise, time with friends, or relaxing with a hobby. A strong, professional, and upbeat attitude will help mitigate some of the first-day nerves.

Investing some time in getting prepared before returning to a previous job should make coming back a much smoother undertaking than jumping in without a plan. Boomerang employees are, after all, a net asset to a company. There’s a lot of confidence to be found in knowing one’s value.

Making a Positive, Fresh Start

Most companies won’t rehire an employee who burned bridges on the way out. Nearly every worker returning to an old employer is already starting off coming back to work on good terms. Opening up opportunities for boomerang employees already shows a high degree of trust and confidence in the returning worker. 

Returning employees still want to make a good impression, however, and show management that their faith is well-placed. A restart is the ideal time to exceed expectations with a positive, professional attitude. Going into day one prepared with ideas, experiences, and insights gleaned from the time away makes employees feel confident and employers know they made the right decision. 

Other ways to make the return a positive situation for everyone involved include the following:

  • Dressing and behaving professionally, even in more casual environments. Let more laid-back cultures exert their influence over time rather than jumping straight back into the fantasy football games and Pajama Fridays. 
  • Don’t badmouth previous employers or employees who have since left the company. It will make management wonder if the returning worker ever spoke ill of them during the time apart. 
  • Don’t get involved in irrelevant matters or interpersonal office drama. Please note that the word “drama” here does not include situations involving harmful behaviors where HR needs notification.  
  • Being active in meetings and actively listening to everyone’s input, even outside of a managerial position. Take a creative problem-solving approach to ensure everyone on the team feels like their contributions are fairly considered and valued.
  • Being courteous to employees who may show some skepticism regarding the return. Disengage when things get too negative, as this could cause management to be skeptical as well. 
  • Volunteering to help with projects in a way that doesn’t lead to overburdening or burnout. 
  • Being proud without being prideful. Self-confidence tempered with humility often leads to others’ confidence as well.
  • Being eager to learn and adapt to any new changes encountered rather than trying to force things back to the old ways.

A positive, professional, and open demeanor makes settling back into a previous company after time away run a lot smoother. It may require facing some awkward questions from coworkers familiar and unfamiliar, but there are ways to answer them with grace. 

Getting Reacquainted at Work

Peer relationships are everything in the workplace. Returning to a previous job may raise some mixed feelings among coworkers, and boomerang employees need to know how to navigate these situations with the utmost professionalism.

Some coworkers may inquire, “Where’d you go?” or “What happened?” It’s best to answer with positivity, like appreciation for learning some new skill sets, gratitude for renewed good health, or the opportunity to start a family. Keep any negative feelings from the previous stint private. It is also perfectly acceptable to request privacy in the event the leave of absence was for painful reasons, such as caretaking for a now-deceased loved one. Coworkers are not owed details that their peers are not comfortable sharing, even if they ask sincerely. 

Boomerang employees going back to a former employer may also encounter coworkers wondering why they didn’t receive promotions or raises while a new employee from “outside” did. Staying out of these conversations at all costs is the only proper response. Any peers with misgivings should speak with management or HR about their concerns rather than the returning coworker. Engaging with them on the topic may escalate the situation and lead management to second-guess bringing back a former employee. 

In general, avoid anything that may etch the new blank slate with anything negative. Make the most of the fresh start by adopting healthy, positive, and professional outlooks and habits. Setting boundaries and stepping away from any unnecessary conflict both speeds up the reacquaintance process and sets the foundation for a gratifying experience moving forward. 


Boomerang employees may face several challenges when returning to a previous employer, but they come back with unique insights and experiences to help their employers grow even further. Knowing how to go back to an old job and prepare for the possibilities empowers workers to find their confidence, understand their worth, and keep their professional journeys on the right track. 

KnowledgeCity courses such as Useful Tips for Making a Great First Impression (applicable even for a second impression!) and Interpersonal Skills and Empathy are available to help you literally get back to business. We’re here to help you recognize the value you bring to your workplace, no matter how long you were away.

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