Back to the Future of Your Career: Advice for Potential Boomerang Employees

September 30, 2016

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Boomerang employees are becoming a trend in the workplace. They’re people who leave a company, work somewhere else for a while, and then come back. Think Michael Jordan who left the Chicago Bulls to try his hand at baseball and then ultimately came back and took the Bulls to three more NBA championships. This is becoming more common because professionals are changing jobs more often. Over the last 20 years, the number of companies people worked for in the first five years after they graduated has nearly doubled, according to a recent LinkedIn study.

As a boomerang myself (I joined LinkedIn in 2011, left in 2014 and came back in 2015), I understand the fear that boomeranging may be seen as a regression or a return to a previous stage of your career, but in many ways it's not.

Through my experience, I found that it helps to step back and consider a boomerang opportunity using the same rubric you would apply to any other job opportunity. Given that you have already worked at the company, boomeranging gives you specific insight that other employees typically don't have. With that in mind, here are four questions to answer when deciding if you should boomerang back.

1. Will the new opportunity advance your career?

Assuming professional growth is one of your priorities, you don’t want to go back to the same role, doing the same work. However, if the company has grown while you were away, this is less of a concern. The business has grown, the people have changed, and the teams are facing new challenges.

2. Are your prior concerns a thing of the past?

No matter how great the new opportunity is, there were a set of frustrations that made you decide to leave in the first place. Before coming back, you need to ensure that they have been mitigated, either by changes in the company, or changes in your perspective.

3. What was your previous experience with the company?

You have a concentration of assets on which you can draw from to be successful, namely your professional network and reputation within the organization, as well as new knowledge of the company's technology, business, and operating processes. These represent significant advantages that you can use to grow your career.

4. Who are your connections at the organization?  

When thinking of boomeranging, the level of uncertainty is much lower, for both the company and the candidate. As a candidate, you know the good and the bad about the company. You also have a network of people who are still at the company who can give you an honest assessment of the current environment. You may already have a relationship with the hiring manager, mitigating some of the risks associated with joining a new company.

When I was considering returning to LinkedIn, I looked at my options through this analysis. LinkedIn won hands-down on culture, leadership alignment, and professional growth. Deciding to come back felt like coming home mixed with a sense of accelerated positive change. I’ve now been back at LinkedIn for almost a year, and I’ve learned just as much as any other period in my career.

One of LinkedIn’s core values is Relationships Matter, and when you are thinking of boomeranging back to your previous company, relationships definitely matter. Just because you left a company, doesn’t mean you can never come back. It is important to keep in touch with your previous colleagues through all aspects of your career journey, whether that journey takes you back to a company or to other opportunities.

All in all, my biggest piece of advice is to check your bias at the door. You're not taking a step back in your career if you boomerang, on the contrary, you might find yourself growing in ways you hadn't even imagined.

I’m very thankful to everyone at LinkedIn: Peers, mentors, friends, and managers who helped me overcome any hesitations I had about coming back. Boomeranging to LinkedIn has been an amazing experience, and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to think about doing the same.