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Should you really return to a former finance employer?

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It might make sense to return to a previous employer if they're offering you a raise and a better job title, but proceed with caution.

Sometimes a job really stinks. When given the chance, you leave and never look back. But if you work in finance, this is probably something you want to avoid – you never know when you might need to take a job at a former employer.

Take EY. The big four accounting firm told us recently that 30% of its experienced hires are former employees coming back into the fold.

The banking industry is similar, if less extreme. Ramon Baljé, a Netherlands-based managing director at Nomura worked for the firm for five years between 2006 and 2011 before leaving for J.P. Morgan and returning to Nomura in March 2014. Similarly, a few years ago Credit Suisse hired back traders Neilan Govender and Julien Eisenberger after brief stints at the hedge fund Brevan Howard.

Employees who return to jobs at firms they worked in previous are known as ‘boomerang employees’. Hiring them makes sense: they have a shorter learning curve and may require less training than someone new to the company. They’re also familiar with the corporate culture and have proven themselves in the past. In a tighter hiring environment, particularly for finance jobs that require specialized skills, a former employee who left on good terms may be especially attractive.

Should you really go back to a former employer?

If you left a job on good terms, then returning as a former employee can have upsides. The culture is familiar. You’ll have an easier transition learning company policies and procedures. If you left to further your education, skills or gain specialized training, then you may be able to land a higher-ranking position or advance more quickly when you return.

On the other hand, there are some risks associated with being a boomerang employee. 52% of the workers we surveyed said it’s unlikely that they would apply for a job with a former employer. They cited a distaste for management, the corporate culture and the job duties as the main reasons for being reluctant to return. In other words, it may be the devil you know, but it’s still a devil.

How to handle the return

Before you decide whether to re-approach a former employer, make sure the issues that prompted your initial departure have been addressed. If organizational structure, office politics or difficult personalities were an issue, have they been resolved? To what extent? In addition, you might need to reestablish relationships with colleagues who feel distrustful because you left while they stuck it out.. Let them know you’re interested in coming back and inquire about openings. Gauge their response – their reactions alone may help you determine how feasible it is to return.

When you formally reach out to your former manager or HR rep, highlight how you’ve grown professionally since you left. The advances you’ve made and the unique perspectives gained from your outside work experience could help you make the case that you’d be even more valuable the second time around.

Keep in mind that a previous employer will have one big question if they rehire you: Will this person stick around this time? Use your rehire interview and networking connections to let people know how committed you are to coming back.

How to hang on when you do go back

Don’t treat your second opportunity with a former employer like you’re just picking up where you left off. Embrace changes that have taken place while you were gone. Learn about how the company has evolved in its business approach.

Spend time establishing rapport with management. Most successful boomerang employees have stayed in touch with former managers and peers. If you’ve lost touch, spend time re-building those relationships once you’re back onboard.

Never blow your exit interview

When you’re ready to leave your current job – or your next one – keep in mind that you may want to return to the company at some point, so it’s good to leave on the best terms possible.

Don’t burn bridges on your way out by being aggressive or emotional. Provide adequate notice. Give constructive feedback and highlight what you liked about the job, as well as the things you feel need improvement. If you act professionally, then your boss and colleagues might serve as references down the road. You never know when you might cross paths with someone again and in what capacity.

Bill Driscoll is the New England district president of Robert Half. He serves as a national spokesperson for Accountemps and oversees professional staffing services for Robert Half’s 23 offices throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and portions of New York.

Photo credit: karenfoleyphotography/iStock/Thinkstock

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