In March 1989 John Goranowski left his job as an account underwriter at Baltimore's Monumental General Insurance Co. to take a new job at a company in Rockville. He'd gotten a juicy offer from Banner Life Insurance Co. to work as a computer programmer.
Eleven months later, he was back at Monumental General.
Mr. Goranowski, a Columbia resident, found that the hourlong commute to and from Rockville left less time to spend with his family. The ensuing stress wasn't worth the extra money.
"Basically, I knew after four or five months [at Banner] that I
wanted to go back," he says. "I approached my old boss then, but there weren't any openings. A few months later, a position opened up, so I came back."
Returning to a former job is of ten regarded as a poor career move. It doesn't enhance a resume, especially if you leave a position with more responsibilities and return to one with fewer.
Sometimes, though, going back can be a prudent decision. It often boils down to a question of lifestyle rather than resume-building.
"If an employee isn't comfortable at a job and would feel better somewhere else or back at his old job, then of course he should try to go back," says Lee Richmond, a Baltimore career counselor who is a professor of education at Loyola College.
"People feel like they have to make decisions for all time, or else the world will fall in. But no decision has to be for all time."
Companies often are willing to rehire former employees, particularly if an opening exists and if the employee left on friendly terms, Dr. Richmond says. By rehiring, companies may save training costs and gain the security of working with a known quantity.
Before approaching an old boss about returning to a job, carefully evaluate your present situation to see if you can find ways to make it work, says Robin Rudd, a Bethesda psychologist and career counselor. If it's a question of anxiety over the unfamiliar, time may remedy the problem.
Also consider what aspects of the former job made you leave, and decide whether you can tolerate them now.
To deal with that issue, consider ways to turn around the negative aspects of the job. Dr. Rudd recalls the woman who left a computer company to work for a consulting firm, mainly because she was bothered by the lack of mentoring and feedback at her original job. When the recession hit, she couldn't earn commissions as a consultant. She returned to the computer company -- after working with Dr. Rudd on ways to seek out colleagues who could provide the support and supervision she needed.
Any career move should help your achieve your ultimate career goals, says Ralph Raphael, a Baltimore career counselor and psychologist. If returning to a job can't help you meet those goals, you'll feel frustrated once you're back.
Returning to a position with less responsibility can also hurt your chances for advancement.
Still, one flip-flop probably won't cause permanent damage to your record, as long as you can offer a reasonable explanation.
Once you're ready to return, talk to some former colleagues at the company about your thoughts. You can gauge the company's present situation and judge how your approach will be received.
If the feedback is positive, set up a meeting with your old boss to discuss the possibility of returning. During that meeting, be prepared to speak about what your expectations were when you left, what the outcome was, and why you want to come back.
"The employer is going to want to know that it's a deliberate decision, not an impulsive one," Dr. Rudd says.
This meeting is a good time to explore options for expanding a job's responsibilities, if that's something you're interested in.
Often, you won't have to undergo the awkward process of approaching a former employer. Two and a half years after Paul Gulotta left the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center to join Martin Marietta Corp., the government contacted him about returning to his old job.
Mr. Gulotta, an operations research analyst, was open to the idea. "I had never really felt comfortable at Martin Marietta," he explains. "At the government I was a team leader; I supervised people. At Martin Marietta I didn't really have the opportunity to do any of that."
A change in his former division's management added to the job's appeal, because his primary reason for leaving had been clashes with some managers.
The government matched Mr. Gulotta's $56,000 Martin Marietta salary when he returned in 1989 -- a substantial increase from his earlier salary. He came back to the same office. Even his old desk was available.
"It felt like I was home," Mr. Gulotta says.
Employees who have left their jobs for bigger responsibilities and salaries can expect to have their earnings matched or increased when they return. They may also have the chance to take on new responsibilities. In a lateral move, a big raise or an increase in responsibility is less likely.