Old Job, New You
Sometimes the best new job looks a lot like your old one.
by Yvonne M. Jones for LinkedIn
Published October 24, 2014
Though it wasn’t quite the tweet heard ‘round the world, many U.S. daytime television fans were startled this summer when ABC’s The View announced the return of polarizing former co-host and comedian Rosie O’Donnell via Twitter.
Back in 2007, O’Donnell violated the cardinal rule against burning one’s bridges during a heated live argument about the Iraq War with former View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
O’Donnell returned to The View this September. As ETOnline.com noted approvingly, she “left her shoes and her temper at home.” But while they struggled to find hidden meaning in the comedian’s bare tootsies, others had more substantive questions.
Why did O’Donnell return to The View at all?
She has her reasons. And though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is mum on employees who “boomerang” back to previous employers, O’Donnell is just one of the many nationwide who have discovered new professional opportunities in familiar places.
In September, Claire Bloxom Armstrong followed in O’Donnell’s footsteps when she returned to her position as Public Relations/Social Media Manager at PAVLOV Agency, a full-service, integrated marketing communications agency based in Fort Worth, Texas.
She is thrilled to be back. “There has never been a time over the past four-plus years that I did not love going to work at PAVLOV each and every day,” Armstrong says, “which is so rare, I think.”
But after being recruited by a longtime mentor in July, Armstrong left PAVLOV to become the Senior Communications Manager at Justin Brands, Inc., a Fort Worth-based Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiary and the world’s largest manufacturer of western footwear.
The recently wed Armstrong was excited to work with such a legendary brand despite her ambivalence about leaving PAVLOV.
Those mixed feelings didn’t linger long. Neither did her new position at Justin Brands.
“I lasted 2.5 days before getting my job back at PAVLOV,” she says. Weeks later, Armstrong is still pleased with her decision cut ties with a company that was a poor fit.
Leah Jafir, a Philadelphia-based school teacher and health coach, is registering for her fourth go-round with the embattled School District of Philadelphia (SDP). She’s doing so despite a heartbreaking list of reasons that lead her to part ways with SDP several times over the last decade.
Jafir has reasons for going back. “I returned the first time because I missed teaching and the first school where I taught had an open position. It was familiar,” she admits. “And it’s not a desk job. There’s so much that goes on every single second. No day is like the next or the other. I missed that energy.”
Dana Greyson’s seasonal retail associate position with West Marine, which operates a chain of over 325 boating supply and fishing retail stores across North America, is not exactly a desk job either.
“As a cruiser, a boater going for long times and distances, I’m on my second stint at the same West Marine store in Jacksonville, Florida,” Greyson says, noting that next week will be her last one at the store before she and her husband set sail again.
The former Hewlett-Packard marketing manager has been something of a nomad since taking a voluntary severance package from the company in 2005. Returning to her fun, low-pressure job at West Marine’s 40,000-square-foot Jacksonville store, where the customers are “exceptionally nice,” fits her lifestyle like a wet glove.
“Last and this year, my husband and I took out for hurricane season,” Greyson says, “and I took a job at West Marine because of their attractive employee discounts. It’s not what I consider a living wage job, but I count on my husband, an aircraft mechanic, for bringing that in. And I can use my spare time to work on marketing and writing gigs, to blog, and for managing the extra work that comes with a nomadic lifestyle.”
Most companies have a stake in recruiting valued former employees, though few have formal programs in place to do so.
Marcum LLP, one of the largest independent public accounting and advisory services firms in the U.S., actively rehires past employees, both through informal channels and via a regional pilot program the company, which is headquartered in New York City, hopes to expand nationwide.
“Marcum currently has approximately 15 full-time rehires,” says Chief Human Resources Officer Andrew Botwin, “including a Partner who just rejoined the practice after a 15-year hiatus and who has been a wonderful addition. And we have others who retired or left to raise families and have rejoined on a seasonal basis.”
In fact, seasonal rehires have been a big asset to the accounting firm, especially in the New England region and during the company’s busy season.
“Because so many of our seasonal rehires enjoy the flexible work arrangement,” Botwin says, “they stay with us from year-to-year, which provides continuity on client engagements and helps reduce the amount of overtime that Marcum staff has to work during peak periods. They’re also a wonderful source of experience and knowledge to help train and mentor less experienced staff.”
Seasonal work is a boon for professionals whose schedules or outside interests make being able to return to a previous employer, often several times over the course of their career, ideal.
Steve Silberberg, a Hull, Massachusetts-based software contractor, returned to Abt [Electronics] in early 2011 after taking 11 months off to work on FitPacking, a backpacking company he launched in 2005 that takes clients on adventure vacations that help them lose weight while enjoying nature.
“The Abt project was completely finished,” Silberberg says, “so there was no problem at all when I left. And this was one of my better projects/clients over the years, so they were happy to have me back.”
Peeples Ink PR is happy to have Katie Coakley back too. But her second stint at the Vail, Colorado company is markedly different from her first.
Coakley resigned as Peeples’ Client Services Manager in October 2010 because, “Public relations is a 24/7 job and I didn’t really love the winter if I wasn’t able to enjoy it. I wanted freedom to travel and split my time,” she says firmly. “And I was willing to take a significant pay cut to do it.”
She moved to Florida and supported herself by waitressing, writing for magazines, and even starting her own PR firm.
The groundwork for her return was laid during a visit to Colorado. “I went out for drinks with a few friends, including Pat Peeples, the owner of Peeples Ink,” Coakley recalls. “I was saying something like, ‘My ideal job would be one where I could live here in Colorado for the summer and in Florida for the winter. And travel.’ And Pat said, ‘Really? Let’s make it happen.'”
In June 2012, Coakley returned to Peeples Ink as a Strategic Consultant on a part-time, contractor basis, splitting her time between Edwards, Colorado and Mexico Beach, Florida.
“I now work for Peeples Ink full time for about five months of the year and on a contract basis through the rest of the year,” she says, “in addition to other contract work and writing on a freelance basis. Sometimes it just takes looking at a situation or saying what you want to start exploring the possibilities.”
Anthony Zumpano was the senior editor at Information Builders, a New YorkCity-based software company, for a year when he moved on to America Online (AOL) in late 1999.
“As crazy as it sounds to say this in 2014,” Zumpano says, “landing a job at AOL back then felt like winning the career lottery. I was excited to join AOL. Really excited. Like, imagine-you-landed-a-job-at-Google-today excited.”
Soon after Zumpano was hired, AOL announced its industry-jolting purchase of Time Warner. One year later, the merger was finalized and he “was one of the ‘lucky’ ones offered a new assignment — in Chicago. I turned it down.”
Fortunately Zumpano, whose LinkedIn profile notes that he is “An All-Around Nice Guy,” left Information Builders on good terms and kept in touch with a former colleague who’d been promoted to management. “I stayed the second time for over five years,” he says.
Zumpano has few regrets, but felt a twinge of something after rejoining Information Builders.
“The new boss left, and that manager spot was filled by the woman who had taken my slot when I went to AOL,” he recalls. “I likely would have had that position if I never left, and that management role could have helped my career.”
Jafir advises caution to those looking advance their professional futures at a previous workplace.
“Remember why you left that company in the first place,” she suggests, “and think two, three, and four times before going back. And research, research, research! Dig for information. Ask a lot of specific questions about what your new duties will be.”
Some employers are of the mindset that if you leave, the door is closed, and you’re not coming back. But companies evolve, Jafir says. She advises keeping in touch and in the loop even if the company was less than gracious about your departure.
Because if, like O’Donnell, you leave on bad terms, it doesn’t rule out a rosy return.