Working Again for a Former Employer

There is an old saying, “You can’t go home again.” However, when it comes to working again for a former employer, this statement is often false. There can be many advantages for both former employees and employers when employees go back to work for a former organization. Indeed, one of the best hiring decisions I ever made was to hire a lab technician who formerly worked for my employer. This was because on the first day of the new work she already knew people in other departments of the company particularly in the analytical department and already knew many of the corporate procedures for submitting samples for analysis.

Once, it was very rare for a laid off, college-educated employee to return to work for a former employer. However, recent ACS employment surveys have indicated unemployment rates among ACS members are at historically high levels, 4.2% in 2012 (…/Unemployment-Data-Chemists-Improve-Slightly.html). The result has been a highly competitive job market and fewer jobs due to downsizing, mergers and acquisitions. As a result, chemists need to explore every possible employment opportunity. One such opportunity is to return to work for a former employer.  A Temple University study (not limited to chemists) found that 45% of people would return to work for a former employer after being laid off. Their findings were reported in the online in the journal “Career Development International” (

The researchers examined unemployment effects on salaried professionals, middle managers and executives. Of the 382 respondents surveyed online, 64%earned more than $75,000 a year, 79% had at least a college degree, 79% were the primary source of household income when laid off, and 83%were salaried professionals or in higher positions.

Advantages for the employer

Advantages to the employer include returning employees’ familiarity with the workplace and culture. This means they can more quickly, become a productive contributor and navigate the political processes. They may rekindle relationships with some of their former coworkers. These coworkers are often more willing to help a former  colleague than someone new to the organization as trust and prior working relationships have already been established

Advantages to the former employee

Often former employees don’t have to relocate. This means they don’t have to sell their home in a difficult real estate market and their children can continue their educations in their current schools. The November 5, 2012 issue of C&EN reported the difficult personal situations of chemists who had to relocate to another city or country to obtain employment, leaving their spouse and/or children behind.

Making the decision to return

The Temple University research indicated the importance of fair and transparent layoff decisions in the treatment of downsized employees in affecting the decision of ex-employees in returning to work for their former employer.

“How employers treat employees through layoffs is always important and will become even more so when the economy fully rebounds and it’s an employees’ market again,” said human resource management Professor Gary J. Blau, lead author of the Temple University study. He notes that “employers have a vested practical interest in ensuring the process of deciding who goes and who doesn’t is perceived as a fair one,” especially when social media and review-your-employer websites such as provide more opportunities than ever for laid-off employees to publicly vent their frustration and anger.

The former employees surveyed experienced a wide range of unemployment lengths, with 65% out of work for at least 27 weeks, which the U.S. Department of Labor defines as long-term unemployment.  Another 23% of respondents were unemployed for more than two years – and suffered the most in a number of areas, including: lower life satisfaction, lower re-employment confidence and higher unemployment stigma and depression.

“People are at a point where they’re losing their houses; their wives or husbands are leaving them. They’re in a severe hardship,” said Tony Petrucci, a Temple University assistant professor and managing partner at Gravitas LLC, an executive and board search firm. “People are saying, I may not like this employer because of how they handled my layoff. I’m angry, but I would consider going back to work with them.”

Of course the chemist must pave the way to reemployment by leaving his former employer in a dignified and professional manner. You don’t want to “burn your bridges” to possible reemployment.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1500 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.


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