The short answer to the question above is a definite…...maybe. Before we explore the issue, you should know that my personal, very biased answer throughout my career has been a resounding “yes”. You see, I am an anomaly: In my career I have returned directly to three different past employers - in each case to a better version of my old position than if I had stayed - and I also returned to one of those three a second time, though to a division rather than to the corporate staff I had been a part of twice before. How did these multiple returns happen? It wasn’t due to good planning. It wasn’t due to any planning. And the first time I did this it was quite normal, as it’s not unusual in the Supply Chain industry to return to a previous employer (though I have since discovered that doing this four times seems to be a record!). I didn’t see the pattern my career was developing into until my second return, when I was invited back by a former co-worker who had just been promoted to department head. The key to returning, I later realized, was using what I have now formalized into a “Return Checklist” you might want to use if you face a similar situation:

- Did you leave on good terms with the old (or new) boss?
- Did you leave on good terms with co-workers, internal & external clients, and suppliers?
- Do you really want the job as it is currently described?
- Is this rehire a career step up - or a step backwards?
- Are you correcting a career mistake - or making a new one?
- Is this a strategic, long term move - or a short term resume filler?
- Are you just feeding your ego?
- Are any of the negative reasons you left still applicable?
- Are you returning out of desperation, or failure elsewhere?
- Can you explain this return to a neutral third party?
- What reasons are there for not returning?
- Why do you want to go back?

Frank answers to these questions will let you see whether or not returning to a particular company, department, or position is the right move for you. Key aspects to be aware of include the personalities and relationships you would come back to. Leopards don’t change their spots, and a bad boss or co-worker will likely be exactly the same person as before unless he or she has undergone a personality transplant. But companies, situations, and responsibilities do change – for better and for worse.

If you decide to go back after answering your personal checklist, you must be continually aware of your newfound gaps in people, places, projects, and technology. One frequent gap problem in all three of my direct returns was that most co-workers and suppliers who knew me from before quickly forgot that I was ever gone, and would often make references to events that occurred while I was away as if I knew what they were talking about! This is a tougher situation than being brand new to a company: new hires are not expected to know everything, while one of the main reasons for bringing a former employee back is to take advantage of his or her knowledge of the company, its products, and its people to get maximum productivity right away. For me the easiest fix was to quietly ask someone for the back story, adding a gentle reminder of my absence. But sometimes a gap became evident during a meeting, and I just bit the bullet and asked clarifying questions after reminding folks I had been away. On occasion I could lighten the moment by first pointing out that an event had happened “B.G.R.”(Before George Returned), which made our “catching up” discussions easier to navigate.

So in conclusion, if an opportunity to “go home again” presents itself, look at it objectively, answer your own “Return Checklist” honestly, and then chose the best path you can for the right, long term career reasons. And if you decide to return, enjoy and appreciate the good will that comes with happy reunions!

This article is part of the monthly series authored by the Institute for Supply Management’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, trainers, and educators. In future columns, they will continue sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain and Professional Development topics. Past topics are available at www.PARCELindustry.com, under the Content Library tab. 

George Yarusavage, DLP, CTL, C.P.M., CICSM, is a principal in Fortress Consulting, LLC, specializing in Transportation, Logistics, and Sourcing issues, education, and training. He is also the Treasurer of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached atgyarusavage@yahoo.com, or (203) 984-4957. Membership in the L&T Group is open to all current ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in Logistics & Transportation.
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