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.
When Colleen Gizinski left her job at Monumental Life Insurance Co. in 1984, she managed weekly and monthly premium accounting as well as customer service. But when she came back in 1986 to sister company Monumental General, after working as a bartender and office manager at restaurants in Ocean City, she was hired to supervise the company's compensation area, a lower-level position.
"I figured that I'd had a two-year vacation, in a way, so I didn't mind too much," says Ms. Gizinski, who has since progressed to managing premium accounts, commissions, policy services, and customer service. "Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward."
Not every company offers the same retirement plan provisions to returning employees. Many companies lack a policy for it. Dr. Rudd advises returning employees to broach the subject gently when talking to their former bosses.
Returning employees often worry that colleagues will see them as scared or indecisive for coming back. But colleagues may react far more positively. Often, they'll respond to an employee's return with happiness -- and admiration for the bravery needed to try something new.
"People will often think, 'Boy, I wish I had the guts to do that,' " Dr. Raphael says.
Law offices are often tolerant of employee movement, because attorneys tend to bounce around a lot. Neal Borden, a business )) lawyer with Venable, Baetjer and Howard, joined Jiffy Lube International Inc. in 1986 after 18 years with Venable. He'd been working with Jiffy Lube as an outside lawyer and wanted to see what a franchise company was like from the inside.
Mr. Borden left the firm on excellent terms and kept in close touch with colleagues there during his two years at Jiffy Lube. So when he decided to go back in 1988, his path was smooth.
"There came a time when I found that the travel involved in the [Jiffy Lube] job was too much," Mr. Borden explains.
"Also, the firm started to move in the direction of operational emphasis, which wasn't something I had an interest or experience in," he adds.
Mr. Borden says it's taken some time to get his practice cranked up again. But the expertise he gained was invaluable -- he even started a franchise practice group at Venable.
"A great many business lawyers never get the chance to manage a company," Mr. Borden says. "A lot of the work I do is with franchise companies, and I think I can do my work better now because I have better comprehension of these companies."
Like others who have returned to jobs, Mr. Borden offers this advice: Don't be reluctant to approach a former employer.
"I think if you've been successful in a job, and you leave it to do something that's important and useful, you shouldn't be afraid to go back to your old employer," he says. "If somebody's been a good member of a team, it's likely they'll be welcomed back."
"Your Old Job Beckons. Should You Return?" in Kennedy's Career Strategist, March 1990. Published by Career Strategies, Wilmette, Ill.
"Should I Take a Step Back?" by Robert Half, in Management Accounting, April 1990. Published by National Association of Accountants, Montvale, N.J.
"Career Tracks," by Dr. Lester Schwartz and Irv Brechner. Ballantine Books, New York, 1985
"Careercycles," by John Caple. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1983
"The 1990 What Color Is Your Parachute?" by Richard Nelson Bolles. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, Calif., 1990
Tips for returning to your old job:
* Recall what made you leave. Decide whether those problems have disappeared -- or whether you can tolerate them now.
* Talk to colleagues at your former company, to gauge how your return might be received.
* Discuss with your old boss the possibility of returning. Be prepared to speak about what your expectations were when you left, what the outcome was, and why you want to come back.
* Explore options for expanding your responsibilities. Gently raise topic of pay and benefits.
Alyssa Gabbay is a free-lance writer who covers business issues for The Sun.