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How to Boomerang Back to Your Old Job

High demand for talented workers means your old boss might want you back

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With a tight labor market and an unemployment rate floating around 3.7 percent, there are signs that some employers facing worker shortages are more willing to rehire their retirees or other former employees. 

Executive-level retirees have always been sought after to boomerang back to former employers as troubleshooters. What’s different today is that there are shortages of workers in many sectors, such as health care, finance and insurance. That’s sparking an uptick in employers appealing to retirees to step back in on a contract or part-time basis to fill the gaps. And in seasons of high demand, say, holiday hiring, employers like UPS or big retailers like Target are increasingly reaching out to retirees to lend a hand.

“Companies are in a war for talent, as skills shortages threaten to keep companies from operating at maximum capacity,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of the global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “This year, in particular, we are seeing companies in dire need of workers. It really is a job seeker’s market.”

Employers also are well aware that many of their former workers are eager to be on the job, which can be a win-win situation all around. A recent study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies shows that 74 percent of the 1,825 employers surveyed agreed that “many employees at my company plan to continue working either full-time or part-time after they retire.” That’s in step with what the 6,372 workers canvassed said as well. Fifty-six percent of workers plan to continue working in retirement, including 14 percent who plan to work full time and 42 percent who plan to work part time.

So how do you land a new gig with that employer you walked away from before? Here are nine steps to get rehired after you’ve retired. 

Make your old job want you back. Maybe your desire to return to work at an old employer is financially driven because the income can provide a safety net. Or you might simply want to stay engaged, feel relevant and bring more meaning to your life — particularly if you loved the mission of your former firm. Whatever your motivations may be personally, stay focused not only on your purpose for seeking a position but also why you are the one to solve the company’s problems. Make sure you are able to articulate those reasons to a hiring manager. It’s always about the employer’s needs, not yours.

Know your selling points. You bring your decades of experience and knowledge. You have the ability to mentor and help train younger workers to the job. It’s critical that you play up your ability to do so. Plus, you know the culture and can hit the ground running.

Update your skills and résumé. If you feel your skills are a little rusty or need a refresh, do so before you reach out to ask about opportunities. Update your résumé to include any new courses, certificates and applicable skill-based volunteer work you have added to your quiver since you left your previous position.


Start your job search with the AARP Job Board.


Call your old boss. You can’t beat the human touch. If you know of an opening or an upcoming project, pick up the phone. A face-to-face meeting, of course, over coffee or lunch is an even better way to make your case. The notion of having you back on the team part time might be appealing, especially if they’re short-staffed. The biggest risk you face is they will turn you down. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

If they don’t have anything that might work for you right now, ask whether they know of anything on the horizon or a project currently open in another department where your skills might be a good fit. 

Check to see if rehires are made via a third party. Some firms outsource the job of rehiring some of their retirees or former employees. The independent consulting firm YourEncore, for example, now acts as a go-between for more than 70 corporations that are looking for skilled workers and experts to drop in for part-time income. YourEncore has more than 10,000 experts in its network, and it also works with companies to develop their alumni community. PatinaSolutions.com is an executive staffing firm for those with at least 25 years of operational experience who might be willing to work for a previous employer.

Tap into your former employer’s alumni group. If your company has its own online network of retirees, do some investigating to find out if you know anyone in that group who has returned to the company. Getting advice from a former colleague who recently boomeranged can be invaluable. It’s a great way to find out about potential opportunities, learn tips and get the word out that you’re open to returning on an as-needed basis for specific projects or assignments. 

LinkedIn and Facebook are other avenues to reach out to your former colleagues to see what jobs might be open. One way to see your connections who are still on board is to go to your ex-employer’s LinkedIn page. A referral from a current employee can typically get you back in the door for an interview in short order.

Pay attention to official job postings. Keep an eye on your former employer’s website and LinkedIn page for new job postings. Follow the firm on Twitter and Facebook to sleuth for openings. If there’s a position that catches your eye, even if it is not in your previous department, don’t be bashful about reaching out to a current employee, even if it’s someone who knows someone you know, to express your interest.

Broaden your search. Browse online job boards where a posting from your old employer might pop up. On the AARP Job Board, you can search for jobs by company name and by location. Upwork and RetirementJobs.com are also good sources for finding part-time and full-time positions where your old firm may list openings.

Peruse professional industry association sites for any job boards they might have. Each industry has its own niche job board where you can search by company. Some niche boards: CrunchBoard is one of the more popular job boards for internet and technology jobs. Dice is another site for tech job seekers. Engineering Daily features a large engineering-exclusive job board. HealthJobsNationwide.com lists jobs from about 1,700 employers. Mediabistro provides access to job postings in the media. 

There are also job sites like Flexjobs.com, Remote.co and Work At Home Vintage Experts, a site for professionals 50-plus who work from home for insurance and accounting firms. 

One caveat: Job boards are great for conducting research, but you should be aware that online job postings aren’t always removed in a timely fashion. The job opening may no longer exist by the time you discover it. 

Retune your expectations. Don’t get stuck trying to replicate your former job. You may need to adjust your salary demands, accept fewer benefits (if any) if you’re part time, be comfortable reporting to a new boss decades younger than you are, or be happy with a job title that’s not as senior as your previous one. If this will be an ego issue for you, pause, and take the time to adjust your attitude. Being a boomerang can be liberating and lucrative, but you have to be all in for it to be a successful reunion.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the BillsGetting the Job You Want After 50 for DummiesLove Your Job, and What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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