Startup Life/Hiring & Workforce/Opinion/

Why I became a boomerang employee

Sometimes the only way to move forward is to boomerang back.

Credit: The Lernerbly team. Credit: Learnerbly
Marie Krebs

By Marie Krebs

I loved my job at the workplace learning platform Learnerbly, but I still decided to leave.

Who could resist the offer of a first-time leadership position, a four-day week and an unmatchable salary?

I couldn’t. It was a new opportunity and at the time, an exciting step in my professional development that Learnerbly could not yet give me.

But not all that glitters is gold, and in the end, the new company wasn’t a good fit for me. Thankfully, probation goes both ways (well, for the privileged who can pay rent next month).

As I thought about my next steps, I reached back out to my most trusted and well-connected advisor, the CEO I had left at Learnerbly, Rajeeb Dey MBE. 

“If you hear of any stunning roles, you know where I am 👀”, I candidly wrote. He followed up by asking if I would be open to coming back within the new team structure, which had evolved since I left.

My heart skipped a beat. I loved working there, I was thrilled. 

When I left Learnerbly after three years there, I knew the door wasn’t closed but I certainly didn’t expect that I would be opening it again so soon. 

Sometimes to move forward in your career, you do need to go back; in other words, be a boomerang. 

But I didn’t just accept on the spot. I needed to investigate the opportunity and explore what else was on the market — I needed to know that a boomerang was the right move for me and so did Learnerbly.

Making sure a boomerang is the right move

A boomerang move needs to be a win-win for all parties involved — the person, the team they’re joining and the wider business. It needs to be evaluated just as any new hire would be, and what matters most is that their needs and skills match against the development opportunities of the company. If I had been stepping back into the role I left, it wouldn’t have been the right move. 

I had learnt a great deal in my short time away from Learnerbly as a people lead. Because of that my development needs changed. At the same time, Learnerbly reorganised the people team upon my departure ahead of expected growth and Series A fundraising. The new challenges and organisation structure had opened up what wasn’t there for me before — room to grow and pursue my long-term ambitions.

But Learnerbly also had to make sure it was the right fit. 

The company’s new head of people, Lauren, agreed that I should test the job market first before making a decision and asked me all the tough questions: “Are you comfortable reporting to me when you used to be alone in the people department?”, “Are you ready to replace every piece of work you’ve done that doesn’t suit the business needs anymore and give away your legos?”. 

My answer to every single one was an enthusiastic “yes, yes, yes!” I wanted to learn new things, the business had new needs. Same company, new environment. Same Marie, new skills and perspectives. Win-win.

I did still interview with fantastic companies who made compelling offers but in the end, I boomeranged back to Learnerbly. 

Do your due diligence

If you’re considering going back with your ex, my only advice is to make sure it’s not a ‘comfort decision’. Interview at other places and ask yourself the hard questions:

  • What do you want from your career?
  • How does this move benefit your growth?
  • What are the learning opportunities on the job? 
  • How transparently can you justify your decision? 
  • What’s your gut feeling? 

You never have to do it alone either. Hit LinkedIn, join communities and find mentors. I never made a move without asking at least four or five trusted advisors and having them challenge my thinking process. 

Leaders, think about progression differently 

Boomerang employees offer an important lesson to business leaders. That is: development should be your success metric when it comes to talent. And you might not be able to provide that development in-house. 

It could be that your head of engineering needs exposure to a different environment before they’re ready to take on being a CTO, a move that they want to make. You can’t always supply the right environment or challenge. Your business and your people have individual growth curves, and there are times when they won’t match up. 

In these instances, your people will only grow if they leave. Even the best learning culture and working environment cannot retain your best talent through every possible situation, so what can you do? 

Invest in them as individuals, not as employees. Doing so will reap you the best rewards possible, whatever they may look like: internal growth, advocacy, boomerang, talent recommendations, etc.

If you want your people’s best work while they are with you, make sure they know the door is open for them to leave and pursue their growth. If needs and learning curves align again, serendipity might bring them back to you. 

You can’t lock them in, so trust that they know when it’s time to leave and make sure they know the door will always remain unlocked. 

Marie Krebs is people partner at Learnerbly and a ‘boomeranger’.

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