A growing number of Americans may have more in common with LeBron James than they might think.
No, not everyone can be a 6-foot-8-inch multimillionaire MVP. But when it comes to their career moves, more and more employees are following in James’ footsteps in one key way: they’re returning to their former companies in droves.
In other words, when James announced earlier this month that he had re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers (the team he played with from 2003 to 2010 until leaving to join the Miami Heat), he became part of a growing group of workers that experts are now calling “boomerang employees.”
Rebounding to your former employer used to be exceedingly rare. But today’s generation of employees bounce around from job to job more often, meaning that leaving a company doesn’t seem like a major act of betrayal—and thus employers are more willing to welcome former employees back with open arms.
In fact, The New York Times reports that experts are finding that the move can be a win-win for both worker and employer: Companies save on recruiting costs and consider the hire to be less risky, given that they are already familiar with the staff member. At the same time, returning workers hold the advantage of already having mastered the company culture and being accustomed to the pros and cons of the particular workplace.
So when does boomeranging back to your old gig make the most sense? One recent report on these employees, “Gone Today but Here Tomorrow,” studied an accounting firm where 20% of hires were returning workers. They concluded that those who had left to pursue a clear plan—whether it was grad school or to achieve a big career goal—were the most likely to eventually return to their former employer, the Times reports. (In other words, if you left for reasons like a toxic company culture or because you believed you were underpaid, it probably doesn’t make sense to return.)
A similar study also found that the returnees who found the most success were those that didn’t stay away from the company for too long, and had originally resigned on good terms (no surprise there).
The bottom line, career experts say, is to always leave respectfully—and never burn any bridges when switching jobs. Because whether you’re an NBA MVP or not, there’s always a chance you could be courted back by your former team.