Is your old employer better the second time?

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DEAR JOYCE: A former co-worker gave me a heads-up that I'm going to be invited to rejoin a company that laid me off. I do expect another offer within the next week so I'm torn about what to say if invited to a "homecoming." The pros and cons of my situation add up to what? -- No Initials Please

The big plus factors for your old employer are that you're tried and true. By hiring a boomerang employee, the company banks a reduction in recruitment time, training costs and fast action in getting the needed job done.

The big plus factors for you are an enhanced resume, because employer's don't hire back marginal workers, potentially faster promotional opportunities to keep you on board, and, because you are familiar with the company culture and know what's expected, your workday may be less stressful since you won't have to quickly master unfamiliar territory.

Before you say yes, negotiate to sweeten your deal. First, research to confirm the market value of both the job and your specific skills and experiences. If the numbers are in your favor, try to get higher pay than when you left the company (haven't you acquired additional skills that will help you perform your job better?).

Ask for the elimination of waiting periods to rejoin employee plans and vacation eligibility. You say: "As a returning employee, I would appreciate being treated as someone whose benefits will resume, immediately upon my rehire, at the levels they would be if I had not been laid off."

Of course, you haven't actually heard details of the offer you're expecting.

DEAR JOYCE: One of your recent columns discussed the fact that "employment at will" state laws legally allow employees to be fired without just cause -- with exceptions. You said: "Exceptions are usually based on written employer documents or oral promises made about job security." You did not specifically name union contracts as one of the written employer documents.

Legally enforceable agreements include labor union contracts which require employers to apply the standard of "just cause" before firing employees. Under the standard of just cause, an employee with lagging performance is warned to improve and then given time to improve before firing. Just cause also requires companies to conduct a fair and objective investigation before disciplining or firing employees for not following workplace rules. -- Bill Dugovich, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace

Thanks for correcting my oversight.

DEAR JOYCE: Do you believe that career planning is a good strategy in today's fast-moving world? Or a waste of time? -- L.N.

Digital-everything and globalization are key factors in assuring that the world will not remain constant over the next five or 10 years, much less the next 40 or 50 years.

In their post "Career Plans Are Dangerous" on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, college president Leonard A. Schlesinger, innovator Charles F. Kiefer and business journalist Paul B. Brown make their point succinctly:

"If you don't know what the world is going to look like five years from now, there is not a lot of sense trying to predict potential external factors planning your career based on that dubious prediction.

"It is in settings of high uncertainty where traditional career planning is both a waste of time and potentially dangerous. A career plan can lead you into a false sense of confidence, where you fail to see opportunities as they arise and miss taking smart steps you otherwise hadn't planned for."

True enough, but it's only one dimension of the value-of-career-planning question that surfaces periodically in career industry circles.

Drawing from the French, here's another viewpoint:

"What! No star and you are going out to sea? Marching and you have no music? Traveling and you have no map?" Planning is an important function of successful career performance. As legions of career counselors point out: "If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else."

(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)

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