You're Fired! Now Come Back

When Jeof Oyster was laid off from his job as interactive director of a public relations firm in October, he decided to step up his long-range plan to start his own Internet consulting business.

Little did he know his first client would be the employer who'd just given him the boot.

"Two days after they off'd me, I got a call from the person who let me go asking if I'd be willing to do a little freelance work for them," said Oyster, who now runs Mighty Ants Internet Studio from his New York City apartment.

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But in the decision to downsize, the company Oyster had been with for the better part of a year overlooked one important factor: their clients.

"Turns out their rush to get our team out the door royally pissed off a major client of our group -- and their attempts to assuage him fell on deaf ears," Oyster said. "The choice was get the team back or lose the client."

As a result, Oyster was able to negotiate a three-month freelance arrangement at twice the hourly rate he was making as a salaried employee, enough to pay his rent while he got his own business up and running.

"I said, 'Look, if you need me back, this is my rate,'" Oyster explained. "The ball was totally in my court."

But the payoff wasn't just financial.

"I admit I felt rather vindicated in the end," Oyster said.

With so many employers looking to cut costs and clean house, stories like Oyster's are increasingly common.

No one can fault you for rushing back into the arms of an ex-employer to temp or freelance for them, not when good full-time jobs are so hard to come by these days. But when a company that jilted you extends an olive branch -- and then an offer to rekindle your working relationship, no matter how fleeting -- what are you really signing up for?

No Strings Attached

When the Seattle media company that laid off Cherise before the holidays asked her at the start of the year to fill in for someone on maternity leave, she was elated.

"I was so panicked about my finances that I was thrilled to have an opportunity to earn an income," Cherise said in an email. "And because it was a job I loved, I jumped at the opportunity to have it again, even if just for a few months."

(Cherise, like the rest of the people interviewed for this article, declined to give her real name.)

Besides staving off unemployment until her colleague returns to work this summer, Cherise is reunited with the coworkers she knows and loves (that is, those who weren't also laid off), in the full-time Web editor position she already knows how to do. No training required, no awkward "new girl on the job" phase to muddle through.

But on the minus side, her love affair with her job once again has an expiration date.

"The biggest challenge has been to not become too attached," Cherise said. "It's in the back of my mind every day that I'm only here temporarily, so I haven't brought in pictures or personal effects."

The Benefits Are on You

Another downside of reprising your role for an ex-employer as a temp or freelancer: You won't enjoy the same benefits you had as a full-time employee.

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