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"Best companies to work for (see footnote) are the ones that treat their former employees as alumni, rather than as traitors"

This is a VERY excellent point, now that you mention it, and probably a near-perfect shortcut to evaluating how the employer supports the learning, growth & wellbeing of the employee.

The second job I left banned former employees from their offices after I attended a user group there (!!).

The third one paid for my goodbye lunch and invited me back for the epic parties.

I would have happily stayed at the third jobs for years, if they'd just let me ship ANYTHING without derailing it completely.

Indeed. My company even does this semi-formally, with an 'alumni' network, events, and stuff like that. This works out insanely well in our field (management consulting), as the philosophy of the company is that our consultants will eventually leave and we want those people (who we thought were great enough to hire) to hire us as clients at their new firm. It's done fantastically well, and fostering a culture of (not exactly) assumed transition and migration does wonders. It's not looked down upon at all to take a full time job with a consulting client, for example.

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