How to Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job

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Laid off, unemployed worker
Thaninee Chuensomchit /

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

How and why you leave a job matters, especially to a potential employer who’s considering hiring you. Good or bad, future employers will want to know your reasons for leaving a job or why you’re trying to do so.

How much your exit will matter to a potential employer largely hinges on what happened and how you frame it. Here’s how to properly frame common reasons for leaving a job so you can position yourself to land your next one.

10 Good Reasons for Leaving a Job

Office worker

Not all interviewers will pose questions about your reasons for leaving a job as an interrogation, but you don’t want to stumble over this question in a job interview. Even if they aren’t looking for red flags, they’ll still know them when they see them.

There are lots of good reasons to leave a job, many of which could actually strengthen your candidacy for a new job you’re applying for. Even if you have great reasons for wanting a career change, it’s still important to frame it correctly.

1. You Want More of a Challenge

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Ambition is almost always a good thing at work. Employers want to hire people who won’t shy away from a challenge, but be prepared to support your ambitions with evidence proving that you’re capable of thriving under more difficult circumstances.

2. You Don’t Find the Work Meaningful

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You don’t need to love what you do to be good at it. Employers get this, and they usually can at least empathize with employees wanting to find some measure of meaning or satisfaction in their role in the organization.

You’ll only help your case as an applicant for a job if you honestly believe you’ll find more meaning in a new job and you can convince your interviewers of that.

3. You Don’t Feel Valued

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It’s one thing to feel like your ideas and efforts are undervalued. Sometimes we just need more time to prove ourselves at work, and other times our egos can rose-tint the value we think we bring to the company.

It’s another thing to feel completely disrespected and marginalized at work because it could hold back your career growth. Some workplaces are just toxic and any good potential employer will understand why you want to jump ship, as long as you don’t come across as shifting blame from you to someone else.

4. You Want to Take Your Career in a New Direction

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Some people know what they want to do in life before they finish college. Other people are never quite sure, even after being in an industry for years.

It’s hard to blame anyone for chasing their passions with a career change, even if it’s later in life. You’ll just need to convince prospective employers that you really believe pivoting to work with them will be long-term and not just an impulse.

5. You Want an Opportunity to Advance Your Career

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You’ve put in your time at your current employer. You remained patient. But it’s clear to you that your company will never advance you or do anything to help position you for taking the next step in your career.

Wanting to eventually advance your career can definitely help your case to a prospective employer that wants to cultivate talent. But if they don’t seem to like your reason for leaving, working for them might be more of the same stagnation you’re trying to escape at your current job.

6. You Want a Better Work-Life Balance

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If they genuinely value their workforce, prospective employers will understand. Still, lots of companies ask their employees to work long hours and stay on standby to get to work at a moment’s notice.

If a recruiter understands your need for work-life balance, you’re more likely to get the balance you need from their organization. If not, it’s likely because employees there are expected to focus much more on work than life.

7. Your Company Is Downsizing or Closing

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Unless you’re in the C-Suite of executives, most recruiters likely won’t blame you for seeking new employment if your current employer is downsizing or shuttering.

8. You Have Personal Reasons

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Some things in our lives are off-limits for our co-workers. But giving the hiring manager a peek behind closed doors could help them understand the personal reasons that prompted you to leave a job.

9. Your Role Has Changed

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It’s not the job you signed up for, so you’re looking to sign up for something else. Just be sure to let your interviewers know what you value most in a job, along with what things are deal-breakers.

10. You Don’t Fit the Company Culture

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You don’t need to fit in to get along with your co-workers. But philosophical differences with the people you work with can bring a certain misery to your time at a company.

You’ll need to give interviewers a good picture of your personality and ask probing questions about the culture at their company to get an idea if you’d fit in better there.

5 Difficult Reasons for Leaving a Job

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Some reasons for leaving a job are tougher to explain than others, even if they aren’t necessarily bad. Here’s how you can frame the difficult reasons.

1. You Were Fired, or Will be Soon

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There are many possible reasons you might find yourself in this position. While being fired or laid off doesn’t necessarily mean you’re blacklisted from an industry, you’ll have to be upfront and convincing about what happened and what you learned from the experience.

2. You Can’t Get Along With Your Co-Workers

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What did human resources tell you? What did you do to mitigate conflicts? These are the things prospective employers will want to know if you want to leave a job because of issues with co-workers.

You’d need to convince prospective employers that you worked well with your co-workers and reached out for help if the situation was too toxic. If you haven’t worked on your relationships at one job, what will you do if you’re in a similar situation at another job?

3. You Have Trouble Keeping Up or Hitting Your Goals

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Unless you’re applying for a lesser role, you’ll likely struggle to convince a prospective employer to bring you aboard. Instead, consider improving your skills in your free time with e-learning or finding a mentor at work who can help you find ways to progress.

4. You’ve Grown Bored of Your Job and Want More Excitement

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Your potential new employer might wonder how long it will take you to get bored of your next job. Most jobs have their dull moments, after all.

Why not consider applying for a new role in your company? Because you’re already there and people know you, you’d have an edge over the other applicants and have a much better idea of what to expect.

5. You Feel Underappreciated or Didn’t Get a Promotion

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Prove it, as best as you can without divulging privileged information about the company you’re departing. If you’re applying for a position that would advance your career, you’ll have to prove yourself during the job interview process anyway.

If you’re applying to a similar role as your previous job, you might have a tough time convincing them to hire you. They’ll want to know how long you’ll work for them before you expect a promotion.

Telling Your Job Your Reasoning for Leaving

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It’s not just important to properly frame your reasons for leaving a job when interviewing for a new one. It’s important to leave your current job on the best terms possible.

Be sure to give your current employer plenty of notice before making them your former employer. It’s still standard to give your last job at least two weeks’ notice before resigning.

Being polite and direct in explaining your reasons for leaving will help ensure that you don’t leave on bad terms.

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