Are you currently thinking of leaving your job? Or, applying for new positions and wondering what to say about your reason for leaving? Are you unsure if you should reveal the real reason you want to leave your job? The answer you give is something you should think about carefully. Not every answer is thought of in the same light and some diplomacy and tact is often required.
If you are moving jobs both your current boss and any prospective employers will be eager to know why you are leaving. You may even get asked to include this information about all previous positions, in some job application forms. It is a good idea to have thought about this, so that when asked you don’t hesitate and can give a well thought out answer that isn’t going to raise any concerns or cast you in a questionable light.
We recommend that you start by writing down a list of the reasons you have for leaving your job. Try to put them in order of priority. It is very often not a single clear reason, so this will help you clarify what you have going on in your head. This list will also assist you in planning your next career move if you are still looking for another position.
What is considered an acceptable reason to leave a job isn’t static. There are many more acceptable reasons for moving jobs now than there were in the past, as employees rarely stay in jobs for as long as several decades ago. But, there are still some reasons that are simply best kept to yourself. Here we give you a list of acceptable reasons for leaving a job, that you can tell your boss and future employers. We will also let you know a few things that you probably should never say was the reason you left your job.
One very important point to think about is that you also need to be consistent. You do not want your prospective employer to find out through your background check that you have given an entirely different reason in your exit interview. Any wild variations here might be a red flag for a prospective employer you interviewed with, and that could result in a terrible missed opportunity. Again your list of reasons will help keep you consistent across your exit, your resume and your interviews.
Acceptable Reasons for Leaving a Job
In general the two main types of reasons people cite for leaving a job are professional reasons (eg. career direction, prospects) and personal reasons (eg. family reasons, relocation). There are perfectly understandable and clear reasons in both categories.
You can very easily say that you are looking for new challenges, and opportunities for professional growth. You could also say that you feel like you have developed as much as you can in your current role and now want to find better growth opportunities. Seeking ways to develop you career through a variety of experiences, or by working in a different company which offers better long term career progression are also very rational reasons for moving on. It may be okay to even say that you felt stagnant in your current role, as long as that doesn’t involve criticizing your role or the company.
Change of Career Direction
The reason you are leaving might be related to your career direction overall. In this case it is not about specifically about the position or the company, but dissatisfaction with your career more generally. It could be that you wish to work in a different industry or that you want to change the kind of work you do altogether. This reason would work especially when you have extensive experience but are now applying for a completely different role.
If you are lucky you may have the chance to say to your employer, that you are grateful for having had the opportunity to work for them, but you’ve been offered your dream job at another company.
There are two situations where education might be the reason you are leaving your job. Either, you have decided to return to study, and complete say a masters qualification. Or, you may have recently completed a qualification, and now seek opportunities to utilize the new skills you have.
Restructuring and Company Circumstances
You may be looking for a new job out of circumstance rather than choice. Restructuring and other workplace changes might have lead you to reconsider the company you are working for, or may have caused the loss of your position. During restructures, companies can lay off many workers over a period of time, and even when your job is not in danger now, it might be in the near future. Nobody would blame you for looking for new opportunities in this situation.
Reasons that are all related to changes and restructuring would include: your position was made redundant, the company went out of business, the company was sold, or merged, your department was closed, your work was reduced or outsourced. If applicable you can also say that due to restructuring and cut backs your team is now much smaller, which affects work and future opportunities, or that morale has declined. It may also be that the location of your work or position has changed.
It is also acceptable to say that your position was for a single project which has ended, or your short-term contract has finished.
For any number of reasons related to family, or lifestyle you may have decided to move a different city or country. This is a big life decision and mostly employers will accept this easily, without any elaboration. You can also say that you seek life experiences and will be travelling for the foreseeable future.
For a better work-life balance or to accommodate changes in family situation, sometimes a long commute to and from work is no longer sustainable.
You may have young children and now need a more flexible work schedule, or you may have become pregnant. Additionally, you may have decided not to return to full-time work following maternity leave.
Health or Illness Reasons
Reasons might relate to your own health that were temporary and now resolved or to family members. You may say you needed to become a carer for a family member.
Other Personal Reasons
There may be other more personal reasons, which you don’t need to fully divulge to either your current or future employers.
Bad Reasons for Leaving a Job
The short answer here is that you should avoid criticism. You don’t want to say anything related to office politics, the company’s poor management, that your boss didn’t keep their promise to give you a raise, or that your job was boring. It is also a good idea to not have to say your were fired, or left due to legal reasons.