There are many valid reasons for leaving a job. But before you quit, you need to evaluate your reasons and confirm that leaving is the right thing to do.
“Why did you leave your previous job?” or “why are you looking for a new job?” are common job interview questions, which might also be asked on a job application. So you also need to consider how you’re going to explain why you left – because it will come up during your job search.
Remember that your job has been offering you several benefits, including career growth, income, and a chance to meet new people and form relationships, to name but a few. Before you leave, think of the benefits you stand to gain by staying versus those you stand to gain by leaving. This way you will make the right decision.
Here we look at some good and bad reasons for leaving a job and how to answer why you left honestly and professionally.
3 Wrong Reasons for Leaving a Job
X 1. You hate it there
Is hating your job a good enough reason to quit? It might be, but how are you going to explain that during a job interview without raising any red flags?
Hating your job may not necessarily a good reason to leave because you may not like your next job either. Or the one after that.
Rather than quitting, evaluate why you hate the job. Is it because your colleagues don’t support you? Is it because your boss is too bossy? Perhaps the job takes too much of your time?
No matter what the reason for disliking is, quitting should be the last option. Try to resolve the issues and see if that changes how you feel.
X 2. You have been passed over for a promotion
You might have deserved that recent promotion that was given to someone else, and now want to quit because you’re angry or sad that you were passed over.
Before making any hasty decisions, take a step back and give yourself time to think about it.
Was the other person just as qualified as you, if not more? Have they been putting in more hours or working harder? Have they been with the company longer than you?
Instead of quitting, consider what you can do to improve so that you are promoted next time. Better yet, go to your supervisor and ask them what else you could be doing.
If you do quit, you might end up in another job where you will have an even lower position than the one you currently have.
X 3. You want a bigger paycheck
We all need a little more money but there is more to a job than just the paycheck.
You may get a better-paying job elsewhere, but what if it means working longer hours? Or a longer commute that will increase your transportation costs? These will rob you of your free time and time you have to spend with your family. You may no longer be able to attend your children’s school events and other important gatherings.
When you look at your paycheck, don’t only focus on your take-home pay. Your current employer may offer good health insurance and other benefits that you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for.
5 Good Reasons for Leaving a Job
✓ 1. You have a better job offer
Making a career change because your interests, values, or lifestyle have changed is understandable. If you have received a better job offer and want to pursue it, this is a good reason to quit.
This is particularly a good decision if the new job offers you career growth, better working hours, flexibility like working from home, increased pay, a promotion, and personal satisfaction.
Before you hand in your resignation, make sure you have your new job offer in writing.
✓ 2. You are relocating
Family relocation is another good reason for leaving a job. If your partner receives a great job offer in another city, joining them and finding a job there may be the only option you have.
If this is the case, talk with your employer and find out if there are other options like working remotely or transferring to a branch of the company in the town you are moving to.
If these options are not available, hand in your resignation explaining that you are moving. And don’t forget to ask your supervisor if you can use them as a reference.
✓ 3. You work in a difficult environment
Uncooperative colleagues, a difficult boss, and a company that does not provide the resources you need all constitute a difficult – if not toxic – working environment.
If you face these challenges and are unable to perform your duties or are too stressed because of it, try to solve the problem. This could mean talking to your boss, your HR department, your union, or seeking medical help from your doctor or a counsellor.
But if the issues persist, it’s time to leave. Your mental health has to come first.
✓ 4. You are pursuing your education
Advancing your education is always a good idea. But if you want to pursue another degree or specialize in an area of interest, you may want to leave your current job.
The number of hours you work, how much time your classes will take, and your schedule for both will determine whether you have to quit or if you can do both.
Some education and training courses can be taken on a part-time basis or can be done online, making it possible to keep your job and pursue your education simultaneously.
But if you are going to be a full-time student, keeping a full-time job probably isn’t feasible. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin and end up failing your classes or struggling at work. More education should open new and better job opportunities for you.
Suggested Article: 30 Places to Learn New Job Skills for FREE!
✓ 5. You are sick or injured
Being sick can get in the way of your performance at work, just as your work can make your health deteriorate.
If you are diagnosed with an illness or have a serious injury, you may need to leave your job in order to fully recover. Even an illness affecting a close family member may require you to leave your job to take care of them.
If you are considering leaving your job for a medical reason, you may not need to quit. Your insurance should cover you during this period that you’re off work. Or you may qualify for government support, such as the Sickness Benefits offered in Canada. Take full advantage of whatever income support you can get before you resign.
For long-term medical needs, however, you may have no other choice but to leave. After recovery, you can look into getting your old job back, or you may decide to get a new one.
How to Tell When It’s Time to Leave a Job
You may have good reasons for leaving your job, but how do you know when it’s the best time to go?
You need to evaluate your life, not just your job. Ask yourself:
- Is my current role helping me grow in my career?
- Am I getting the right pay for my qualifications?
- Can I get a better job with another company?
- Am I unhappy with something temporary or fixable?
- Is the company, industry, or my specific role undergoing major changes?
Your answers to these questions will help you figure out if it is time to call it quits.
Sometimes the things happening in our personal lives can affect us at work. If you have been stressed recently by personal issues, that may be why you’re having a hard time at work. You may not need to quit your job because it’s not the actual problem.
Regardless if you’re having personal or professional issues, don’t just quit. Try to solve the problems first and only leave when none of your attempts at a solution work.
Leaving a job without another offer will leave you in a place no one wants to be: unemployed. With no income, you will start eating into your savings, and before you know it, you will have nothing left.
It is important to plan what you will do after quitting your job before you hand over your resignation letter. Do you intend to find another job? Start a business? Take some time off? You will need a source of income, so having it clearly planned out ahead of time is crucial.
How to Quit Your Job
When it’s clear that you need to move on and leave the job, it’s important to do it right.
First, understand that not everyone will support your decision, so be ready for resistance. Make your decision and be firm about it.
Draft a resignation letter detailing your reasons for wanting to resign and hand it over to your supervisor or HR office. If the issues causing you to quit are urgent, you may leave your job the same day. If not, it’s most common to give two weeks’ notice, but you can give as much notice as you see fit.
When drafting your letter, remember to be courteous no matter how bad your experience was. Also, remember to say thank you for the opportunity. It’s better to leave with grace on good terms because you never know when you may need a former colleague or boss to help you out in the future.
If you will be looking for a new position, check out popular job sites to see who’s hiring. Update your resume and start sending it out. Start preparing for job interviews and practice answering the common questions that are asked. In particular, be ready to be asked about why you left your previous job.
How to Answer the ‘Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job’ Question During Interviews
Every job interview will include some questions about the places you have worked at previously. You will likely be asked about where you are currently working and why you left the place you worked before. How do you best answer this question?
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
First, it’s important to understand why this question comes up in job interviews. It may seem invasive to you, but hiring managers have important reasons for asking it. They want to understand you better and determine if you are the best candidate for the job.
Did you professionally leave your previous job? Was it for valid reasons? Did you leave on your own, or were you let go? If you were fired, do you take appropriate responsibility for what happened?
They also want to check on your integrity by assessing how you answer multiple questions. For example, if you say you left your last job because you were over-worked and burnt-out, but then later say something about always being bored at work or having too much downtime, this can make you look dishonest or deceptive.
How to Answer This Common Job Interview Question
The reason for leaving a job may be hard to explain to a potential new employer, but you have to find the right words to use.
With your friends and family, it’s okay to say that your boss is a jerk or you hated everyone at the office, but you can’t say this to an interview panel!
So how can you explain your reasons in a way your interviewer will understand without blowing your chance of getting the job? Here are a few tips and examples of what to say.
1. Be honest
Being honest about every part of your career, including why you left your previous jobs, will help you avoid contradicting yourself. A single contradiction can take away a new opportunity, so it’s best to avoid making any.
Honesty is key, but avoid sounding rude or unappreciative of your previous employer. Choose your words wisely.
For instance, if you left your job because you do not like it there, you can say:
“I am looking for a more challenging opportunity which could not be found with my previous employer.”
2. Keep it short
The more you talk, the more you are likely to say the wrong thing, especially if you left your previous job on bad terms or for reasons like a hostile working environment.
Keep your answer concise and to the point. Two or three sentences is enough. Then redirect the conversation back to highlighting your qualifications. For example:
“I learned a lot from this job, but I am looking for something that will fulfill my long-term career goals. The communication skills I have developed better align with the projects companies like yours have to offer.”
3. Never badmouth your former employer
Avoid saying anything negative about your former employer and focus on the good experiences you had. For instance, you may decide to talk about your interactions with clients instead of your relationship with your boss.
When you can’t avoid talking about something that might be seen as negative, include a positive spin on it. This could be what you learned from the experience or how it helped you grow.
An example would be:
“After a changeover in management, my last role was no longer a good fit for me. I learned that I thrive in a proactive environment and not in a reactive one, and am pursuing opportunities with companies that are more forward-thinking.”
4. Be prepared
Before going for your interview, take some time to prepare yourself. Your answer to this and every other interview question is what will help you get the job. Practice answering some of the questions you may be asked, as well as variations for these questions so that you’re well-prepared before walking into the room.
How you answer “why are you looking for a job?” and “why did you leave your last job?” will be different. Remember that this is one of the make-or-break questions in an interview, so try to prepare clear answers for all the possible variations.
But if they don’t ask, don’t tell! Just because you have an answered prepared doesn’t mean you have to work it into the interview if it doesn’t come up.
5. Acknowledge being laid off or fired
Maybe you didn’t quit your previous job but were let go. A potential employer will want to know why.
Being laid off from work is nothing to be ashamed about. Companies are always downsizing or going out of business. A good answer would be simple and direct, such as:
“There was some restructuring at the company and my position was affected.”
Being fired, on the other hand, is a little tricky. Be honest about it, as they may contact your previous employer. Find the right balance between acknowledging it without saying anything more than you need to. Try to use terms like “let go” and “dismissed” instead of “fired”. Show them that you can own up to your mistakes and that you’ve learned from them. For example:
“When I was hired, my role was 50% administrative and 50% bookkeeping. As the business grew, I was no longer able to keep up with both. I spoke with my manager several times, letting her know these tasks had each developed into full-time roles and asked about getting additional help. Unfortunately, a second person was not added to the team, and I was eventually let go. While it was not the outcome I had hoped for, I now have stronger organizational and problem-solving skills because of it.”
The Bottom Line
Do you have the right reasons to quit your job? A clear plan on what you will do next? A way to support yourself (and your family) if you’ll be out of work?
If you do, go ahead and leave gracefully. Notify your employer, write a resignation letter and leave with your head held high.
If not, stay where you are until you have these things in place. Start job searching and be ready to explain why you’re leaving with a clear and precise answer that’s as honest as possible.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.