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Changing careers: Finding a good reason to leave work

October 12, 2022 - 14 min read


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Is your reason to leave work good enough?

How to explain your reasons for leaving a job

Explore your options

If it makes you unhappy, you should leave

The bottom line

It’s tough to find a good enough reason to leave your job. You might be looking to further your professional development because you feel like your current job isn't helping you grow enough. Maybe you're ready to start looking for a position at your dream company. 

But sometimes, you just want to leave a job. It’s that simple. 

And you're not alone. Many people decide to quit their jobs and find new ones easy day. A phenomenon known as the Great Resignation has taken the U.S. labor market by storm these last couple of years. The quit rate reached a record high of 3% in November 2021, continuing into 2022

One way to help yourself make this decision is expanding your knowledge about what it means to have a good reason to leave work and how to do so professionally. Let’s explore some of your options and discuss why many people are leaving their jobs.


Is your reason to leave work good enough?

To start, know that having mixed feelings about staying in or leaving your current position is totally normal. You might have become comfortable with your work arrangement, making any change seems daunting. Learning how to resign from a job when you find a good reason is, in many cases, necessary.

Nobody expects you to stay with your current employer for the rest of your career. You have career goals, ambitions, and dreams, and sometimes you can’t reach them without outgrowing a position. This decision requires a lot of self-awareness

As of July 2022, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs in one month alone. If you’re considering joining that number, don’t worry: you’d be one of many. 

What matters is that your reason for leaving your job honors your values and helps you live a more meaningful life. And having a good grasp of why you're leaving will help you begin your search for your next job in the right place.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you're truly happy at your work:

  1. How do you feel about your coworkers and managers?
  2. How do you feel when you talk to your boss? Stressed, annoyed, happy, or excited?
  3. What are you feeling and thinking on Sunday night, right before the work week?
  4. Are you content with your compensation and benefits?
  5. How would you say your work-life balance is with this current position?
  6. What do you say when people as you about your work environment? Do you complain, or do you mostly have positive things to say?
  7. Do you appreciate flexible schedule or more rigid working hours? Which kind does your current position give you?
  8. Would you be happier if you had an office to attend? Or would remote work improve your work-life balance?

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How to explain your reasons for leaving a job

When you decide to begin a new job search, you'll need to prepare to answer questions about why you left your previous job. You’ll want to offer solid reasons for leaving a job on applications you fill out so flag your intentions to a hiring team.

Looking for more growth opportunities? Better work-life balance? Make sure you’re transparent and connect your reason for leaving to a reason for applying.

Deciding what you’re going to say on the job application will help you in the interview process. You don't want to walk into a job interview without good reasons for leaving a job, because being unprepared may cause you to freeze. 

The recruiters want to hear your reason in your own words. Expect interview questions like, "Why did you leave your previous job?" or "What made you write your resignation letter and move on?" 

Remember: there’s no wrong answer. A toxic work culture, unengaging work, or boredom are valid reasons to look for a new role. Recruiters likely want to confirm that you’re not job hopping or at risk of leaving their company after a few short months. 

These questions are your opportunity to give a thoughtful answer that best describes your decision. But that's easier said than done. Job interviews are already nerve-wracking. 


Here are four tips to help you explain your reason for leaving your job:

  1. Be honest: The saying that honesty is the best policy rings true. Speaking truthfully will help you establish trust and make a better first impression with the recruiter. Plus, don't be ashamed of your reason. If it's because you want to find your purpose or get a salary bump you know you deserve, say it.
  2. Be direct: The recruiter will notice if you skirt around the question. They’ll wonder if you’re trying to hide something. Answer in proper sentences and speak with confidence. Own your reason. Try starting your sentence with something as straightforward as, "The reason why I left my previous job is because…" and go from there. 
  3. Remain professional: If your reason for leaving is negative, make sure to choose your words wisely. Don't trash talk your previous work environment to your potential employer because it’s unprofessional and suggests you might not bring the best attitude to the team. Speak politely and try to highlight things you learned from your previous job without dwelling on negative experiences.
  4. Be specific: This isn't the time to be vague. But that's not to say that you must go into great detail about a struggle with your mental health journey or toxic boss. Give enough detail to paint a good picture and answer the question, but don’t overshare.

Explore your options

If you're still thinking, "Should I quit my job” or “Is my reason good enough?” here are some valid reasons you might want to leave work. 

But how do you actually decide you want to leave your job? Evaluate your options. It might take some time, but going over the pros and cons of your job will help you realize if leaving your job is your best option.

To help you out, here are four things to evaluate your current position on:


1. The work environment itself

When you step into the office or log on for the day, what screams out to you? Think about how respectful and inclusive your work environment is. Are you happy to be there, or is it a feeding ground for a toxic work environment? Do coworkers and managers gaslight you at work? Do you feel valued? 

Some criteria might be more important to you than others. One study found that employees of every generation ranked "the organization cares about employees' well-being" as one of their top three criteria for a workplace. It was ranked number one among millennials and Generation Z. 

2. The company culture and mission

Take some time to gather your work values. Do they align with your current company's values? You need to believe in the work that you're doing to prevent burnout and boredom.

Review what your company’s mission. If you find you no common goals by the end of your research, it might be your reason for moving on. Plus, it might lead you to new opportunities.

3. Use of your skills

You might hate your current job because your most valued skills aren't being used. You might find you haven't learned any new skills recently, and your job doesn't provide much growth. You could be interested in changing jobs to find something better using your skill set. 

Think about a typical workday. Reflect on everything you do, and write down all the skills you use. Notice if you do too much of one thing and not enough of another. It might be time to find a new environment to flex other skills. 


4. Your industry

How difficult would it be to find a new job? This could be a reason for staying or branching out. Certain skill sets are always in demand, regardless of a strained job market. Try reaching out to other professionals on LinkedIn when looking for new opportunities, and don't be afraid to ask for some career advice.

If it makes you unhappy, you should leave

Apart from having a professional reason for leaving a job, if your work makes you unhappy, then leave. That's a valid reason to seek a new job on its own. 

If you've been unhappy with your job or know it’s time to follow your dreams and pursue your passions, the time is now. You're proving to yourself that you value your well-being and your career's meaning.

But finding happiness in a job isn’t founded on finding a new job. What’s making you unhappy might not be the job at all. If you lack stress management skills, you may struggle to find a reasonable work-life balance at any company.

In your reflection about why you want to leave, focus on the elements of your job that bother you. Are there opportunities to change your current role to better align with your career goals?

If it’s growth where you feel you’re lacking, you could find a mentor in your industry to better prepare you for future promotions and job changes. Adding more social functions to everyone’s calendar will increase connection on your team and, hopefully, team morale.


The bottom line

A good reason to leave work is ultimately up to you. Nobody else will make the right decision for you. 

Taking your time and thinking your legitimate reason through will benefit you in the future. You'll be ready when a recruiter asks questions about your reason for seeking a new role.

Or if a loved one asks why you left a job you seemingly excelled at, you can honestly say that you weren't happy there. If the job doesn't value your health and well-being, it’s probably not a place you want to be. After all, there are plenty of reasons why employees leave

Remember: leaving a job that makes you unhappy is a way of valuing your growth. Finding what’s best for you will always be the right choice.

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Published October 12, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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