The Best (and Worst) Reasons for Leaving a Job

Young businessman with backpack on the go
••• Westend61 / Getty Images

Are you looking for a reason for leaving your job to give your boss or a prospective employer? Should you be careful about what you say? When you're moving on to a new position and applying for a new job, one of the questions you'll need to answer is why you are leaving or have left a job.

Your boss may want to know why you are resigning and future employers will want to know why you moved on.

You may, in certain cases, be asked to list on job applications your reasons for leaving, and you will probably be asked during job interviews why you left or are leaving your current job.

Before you start a job search, it's a good idea to figure out what you're going to say, so your reason is consistent with your job applications and with your responses in interviews.

Here's a list of some good—and some very bad—reasons for leaving your job. Being tactful will help you leave your job graciously and remain on good terms with your soon-to-be previous employer.


Watch Now: 8 Good Reasons to Quit Your Job

The Best Reasons for Leaving a Job

These reasons all work extremely well because they are all legitimate reasons an employee can decide to move on to a new position. You will also want to explain your reasons carefully in your resignation letter.

Career Change

  • I am leaving because I want to make a career change from my current industry to a different one.
  • I feel like I’ve developed as much as I can in my current role and am now seeking new opportunities for career growth.
  • I am ready to explore a new trajectory on my career path.
  • Although I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work for you, I’ve been offered my dream job by another company.
  • I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree.

Organizational Restructuring

  • Changes at my company have proven to be difficult to navigate; my team’s overall morale and productivity have declined, and so I think it’s time to explore new options.
  • Company cutbacks have meant that I’m working with a team a third of its original size.
  • My company downsized, which meant that because of my lack of seniority, I was one of the employees whose contracts they terminated.
  • My company was restructured and my department was eliminated.
  • The company I worked for went out of business.
  • My last job was outsourced to India.
  • I and several other employees were laid off after an economic downturn.

Family Circumstances/Health Reasons

  • Family illness required that I give up my job in order to become a primary caregiver.
  • I had to leave my employer because of family reasons.
  • My previous job didn’t allow the flexible schedule I needed to care for my children.
  • I’m getting married and will be moving out of state.
  • I had to leave for temporary health reasons which are now resolved.
  • I left my previous job because I was pregnant.
  • I won’t be returning to work after maternity leave because I’ve decided parenting is a full-time job.
  • I need to leave because of personal circumstances/problems.

Better Opportunity

  • I’ve been offered a great opportunity to work for a company located closer to my family.
  • My hours were reduced and I need a full-time job.
  • My last job really wasn't a good fit.
  • Your company has such a good reputation and offers such wonderful opportunities that I’d leave my current employer in a heartbeat.
  • I landed a higher paying job.
  • I’m leaving the workforce/retiring.
  • There were limited growth opportunities at my former company.
  • The commute to work was too long.
  • I’m looking for a new challenge.
  • I would be happier with a job that offered me more responsibility.
  • I’ve been offered a permanent position.
  • I’m relocating to the opposite coast.
  • I’m ready for early retirement.
  • My previous job was only seasonal/temporary and now I am looking for full-time work.
  • I have plans to travel for the foreseeable future.

The Worst Reasons for Leaving Your Job

Even if they are true, there are some reasons you shouldn't use to explain why you are looking for a different job.

It's not a good idea to bad-mouth your past jobs, bosses, colleagues, or companies or to share too much personal information.

Sharing these reasons for your departure would not reflect positively on you because they raise automatic questions in a hiring manager’s mind. 

  • I’m about to get fired.
  • I was arrested.
  • It was a bad company to work for.
  • I was bored at work.
  • I didn't get along with my co-workers.
  • I didn't like the job.
  • I didn't like the schedule.
  • I didn't want to work so many hours.
  • I didn't want to work evenings or weekends.
  • I hated my boss.
  • The job was too difficult.
  • I was let go for harassment/tardiness.
  • The manager was stupid.
  • My boss was a jerk.
  • My mom made me quit.
  • I didn’t have good transportation to work.
  • Overtime was required.
  • I was passed over for promotion.
  • I was suffering through a rocky marriage.

Make Sure the Reasons Match

You could be leaving your current position for professional reasons (better job, career growth, flexible schedule, for example) or for personal reasons (leaving the workforce, family circumstances, going back to school, etc.).

Or, you could simply hate your job or your boss, but don't say that.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's important that the reason you give a potential employer matches what your previous employers are going to say should they be contacted for more information about you.

It's a red flag to a hiring manager if the reason you give for leaving doesn't match the answer your past employers give when they check your references.

What Else You Need to Know

The decision to leave a job should not be made lightly. While there are good reasons to quit a job, there are also equally valid reasons not to quit a job.

Should you, in fact, decide that the reasons to leave are greater than any incentives you have to stay, then being prepared to present your decision as a positive one is essential.