The Best (and Worst) Reasons for Leaving a Job

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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. Before you start a job search, it's a good idea to figure out what you're going to say so that 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 former employer.

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Watch Now: 8 Good Reasons to Quit Your Job

The Best Reasons for Leaving a Job

Thousands of people quit their jobs each month, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons for doing so. You will likely want to explain your reasons carefully in your resignation letter.

Note

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

Career Change

Many people who choose to leave their current position are simply looking for a 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

Difficult situations within an employee's team or organization can be a signal for them to move on.

  • Changes at my company have proven to be difficult to navigate; my team’s overall morale and productivity have declined, 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 abroad.
  • Several other employees and I were laid off after an economic downturn.

Family Circumstances/Health Reasons

Work is important, but it isn't the only important thing in life. Family or health issues are common reasons people leave their jobs.

  • 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

Oftentimes, a better opportunity simply comes along.

  • 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.
  • 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. Sharing these reasons for your departure would not reflect positively on you, because they may 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 hated my boss.
  • The job was too difficult.
  • I was let go for harassment/tardiness.
  • My parents/family members made me quit.
  • I didn’t have good transportation to work.
  • Overtime was required.
  • I was passed over for promotions.
  • I was suffering through a rocky marriage.

Important

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

Make Sure the Reasons Match

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

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 would say, should they be contacted for more information about you.

Warning

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Ask for a Job Back After Quitting for Personal Reasons?

If you left your former job in good standing—meaning that you didn't burn any bridges on your way out—you may be able to get your old job back. Reach out to your former colleagues or supervisors and inquire about any job openings, even if they aren't exactly the same position you had before. Here's a sample letter.

How Long Should I Stay at a Job Before Quitting?

Most experts agree that you should stay at your job for a minimum of two years before quitting, if possible. Shorter tenures may give an illusion of unreliability that could concern future employers. However, as long as you're able to explain your reasons for leaving sooner, many employers will likely understand.

How Much Notice Do I Need to Give When I’m Quitting a Job?

In most cases, it's standard practice to give your employer two weeks' notice when quitting your job. This time frame is generally considered to be long enough for you to wrap up any loose ends and work on transitional items, and for your employer to plan for your absence.

How Long Does Health Insurance Last After Quitting a Job?

After losing or quitting your job, you may be eligible to keep your health insurance for up to 18 months through COBRA. COBRA is a federal law that may allow you to continue your employee health insurance for a limited time; however, you will be responsible for paying the full cost, along with any administrative fees.