It’s okay to leave a job you hate.
In fact, if your job makes you miserable, I urge you should to get the heck out of there. Life’s way too short to be stuck in a job that sucks the life out of you.
And believe it or not, most hiring managers would agree. So, if you’re in the middle of interviewing for new job opportunities—or just getting started in the process—you don’t have to worry about someone asking your reason for leaving your current job.
Yes, it’s a common question in a job interview, but it doesn’t have to cause anxiety if you take the time to prepare. It’s like I always say: Preparation breeds confidence.
Top Reasons People Leave Jobs
All right, you’re thinking about looking for a new opportunity. But when is it a good time for you to leave your current role and find something else? Here are seven common reasons for leaving a job. See if any of these situations apply to you. If they do, it might be a good time for you to leave or start searching for something better.
1. A better opportunity came along.
Sometimes you don’t have to find a new job because a new job finds you. If a recruiter or professional contact reaches out to share an opportunity with better pay or work that’s more aligned with your skills and purpose, you should learn more about it. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your current job, this could be a great chance to try something new and take the next step toward professional growth.
2. You’re relocating, or life circumstances are changing.
Life happens. Maybe your spouse got a job offer in another state, you’re starting a family, or a loved one needs care. Either way, your responsibilities or life circumstances are shaking up your routine, and it’s time to spend your energy somewhere else. A big life-change could be a big hint that it’s time to go.
3. You have no connection to your work.
A recent Gallup poll says it all: Right now, about 70% of Americans aren’t fully engaged in their current work situationjob.1 Monday mornings are a nightmare for them, and they’re just living for the weekend. But that’s not really living at all.
Humans need to feel a connection to their work so they can thrive. They need to be passionate about the contributions they’re making with their lives. Otherwise, they become hopeless and believe the lie that their lives doesn’t matter.
Not feeling passionate or connected to the work you do is a great reason for leaving a job. It’s not something to be ashamed of. In fact, the person interviewing you will be impressed by your desire to do work that matters. That same passion you hunger for is what will drive you to bring your A-game to work every day.
4. You’re seeking opportunities to grow.
If you’re not being challenged to reach your full potential at work, and if you never get the chance to stretch beyond your comfort zone, you get stuck. You hit a wall. And you die a little on the inside.
Now, part of that’s on you. It’s your responsibility to take the initiative and keep developing your skills both inside and outside of work. But on the other hand, your job might be holding you back because you’re not being challenged. Or there just aren’t many opportunities for you to branch out even though you’re dedicated and motivated.
Get Everything You Need to Land the Job You Love!
Most hiring managers are hunting for team members who are hungry for growth. There are enough employees out there mailing it in every day—but a team member who wants to develop their skills, grow in leadership, and drive projects to the finish line is rare. Letting them know you’re looking for opportunities to grow is a solid reason for leaving your job—and one a hiring manager will love to hear.
5. The work culture is toxic.
Most of us have experienced a toxic work culture. Unfortunately, gossip in the break room, negative attitudes, poor leadership, micromanagers, and the step-on-anyone-to-get-to-the-top mentality in corporate America are commonplace.
But just because something is commonplace doesn’t mean you should put up with it.
Sharing with an interviewer that you want to leave a job because of the toxic work culture won’t come off as negative if you do it the right way (more on this later). If anything, it’ll communicate to a potential employer that you’re likely to be a positive addition to their culture because you can’t stand to work with people who sit around and complain about their jobs all day.
6. You're underappreciated.
About 79% of people who leave their jobs give “lack of appreciation” as their reason.Here’s a shocking stat: employee recognition programs can reduce the odds of people quitting by 29% and prevent employee burnout by 80%. 2, 3 Wow! This isn’t because humans have big egos. It’s because people want to know that their work matters and doesn’t go unnoticed. You shouldn’t need constant recognition, but a peer or leader calling out your positive contributions every so often keeps the morale up.
Being underpaid can also leave you feeling like your company doesn’t appreciate the skills, experience, and value you bring to your work. If you can earn more in a different company—one that recognizes your value and has a mission you believe in—why wouldn’t you? Anyone would agree that’s a positive reason to find a new job!
7. You want to change careers or industries.
This reason for wanting to leave your job is pretty self-explanatory. You want to do something completely different! There might not be anything wrong with your current position—you may just feel a strong curiosity or calling to explore a totally different industry or role. This is a totally valid reason to change careers. Why not explore what the world has to offer?
Simply explain to the interviewer why your current job or industry isn’t the right fit for you and why the position you’re applying for aligns more with your sweet spot.
Questions to Ask If You’re Thinking of Leaving Your Job
Before you jump ship, spend some time in self-reflection and ask yourself why you really want to leave your job. Here are some questions to start with before you make any permanent or impulsive decisions:
- Have I asked my leader about ways to grow in my current role?
- Am I holding back from connecting with my team, getting out of my comfort zone, or initiating new projects?
- What would have to change here for me to stay (like my salary, hours, or team dynamics)?
- Would a new job bring me closer to my professional or personal goals?
- Have I spent enough time at my current job to learn the ropes and contribute?
- Am I running toward something good or away from something bad?
If you’ve answered all these questions and decided it’s still the right time to go, here are some tips to explain to your manager why you’re leaving.
How to Explain to Your Employer Why You’re Leaving
When it comes to telling your employer you’re leaving the company for a new position, you’ll want to follow a format—just like sharing why you’re looking for a new job with a hiring manager. This means you’ll want to be honest—but never negative—and give a reason that doesn’t throw your boss or team under the bus. Remember, you want to keep your professional reputation and personal brand in good standing even if you’re leaving a toxic situation. Keep reading to see how to explain why you’re leaving your job . . .
1. Decide what reason you’ll give.
There are endless—and perfectly acceptable—reasons for leaving a job. But you don’t want to get caught off guard in an exit interview when they ask you why you’re quitting your job. That’s why you need to know your exact reason ahead of time.
2. Practice explaining your reason for leaving.
Can you relate to any of the common reasons for leaving a job we covered earlier? Maybe none of those reasons them hit the nail on the head for you—or maybe it’s a combination of reasons. Whatever explanation you land on, just remember that answering this question isn’t the time to complain about your current job or employer.
You don’t have to give your manager every reason for leaving your current job. Be honest, but just pick one reason and practice how you’ll phrase it. I recommended practicing the response with a friend who can give you feedback and even ask potential follow-up questions.
Here’s an example of how you might explain your reason for leaving a job:
I’ve learned a lot working at [company]. I’m grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to learn [a new skill]. But I’m on the hunt for a role that will provide new opportunities for growth. I’m interested in leadership and career development, and I feel I’ve mastered this role.
Can you see how that “negative” part of your current job can sound like a positive reason for applying to a new job? Any manager should understand!
3. Give your response.
All right, folks, you can only practice so much. You don’t have to memorize every single word you want to say. Eventually, it’s time to get out there and get in some reps in real life. When you explain to your leader why you’re leaving your job, be confident, kind and understanding that they might be surprised about your news. Remember to stay positive and be grateful for the opportunity and what you’ve learned.
And, there are a few things not to do, which I’ll explain . . .
What Not to Do When You Leave a Job
Just like there are positive ways to leave a job, there are also negative ways to leave a job. Here are some actions you’ll want to avoid while you’re making a transition out of your current role and into something new. It’s pretty simple, people. When you’re telling an employer you’re leaving, keep it classy, be polite, and don’t beat around the bush.
- Don’t bad-mouth your boss or coworkers.
- Don’t leave without giving your leader two weeks’ notice.
- Don’t tell other people you’re leaving before telling your leader.
- Don’t complain about everything you disagreed with or found wrong at your job.
- Don’t apologize or feel bad about finding a new opportunity.
- Don’t tell a long and dramatic story about why you’re leaving. Keep it simple and kind.
How to Explain Leaving Your Job When Interviewing for a New Role
It’s common for hiring managers to ask why you’re looking for a new role as part of their interview process. Here are three steps to explain to a potential new employer why you’re leaving (or why you left) your current role.
1. Be honest.
Always—and I mean always—be honest. Nothing turns off a hiring manager more than catching a candidate in a lie. It’s not worth missing out on this opportunity!
Even if you’ve messed up in the past, owning up to it and be honest about what happened and what you learned from it. This communicates that you can be trusted and that you value transparency. These are qualities every hiring manager looks for.
Don’t think they’ll never find out. In this age, where technology has made our small world even smaller, they will find out, and you’ll be sorry for it.
2. Be positive.
Trash-talking a current or former employer is never a good idea. In fact, it’s a huge red flag for most hiring managers. If you trash-talk someone you currently work for, there’s enough reason to believe one day you’ll turn around and trash-talk the company you’re interviewing with.
So, no matter the reason for leaving a job—however negative it might be—spin the reason to be more positive. You can do this while still honestly answering the question.
3. Be brief.
When you’re explaining why you’re leaving a job, get to the point and keep it short. You should clearly state the honest reason, but that doesn’t mean you have to get on a soapbox and ramble on and on.
When you give more details than are needed, you start to dig yourself into a hole and risk your reputation. Like For example, if you ramble on about your inconsiderate coworkers, that could make you look bad—not them.
So, keep it short and get to the point (this is one of those things you should practice!).
Sample Ways to Explain to a Hiring Manager Why You’re Leaving a Job
I’ve thrown a lot at you, but we’re not done yet! Here are a few examples of ways you can explain to a hiring manager why you’re leaving your current role and looking for a new one. These are great ways to keep the conversation positive while also being honest about the reality of your situation. Use these examples as a framework by tweaking them with details from your own situation.
Instead of saying: My [company] has a toxic work culture. They make coming into the office every day just plain miserable.
You could say: It’s really important for me to be around people who love their job and believe in the mission of the company. Unfortunately, that’s not the type of culture that’s cultivated at my current company. But I’ve heard such great things about the way your company doesn’t tolerate gossip, which excites me!
Instead of saying: My manager is always standing over my shoulder micromanaging every little assignment. It’s really annoying.
You could say: I’m looking for an opportunity that will allow me to take ownership of projects and drive them to the finish line. That type of culture isn’t available to me at my current company. But I know one of your company values is fierce ownership, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.
See, folks, you can be honest about why you’re leaving a job without being negative.
Get Clarity in Your Career
If you’re considering a new position but you’re not sure if now is the right time to make a change, I’ve got a tool that’ll help you take the next steps. Check out my free Career Clarity Guide. It’ll help you understand your top talents, passions and mission to figure out your career sweet spot. After that, you’ll have a much easier time knowing which opportunities arewill be right for you (and when it’s time to leave your job)!