Your reason for leaving a company can be one of only three things:
- You left because you wanted to leave.
- You left because the employer wanted you to leave.
- You left because both you and the employer wanted you to leave.
Discussing your reason for leaving can be tricky, especially when you didn’t really have a say in the matter.
Unfortunately, a lot of online applications force you to discuss this point without really giving you an opportunity to fully explain why you left.
Here is a glossary of terms you might consider using in order to spin your reason for leaving:
“Career exploration” – This phrase can be used in a variety of situations, especially if you are in a bad situation and left the company in order to keep your sanity. Everyone has one of those “I need to backpack around the world to find myself” moments, and if this would help explain a complete shift in career fields or a pivot, then use this explanation.
“Career advancement” – Under the best of circumstances, this term can be easily applied to any situation where you left to take another position – whether it worked out or not. The point here is that you saw an opportunity to advance your career, and you took it. No one could blame you for that!
“Mutual Decision” – This does raise some eyebrows and a red flag or two. But by clearly stating, “Hey, this didn’t work out and we both didn’t want to waste each other’s time,” you are also indicating in this type of situation that you knew when it wasn’t going to work out for you or the company.
“Change Management” – Previously known as a “Pink Slip” or “Down Sizing”, change management can indicate a lot of things as your reason for leaving a company, this phrase helps you indicate that the company was undergoing a cataclysmic shift and everything and everyone was being turned upside down.
“Personal Sabbatical” – Illness, child rearing, caring for a spouse, parent, or other family member are some of the reasons some workers need to leave a company. You can state this without getting into the details, which is legally none of the business of the prospective employer.
“Professional Sabbatical” – This phrase is a handy tool when you had to take a mental health break or a career “breather” to reassess where you are and where you want to go. See “Career Exploration.”
“Corporate Acquisition” – Using this term as your reason for leaving helps explain how the parent company’s team has just stepped in and cleaned house.
“Work / Life Balance” – Your reason for leaving could mean horrible commutes, too much work, traveling too often, being on call 100% of the time, etc. etc.
“Skill / Knowledge Acquisition” – If you have been pigeon-holed and aren’t growing, this might be a good term to use.
“Relocation” – If a spouse or partner gets a job in another city, this is your reason for leaving.
“Contract / Temp / Term Expiration” – For any job that has an expiration date, you can stipulate this phrase as your reason for leaving. If you want to explain it further like, “Grant funds were exhausted” – that’s fine too.
“Hours Reduced” – If you are going to list this reason, you should consider the negatives – including the first thing that pops into the mind of a potential employer – WHY? Were you not performing well? They will immediately think something is wrong with you versus the company, so be careful.
“Terminated” – This is the most painful of all reasons for leaving. It is like having a red siren go off in your résumé / application. Legally, you are obligated to note that you are terminated if this has happened. Alternatively, if the job is not applicable or relevant to your employment target – why include it at all?
What other reasons for leaving you can think of or have struggled with?