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The Ultimate Guide for Leaving a Job

Sarah O’Mahoney

Marketing Specialist & Freelance Blogger


Leaving a job is often a part of one’s career. According to Zippia, on average, the working person will go through 12 jobs in their lifetime!  That means leaving a job 11 times over your working years. Leaving or quitting your job can be a daunting task. It may be worrying to think about how your employer will take the news of your transition, or how you cope adjusting to the big change.

Leaving your job can be a difficult decision. Whatever reason has triggered you to leave your job can be a tough thing to deal with, from knowing if it is definitely the right thing to do, to ensuring your transition of leaving the company is smooth and stress free.

Remaining professional when leaving your job is super important. There is a right and wrong way to go about handing in your job termination notice. This blog will act as your ultimate guide on:

  • How to leave your job
  • Reasons for leaving a job
  • Giving your employer notice
  • Resignation letters
  • and everything in between!

If you are considering leaving your job or maybe you have already decided, make sure to continue reading on for the best tips and advice!

Reasons for Leaving a Job

There is an endless list of possible reasons as to why you may be considering leaving your job. At the end of the day, the reasons for leaving a job are personal to you, but the reality is that this is a career milestone that many employees will face through their career.

Here are some examples of common reasons for leaving a job:

Want to Change Industry/Career

Career change as a reason for leaving a job
A New Career is a Reason for Leaving a Job

Wanting to change your career or the industry you work in is a completely valid reason for leaving a job. Maybe you are a graduate who has realized they chose the wrong area of work, or someone who has been in the same industry for the last 20 years and now wants a change. Whatever your position, it is never too late to change your career if that is something you want to do. Changing your career can be daunting. The fear of the unknown is always a cause for concern to ensure that you are sure of your decision before you pack up your office.  

Changing your career is a big decision and requires some preparation. If you have decided to pursue a career in a different area or industry, ensure you have the necessary skills and qualifications required to get a job in this area. If you leave your job with nothing but an interest in the area, it may be difficult to find a job, so ensure you have everything set up correctly to put yourself in a good position.

Not Being Valued at Current Company

If you feel like you are being taken for granted or not being valued at your current job, this may be a pushing factor for you wanting to leave, and that is understandable! Unfortunately, some employees find themselves in a position where they feel the work and effort they put into their role isn’t being recognized. A lot of employees in the workplace are motivated by being valued, receiving good feedback and having a general sense that they are important and appreciated at a company. 

Not being valued or appreciated at a company can make you feel demotivated, and it may even affect your self-esteem. If you have decided to leave your job due to this reason, try and ensure the next company you apply to work with has a better culture and sees every employee as an asset. 

Leaving your job due to feeling not valued may be awkward to explain to your manager. Instead of bad-mouthing your manager for not valuing you as an employee, maybe consider explaining that you are looking for a company with a certain type of culture. This way, you are still being truthful about why you want to leave, but you aren’t burning any bridges either.

Not Being Challenged Anymore

Feeling as if you are not excited about your job or being challenged anymore is another valid reason for leaving your job. As humans, we need to be challenged. If not, we get stuck in a mundane routine and eventually just get bored. 

Being challenged an appropriate amount at work is a great way to feel motivated and fulfilled. If your current job isn’t pushing you to tackle more challenges, then there is a possibility that you may not be engaged, or growing to your full potential. 

Wanting to leave a job that isn’t challenging you to go to a workplace where you feel pushed in a healthy way is something many employees may have to consider during their working career. Having to explain this to the current company may seem like a difficult thing to do, but any reasonable manager will understand the need for more responsibility in order to grow professionally.

Something Better Came Up

It may be the case that you have been headhunted by another company which now means you need to leave your current job. If another company has headhunted you, this means you are doing a really good job, so well done! Another company offering you a position can be exciting. The chances are that this offer will include a pay rise and possibly a promotion, seeing as it involves a change in your career. 

Leaving your job because a better opportunity came up may be another example of an awkward conversation with your manager. In fact, if your current company hears that you have been offered a better position somewhere else, they will come up with a better promotion for you if they don’t want to lose you. 

You Experience Burnout

Burnout is a valid reason for leaving a job.
Burnout is a valid reason for leaving a job.

Burnout happens when someone becomes stressed for a long period of time. Someone suffering from burnout may feel severely overwhelmed, drained and extremely tired. In any instance, burnout is as good a reason as any to take a career break and either temporarily or permanently leave your job. It may become almost impossible to do your daily work tasks due to an increased drop in energy levels and lack of motivation. 

Leaving your job to recover from burnout is more than an acceptable thing to do. Taking the time to get back to yourself means when you do decide to work again, you will be in a great state to do so.  

Mental Health Break

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. If you feel your head isn’t in a great space and you are suffering, leaving your job to focus on getting better is always an option. Taking a break from working to focus on your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Similarly, to leaving your job due to burnout, you will feel so much better and ready to work once you have taken time to recover. 

Nowadays, it seems to be harder for people to get their work-life balance right due to working from home. This can have a real impact on mental health if employees are rarely coming away from their screens while at home. If your current job is having negative impacts on your mental health, you may need to ask yourself “is my job worth sacrificing my mental health?”

Any company who cares for their employees will understand and support your decision to leave due to mental health issues or mental illness. In a situation like this, your colleagues will understand that you need to put yourself first! 

Family Reasons

There are a number of reasons for leaving your job that involve your family. Maybe you have been focusing too much on your job and have missed too much time with your family. Maybe you just started a family and want to put your time into raising your kids.

Other reasons might include needing to take care of a family member full time, or maybe you are grieving a loved one. Whatever the actual reason, having or wanting to leave your job due to family reasons is something that many employees face. 

If you are leaving your job due to family reasons, remember that you don’t have to give details that you are not comfortable giving. You should be honest with your employer, but they don’t need to know the ins and outs of your personal life either. 

Sickness

Leaving your job due to an illness lets you focus on recovering fully and getting back to good health. If you are suffering from an illness, it may have become increasingly difficult for you to complete your daily work tasks, socialise with your co-workers, and concentrate in general. Leaving or quitting your job because you are sick is completely understandable and you should not feel guilty for doing so. Your health should always be your first priority and if you need to quit to recover, that’s just how it is! 

Again, you are not obliged to give detailed information on your sickness to your manager. Dealing with an illness is difficult enough as it is, and no one will expect you to talk about anything you are uncomfortable about. Leaving work to focus on recovering from a sickness is something that no employee wants to face, but if it ever does become a reality, remember that your health comes before your wealth!

Toxic Workplace

Having to work in a toxic workplace is really difficult. It makes getting up for work in the morning a dreaded task, and makes the days drag. If you are considering leaving your job due to being in a toxic workplace, you are doing the right thing. The majority of companies are great places to work, but if you have found yourself at an organization where the environment is toxic and harmful, then it may be time to call it quits. 

A toxic workplace may look different in each individual environment, but typically they have high turnover, low morale, lots of stress, a bad culture and bullying can even occur. Working in a toxic environment can cause bad mental health and force you to eventually hate a job you thought you would love. 

If you are leaving your job due to working in a toxic workplace, try and be as honest as you can with your employer, while remaining respectful. If your manager tries and convinces you to stay, you need to remain strong and explain to your employer that you are looking for a company with a better culture. Hopefully, with the manager hearing this, it may shed some light on the toxic workplace situation at the company and encourage change.

Not Being Paid Enough

Often, employees may leave their job because they are simply not being paid enough. No matter how appreciated or valued a person is, if they are not being paid enough, they cannot afford to live or pay bills. The reality is that we all have rent to pay, cars to maintain and groceries to buy… we work to afford all of this. Of course, employees enjoy other benefits of working such as the social aspect, being fulfilled, or having a sense of purpose, but at the end of the day, having financial stability is the first priority. 

Due to economic issues many companies may be facing, it may be impossible for them to give employees a pay rise, forcing employees to look elsewhere for work. If you have decided to leave your job due to not being paid enough, you can be honest with your employer about your intentions but express empathy if the company is going through a tough time financially. 

How to Tell Your Employer You are Leaving

If you are planning on leaving your job it is important to consider everyone you are leaving behind and giving everyone plenty notice. By law, most employers require 2-weeks notice from employees. If you have been working at the company for a long time you may be required to give more than 2-weeks notice. You can find this information in your employment contract. 

Giving your employer enough notice about your departure is important as it gives them time to prepare. While you might be totally focused on preparing to leave and getting started at your new endeavours, your employer needs time to plan for you leaving. Your employer may have to do things like hire a replacement, allocate your work to someone else, inform clients about your departure and possibly more. 

It is not good to blindside your employer with a sudden departure. Remember that you will need to have your exit from the company go as smoothly as possible, especially if you need your employer to give you a reference in the future. If you call your employer and inform them that you quit and you will not be returning to work tomorrow, for example, this will most likely not go well. 

So, now that you know what not to do when giving your employer notice that you are leaving your job, let’s dive into what you should do… 

Your Resignation Needs to go in Writing

Most employers will require you to put your notice into writing (but, check your employment contract to be certain.) The letter informing your employer that you are leaving doesn’t need to have too much detail. Like we discussed earlier, you should only discuss details you are comfortable talking about. The letter should be short and goes to the point. 

The letter of resignation should have the date you are planning on leaving, as well as some other details such as your job title, and your contact information. The letter should contain everything the employer needs to know from a working standpoint. 

Here is a generic example of what a letter of resignation may look like:

Resignation Letter Explaining Reasons for Leaving a Job

Offer to Help with Training

Hiring a replacement to take over your job may be a stressful time for your employer. As we mentioned, this is why it is important to give enough notice so the company can compare. Training a new member of staff requires a lot of time and effort. Consider offering to help with the onboarding and training of your replacement. This will really help your manager out. After all, no one knows how to do your job better than you do! 

This is also an opportunity to make life easier for the new hire, as they are learning all the processes, tricks and tips that helped you do your job successfully. Your manager will also remember and appreciate this offer. This offer may even work in your favor when you are asking them for a reference for another job in the future!

Leave Your Job Smoothly

Above, we briefly touched on leaving your job smoothly so that you keep a good, professional relationship with your employer. There is a couple of things you can do to ensure you leave in a good manner:

  • Give some feedback – good or bad: If you are leaving your job for reasons that don’t include leaving for negative internal reasons, your employer will appreciate hearing some feedback. Although every employer wants to hear great feedback, this is also an opportunity to give some constructive criticism too. If you have anything to say to your employer that might make the onboarding process for your replacement any smoother, then this is a great time to tell them.
  • Show Gratitude to Your Employer: Leaving your job can be an emotional time, especially if you have been at a company for a long period of time. It is nice to show your gratitude for the time you spent there by thanking your employer and colleagues for everything along the way. This is also a great time to give your best wishes to the company and wish them success in the future. 

Leave Your Job on Good Terms

No matter why you are leaving your job, it is never a good idea to bad mouth your manager or company. Even if you are leaving your job due to negative internal reasons, like a toxic workplace, try and leave on the best terms as possible. 

We mentioned earlier about the possibility of needing a reference in the future. If you bad mouth your employer or manager, the chances are that this will get back to the company looking for a reference. If you want to warn other potential employees of a toxic workplace, many past employees leave reviews online to share their stories and experiences. Similarly, you can leave a review online sharing positive experiences of the company also. This can be beneficial for other people considering applying for a job at the company. Leaving a review is a great way of speaking the truth of your own personal experience of your time at the company without damaging your relationship with the company. 

To sum up this section of the guide, ensure to remember to do a few things:

  • Give your employer enough notice 
  • Write a letter of resignation 
  • Make the transition smooth 

How to Deal With an Exit Interview… The Right Way

Exit Interview Tips For Reasons for Leaving a Job

Exit interviews are a common part of leaving a job in most companies. Exit interviews usually require you to fill out some paperwork to officially end your employment at the company. Your exit interview should be conducted professionally and smoothly. 

Don’t Burn Any Bridges

As we mentioned before, just because you are leaving your job, this doesn’t give you a green light to bad mouth your employer (if that’s what you feel like doing.) Your exit interview is a place to simply end your working relationship with the company. Try and focus on the positives during this interview, and try to keep in mind that you may need a good reference from the company in the future. 

During your interview is a good opportunity to again express your gratitude for the time you spent at the company as well as for the skills and experience you gained during your time working there. 

If you are leaving due to negative experiences at the company, consider venting to someone outside of the company. This is a great way to get everything off of your chest, without burning any bridges with the company. However, it is worth saying – Be careful who you vent to. Make sure this is a trustworthy person. Another way to vent is by writing a letter to your former employer, and ripping it up when you are done. 

Prepare Answers to Questions

Exit interviews normally consist of a couple of simple questions regarding the culture at the company, the management style, training, and other aspects of the business. Although an exit interview may seem less stressful than an interview to get a job, it still requires some preparation. 

An exit interview is an opportunity to reflect on your time working at a company. It may be a good idea to jot some points down that you want to mention in the interview. 

Common Exit Interview Questions

If you’re wondering where to start with preparing for your exit interview, we’ve got you covered! Here are a few examples of common exit interview questions that you might expect on the day:

  • In your own words, how would you describe the culture at our company?
  • Do you feel you were given enough training to do your job successfully?
  • Is there anything we could have done for you to retain your employment here?
  • Why did you decide to leave the company?
  • Did you have clear objectives and goals during your time here?
  • Would you ever consider coming back to the company in the future?
  • Did you receive constructive criticism to help you succeed in your role?
  • How do you feel about the management style at the company?

This list could go on and on, but these are examples of some questions that are generally answered during an exit interview. Make sure to spend some time preparing answers to these questions to reduce stress when entering your interview. Remember, preparation saves a lot of trouble in the long run! 

How to Tackle the Dreaded “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” Question

The question of “why did you leave your last job?” will throw you off guard if you are unprepared for it. Your new employer will most likely want to know the reason why you left your last job for a couple of different reasons. The answer to this question will tell your new, potential employer about you, such as if you are still on good terms with the company you left, were you fired and were the reasons for your leaving valid. 

Try and keep the response to this question honest but short. There is no need to delve too deep into the reasons why you left your last job. Remember, you only have to discuss what you are comfortable discussing. It’s also important to keep the answer to this question as positive as possible. 

Consider telling the employer that you were super interested in the role that they are hiring for and felt you would be missing a great opportunity if you didn’t apply. This tells the hiring manager that you have a big interest in the company, and you are really enthusiastic about the position. 

If it’s the case that you left your last job due to not being challenged enough, that’s okay. You can explain to your potential employer that you are looking for a new challenge and a position which will allow you to take on new responsibilities and projects. This lets the hiring manager know that you are not afraid to tackle a new challenge, and you are motivated to succeed. 

It is also possible that you have left your last job due to a more personal reason. If this is the case, you may feel comfortable explaining your reason in a brief sentence or too. For example, you could explain that you had to leave your last job due to battling an illness. Now you are fully recovered and you are ready for your next chapter.

Other Examples of Valid Answers for This Question

  • You have relocated and you are looking for a position close to home. 
  • You are looking for a job that is flexible in terms of hybrid working. 
  • The company is downsizing and you wanted to find a job that was more stable. 
  • You want to turn your hobby/passion into your career. 
  • You are looking for a change and want a position in a new industry.

Being Fired and How To Cope

Leaving your job on your own accord can be difficult enough to deal with at times, but being fired is a completely different ball game. This section of our guide will look at how to deal with being fired and how to move on. 

There are a number of reasons why someone may be fired (legally), including:

  • Performance issues 
  • Breach of company’s policies 
  • If you show discrimination against co-workers
  • If you lied about your qualifications when applying for the job 

Always remember that there are grounds for dismissal and your employer needs to give you notice before firing you, just like you need to give notice before quitting your job. Ensure to check your employment contract for the dismissal information at your company. Also, remember to get the reason for your dismissal in writing! 

If you have been fired due to something like your performance not being up to scratch, this can be a big blow to your self-esteem. This may have been down to not being trained enough, or maybe you were given unrealistic targets to meet. If this was the case, being fired from your job can feel like a real kick in the teeth. It feels as if you are back to square one, but don’t worry… that’s not the case. 

Even if you were fired from your job, it’s important to try and take any positives from the experience as a whole. Maybe being let go from your job will motivate you to work harder in your next position, or it might make you stronger than ever before! 

Many may believe that being fired from their job means this is the end of their career. If you know how to navigate this situation properly, it is definitely more manageable than you might think. 

Tips for Dealing With Being Fired

Think Positively

As we mentioned earlier, trying to take the positives away from your experience with the company you have been let go from. Although it might be difficult to have this mind set at the beginning, it is quite possible that you learned something along the way. 

Take a Time Out

Now may be the perfect time to take some time to yourself and reflect on yourself. You may feel a little lost since you were let go from your job, and that is completely normal. Why not take some time to take a break before you decide to go looking for a new job. One’s mental health may even take a toll during this time, which is expected. Consider taking some time to get back yourself first!

Make a New Plan

Once you have taken some time out to process what has happened, you can consider thinking about your next steps. Thinking about having to look for a new job can be daunting. Try not to overwhelm yourself. Take baby steps! Why not start off by creating a list of new goals for yourself. Make sure they are realistic and attainable. Think about where you see yourself in the near future and even what type of job you would like next.

Finally, Move On

When you have taken the time to consider your next steps, you can finally move on from the whole situation. If you feel up for going back to work, start applying for jobs that interest you and see where it takes you. 

At this stage, you may be thinking “what will I say in an interview if I am asked about my last job?” If you are asked about this in an interview, there is no need to panic. The purpose of this question from an interviewer’s perspective is to understand what led to you being let go, and whether or not it shines a light on any red flags. Just be honest with the person interviewing you and keep it as brief as possible. Try and show that you learned from the experience, accepted it, and moved on. 

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide will be some benefit to you when navigating how to deal with leaving your job. Whether you are leaving because you want to change industry or for a more personal reason like a mental health break… every reason is valid! 

Remember that there is a right and a wrong way to go about everything, and leaving your job is no different. Let this guide be your bible when it comes to leaving your job!

Happy Job Searching!

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