10 Good Reasons for Leaving a Job
Understanding the numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
Deciding to leave a job is a tough decision. We spend roughly half of our waking hours each week at work. The time, energy and, often, heart we put into earning a living is considerable. There’s great personal satisfaction as an employee willing to contribute to an organization over time. Plus, having a stable job is crucial, especially in an uncertain economy.
So, How Can You Know When It’s Time to Leave?
While no job will ever be perfect, sometimes it makes good sense to look for a new position. Not sure if you're at a point where you should?
Here are 10 good reasons for leaving a job and trying something new.
- Company downturn. If your business has hit a rough patch, has lost clients or is laying off employees, it may be time to consider seeking another employer.
- Acquisition or merger. Two organizations merging into one can be a great opportunity to reassess your role with the business or seek a better position elsewhere.
- Company restructuring. Should a company restructure and eliminate your department, you may not enjoy your new role. That can lead to a job description that’s very different than the one you had. When that happens, seeking new opportunities may be wise.
- Career advancement. Sometimes, leaving an organization is the best – or only – way to advance your career. You may be able to leverage the skills and knowledge you've gained in your current position and through a college degree to search for a job that aligns with your personal and long-term professional goals.
- Career change to a new industry. Is it time to follow your bliss and enter the career field you always wanted? Changing careers can cost you money in the short term but can lead to greater job satisfaction over time. Earning a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in your field of interest can help position you for new opportunities.
- Professional development. A move to a company with a bigger budget and commitment to professional development training might be just the thing to help you grow in your career.
- Different work environment. Let’s face it; not every organization is the right fit for every employee. The company can be doing great things. You can be an excellent employee. Yet, sometimes those two things just don’t fit together. When that happens, it might be time to move on.
- Better compensation. We all need to earn a decent living. Leveraging your skills, experience and education to land a position with a company that has a bigger budget for compensation can be a good move.
- Better or different leadership. Sometimes people just don’t gel with their leadership. There are times when recognizing that working for your manager isn’t the best place for you and it’s time to move on.
- Family circumstances. If you have a family member who needs care or support, working somewhere that offers a flexible schedule could be helpful. Or, if you’re married to a military member, moving may be necessary, even if it interrupts your career.
Each of these reasons is affected by business or personal circumstances. Sometimes changes are within your control, such as leaving a job to pursue the career of your dreams. And sometimes the changes are entirely out of your control, such as when a company restructures.
Different factors in your personal or professional life or simply looking for a better fit are good reasons to leave your job. Be sure to do your homework before taking a leap, but don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself to find the career that’s right for you.
How You Know It’s Time To Leave Your Job
Before considering a switch from one job to another, it’s crucial to know why you want to make the change. “Companies want to know why it is a good idea to invest in you,” said Bonnie Ward, career advisor with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), so it’s just as important for you to know why they should invest in you, too.
Don’t just run away from one bad fit to another potential bad fit. “You need to know what you are moving to and why,” said Ward.
It's also important to tell your story. For example, one student's partner "received a promotion that required a move to the opposite coast, and they needed to voluntarily resign from their position and seek new employment in the new area," Ward said.
Should You Leave a Job if You Are Unhappy?
Maybe you’ve been unhappy at your job for a long time. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of a career in another field for years – or, maybe, you are simply ready for a change. Once you know your 'why,' it’s time to decide your 'when.'
As you consider a change, focus on your goals. “Look for solutions to issues now, but also keep a pulse on what the decision [to leave your job] could mean for you years down the road,” said Lauren Stahl, MBA, career advisor at SNHU.
Before making the leap to something new, consider how you might take steps to alleviate some of the negatives.
Be sure to leverage your institutional knowledge before you decide to take the leap. You may have more career capital than you think. Always “look internally first before looking externally” for a new position, Ward said. After all, “you are a known entity in your organization with established credentials and relationships.”
Adjust Your Perspective
Perhaps it’s not a new job that you need, but a different approach to doing the job that you have. By strategizing how you tackle your work, you can come in every day feeling refreshed and renewed. “I suggest making a list of pros/cons to help make factors clearer,” Stahl said. “Talk your list over with your trusted family and friends to consider other perspectives. Look for solutions to issues now, but also keep a pulse on what the decision to leave your job could mean for you years down the road.”
Remember that there will be items on the con list with any job, so decide what elements of your work matter the most to you. No matter what, be sure to “explore all options within your current situation before deciding your next steps,” Stahl said.
Ward suggests writing down “what is working and what is not working and then identifying what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable” for you. “Sometimes clarity comes when we write it down,” she said.
A great way to gain needed perspective on your position within your current company is to volunteer. This will help you “expand your current job to incorporate duties that will impact your satisfaction and also lead to experiencing new people and tasks outside your daily routine,” said Ward. Ideally, you should “look for volunteer projects or assignments that will fulfill you and expand your network.”
Volunteer With an Outside Organization
Look into opportunities to volunteer with a local nonprofit that you’ve always had your eye on. Many organizations have short- and long-term volunteer opportunities. Volunteering will provide an outlet to use some skills that you aren’t able to apply to your work situation and can help round out your life experiences in a meaningful way.
For example, if you work in finance and are considering a change, try volunteering for a nature organization or museum in a volunteer position that has nothing to do with finance. You may find that you tap into a set of skills you never knew you had. It’s a bonus if the volunteer work scratches a creative itch so you can refocus on and enjoy your finance career.
Or you may find that working in this alternate field is the place for you, and now you’ll have some experience on your resume to help you get your foot in the door in a paid position.
Is there a committee that could use your fresh perspective? Do you have colleagues working overtime on a project who could use some help? Is there a colleague you could shadow while you help them out to see if their type of role might be a good fit for you?
Most organizations have opportunities to volunteer for a committee, help plan an event or fill a gap. For example, if you’re interested in learning more about how to foster an inclusive workplace, offer to start a diversity and inclusion committee. If you are passionate about wellness, organize lunchtime walks or exercise. Think about what would make the workplace more enjoyable for you and take the initiative to get started.
Try Advancing with Education
If you're feeling stuck in your current job, going back to school is another way to gain a new perspective. Taking classes related to your role or industry could allow you a deeper understanding of the bigger picture or certain processes – and perhaps new strategic solutions or ideas.
Becoming an active participant in your professional growth and your team might make the work you do feel more meaningful. This initiative could also capture the attention of your employers and set you up for new opportunities – or perhaps it solidifies your decision to take your knowledge somewhere else.
Find Your Program
Earn a Degree
Whether you're hoping to level up your high school diploma with an associate degree or advance from a bachelor's to a master's, your degree can impact your salary potential. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the 2021 median weekly salary by educational attainment:
- High school diploma: $809
- Associate degree: $963
- Bachelor's degree: $1,334
- Master's degree: $1,574
What you make also depends on your background, industry and organization, among other factors. If you're interested in advancing from your current position into a management or leadership role, you might consider earning a degree in business. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 54% of recruiters from various industries believe business school graduates are often fast-tracked to upper-level positions (GMAC PDF source).
The best news is you don't have to wait until graduation to reap the benefits of a degree. You can start applying what you're learning in class to your career – and vice versa – from day one. It's possible to earn a college degree without pausing your career by choosing an online program you can complete at your own pace.
Earn a Certificate
If you already have a college degree or are not ready to commit to a program, you might consider earning an undergraduate or graduate certificate. Certificate programs are often shorter and come in all types of focus.
For example, you could choose a certificate in computer programming if you're interested in gaining foundational programming and development skills or a graduate certificate in project management that can strengthen your ability to see projects through from start to finish.
Like degree programs, you can also begin leveraging what you're learning in a certificate class right away, which can help you become reinvigorated in your work. Certificates can also be completed online, and any earned credits can often transfer into a degree program, should you decide to pursue one in the future.
Consider how online classes work to see how you can balance both your career and an educational program.
You’ve Made the Decision to Leave a Job. Now What?
So after careful consideration, you’ve decided that you have a strong business, professional or personal reason to leave your current job. Be prepared to take some time to find the right fit. “Finding a job or career is a part-time job in itself,” Ward said. “It requires persistence, a strategic plan and the willingness to work that plan.”
Ward advocates against the common “pray and spray” approach to job-hunting, where candidates send their resumes to every opening they can find. That method is “guaranteed to yield frustration,” she said. Instead, make a plan to “outreach X number of companies a week, contact X number of LinkedIn connections, and research and customize your resume for X number of applications.”
By having a plan, you can target your energy to the jobs that interest you most. It’s important to pace yourself and “build in days where you are not actively job searching,” Ward said. Otherwise, you will increase your stress, could become exhausted and can ultimately jeopardize your opportunities for success.
Do Your Research
There are many avenues available to research different career fields to see if you are a good match.
- Search online: Research specific companies that interest you, check the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for information on top careers and read online reviews of prospective employers. Use what you learn to gain a big picture of what your target company has to offer.
- Consider credentials: Whether you're looking to change where you work or what you do, it's important to see how your education and experiences compare to what you might need in a new position. Browse job listings that align with your goals to see if there is a certain type of degree, certificate or certification that could help you stand out to employers.
- Use social media: LinkedIn is a form of social media, so review your contact list. Do you know anyone who works in your desired field or who could introduce you to someone in that field? If so, reach out.
- Ask for informational interviews: Be judicious in asking for others’ time to discuss their role and learn more about whether a similar position or organization could be a good fit for you. Come armed with questions and lead the conversation. Even though this is not a job interview, it is a great opportunity to network and create a good impression.
- Network: Networking is valuable and comes in many forms. Chat with others at professional conferences, comment on LinkedIn posts and talk to your friends and trusted colleagues and ask if they know anyone who might want to connect.
- Look for evidence of professional development: Check out the online directories for conferences in the field that interests you and take note of the organizations represented. Signs that an employer sends people to industry events show a commitment to professional development and industry engagement. “Look for employers that offer access to workshops, conferences, higher education by means of tuition reimbursement, trainings and so forth,” Stahl said.
Becoming self-aware as to what value you have to offer and where you need to build your skills is important. Ward recommends searching for the job you want on LinkedIn or Indeed and writing down the top five required and preferred qualifications for each – such as the necessary college degree level, experiences and skills. Then, determine what you need to meet those qualifications and requirements.
Are there any gaps between what they need and what you have to offer? “If there is a consistent theme of areas you need to bridge, find ways to do that,” she said.
Look for the Culture Fit
Culture is a tricky thing to evaluate. It can be challenging to know what an internal culture is really like until you are internal yourself, and by then it may be too late to ensure you’re a good fit.
Luckily, there are many ways to evaluate a potential culture fit. While online reviews may not be definitive, reviews in places like Glassdoor can provide a big picture view of life working at an organization. Use that information to decide what questions to ask during your interview. An interview is the best opportunity to learn about an organization's culture. Pay close attention to how you are treated throughout the process. Also, keep an eye on how colleagues treat one another and how the manager interacts with their staff.
The best way to avoid making a bad decision about culture fit is to consider more than just the bottom line. Salary is important but chasing a high salary without considering the whole of what the organization and experience have to offer you can be a mistake. “It is hard not to be attracted by a flashy new salary,” Stahl said, “but consider your happiness in the equation as well.”
Explore your options
Once you’ve decided it’s time to leave your job, there are some steps you can take to make sure your next step is the right one.
- Talk to your leadership. If you’re contemplating leaving your current job, it’s a good idea to sit down with your manager or other leaders at your organization to discuss your concerns. You may not wish to say you are considering leaving, but you could ask for a meeting to learn what steps you can take to become an even more valuable contributor to your organization. You might discover some new projects or leadership opportunities that make staying put a good decision. Or this conversation may be what you need to confirm your decision to look for work elsewhere.
- Treat job searching like the part-time job it is. A career shift is a significant life change. Simply applying for and interviewing for jobs is time-consuming and can be stressful. Throw in getting retrained with new skills or earning a new degree to strengthen your qualifications, and the job search can take up a lot of time. Check in with your school’s career services office for tips on how to strategize your search and make the best use of your time.
- Use online tools. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offer great insight into different organizations. While the information is not definitive, checking each site for your prospective company or industry can help you see what types of benefits or salaries are typical for the field.
- Educate yourself. If you know what type of role you want to enter, take some time to acquaint yourself with current news and industry trends. Do professionals in the field usually have micro-credentials or certificates? Perhaps if your college experience was long ago or in a different field, you may consider earning a certificate to indicate your drive to be a competitive candidate. Discover how a certificate can help you stand out in the job search.
Think of a Job Search Like a Three-Legged Stool
It takes a lot of introspection and honest self-assessment to know when it’s time to leave a job. “You have to have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone to be successful,” said Ward.
Ward describes finding a new job like a three-legged stool. “One leg is knowledge (your degree),” she said. “One leg is experience and one leg is networking. How wobbly is your stool? Where do you need to shore it up?” Being realistic about the areas you need to strengthen will reduce disappointment.
Whatever your reason for leaving your job, “stepping into a new career will take time,” Ward said. You may need to take a reduction in salary or make a lateral move to get where you want to go.
Look for a new organization with a structure, vision, mission and values that align with your goals. Take your time, know why you are making the change, do your research and believe in yourself. Consider exploring higher education “as a component to change your career opportunities so you can pivot into your ideal industry, employer or position,” Stahl said.
The best move is to “find a company you can see yourself being happy with long-term,” Stahl said.
And remember, your college career services center is full of professionals who can help you through each step of this process. They can help you find your 'why,' identify new career pathways and develop a job-search strategy to help you succeed and find the job of your dreams.
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.
Marie Morganelli, PhD, is a freelance content writer and editor.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.