10 Common Answers to the Question “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

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Many spend years itching to escape their job but never find that perfect moment to finally leave it all behind. An overwhelming mortgage or mountain of bills may prevent you from having glorious that “forget this!” moment. The scene of you jumping out your chair and storming out the building heroically only lives inside your head. Finally ready to walk away from your job and make it a reality? Make sure you do it for the right reasons. Your next potential employer will ask, “Why did you leave your last job?” and you don’t want to respond that your cubicle neighbor popped his gum too loud.

“Why did you leave your last job?” Well, let me tell you…

1. You Dream of Making a Career of Your True Passion

Think back to elementary school when teachers asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You set your sights high, dreaming of sailing through the air like a trapeze artist or hunting for clues as a mystery detective. Then as you grew up, your dreams matured. C.S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Laura Ferrari, an accountant in Miami, said she considered pursuing her photography passion more seriously. Ferrari said, “I studied to be an accountant and a photographer. Right now photography would let me manage my time more easily. I could work around my own schedule. And it’s something I’m good at. It is my passion.” If you find yourself daydreaming at the window during work, or feeling incomplete with your current career, listen to those gut feelings. Chase down your daydream and make it a reality. Get your foot in the door with anything in your dream job. You need to start somewhere.

2. You Live to Work When You Should Work to Live

Quote: "We have to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third.

Parks and Recreation

A healthy work/life balance will make or break your life. Work easily sneaks its way into your pockets and takes the trip home right alongside you. Don’t skip out on your family dinner time to catch up on coworkers’ emails. Learning to separate your work and home life makes the difference between a functional and dysfunctional family. Adrian Grinspan, a finance director in Miami, said, “A job can transform your personality if you let it impact you. It can get in between the family you’ve worked hard to build. Human beings are social beings and must maintain positive relationships in all aspects of their lives. Leave work at work.” Remember: You can always reschedule that business meeting. But if you miss your son’s first home run, you lose that moment forever.

3. You See Poor Communication in the Workplace

The Office quote: "I love my employees even though I hit one of you with my car."

The Office

Without clear communication throughout the chain of command, a workplace can go from great to garbage. If you don’t feel respected or listened to by your superiors, consider looking for a company that actually listens to your needs. At my first job, 3 a.m. shifts became a reality even after getting a 9 p.m. clock out time approved. Little signs of respect and consideration help paint a larger picture of the values of your company. Think about The Office character Michael Scott. Completely oblivious to his subordinate’s true feelings of his leadership skills, Michael would trap his coworkers into uncomfortable social situations for the sake of a joke or bonding experience. Good communication can be as simple as reading a room.

4. You Let Stress Dictate Your Life

Do you feel anxious at work even though you skipped the morning caffeine? When did you last ask yourself how you truly felt about your career path? When it comes to your career, treat mental health just as seriously as physical health. Don’t let your life comprise of anxiety, depression and social withdrawal because of impossible deadlines or an overload of stress at work. These stressors could creep up on absolutely anyone. University of Florida journalism sophomore Allison Veliz said, “I once left a job because the stress was getting to me. It was affecting my school work and making life hard to balance. I learned it’s okay to take things off your plate to make yourself feel better sometimes.” Everyone will notice the bump or bruise from that construction job. But not everyone will pick up on mood swings or subtle restlessness.

5. You’re Stuck in a Professional Rut

Quote: "you have no idea how high I can fly"

The Office

Many people sleepwalk through their careers, romances and entire lifestyle. They let their life fall into place rather than taking the wheel. If you find yourself stagnant at your current position, ask yourself: “Am I hungry for more?” Recognize if you hit your career ceiling. Do you not have an open space for a promotion? Do you feel disinterested in the other positions your company has to offer? Does your job ask the same, mundane things of you day after day? Expand your skill set by facing new challenges and taking on a bit of risk. Stay hungry, and if your current job won’t feed that hunger, find one that will.

6. You Notice The Company Is Going Under

If the ocean is about to swallow your sea vessel, don’t feel guilty for abandoning ship. Dust off that resume if you notice rapid downsizing, poor management or serious cash flow struggles. Hushed, frantic conference room meetings and waving goodbye to beloved, let-go coworkers mark simple signs your company heads down a darker path. Keep an eye out for those executives with one foot out the door and employee perks that slowly disappear one by one. Look at other options to stay ahead of the game. Nobody can blame you for jumping off a sinking ship before they make you walk the plank.

7. You See Better Opportunities Elsewhere

Better job offers always make a good reason to leave your current employer. Or you can wager better pay and benefits to get you to stay at the same company. A better job doesn’t just mean getting a bigger paycheck. Does this new offer give you an opportunity to pursue your dream? Do you think you’ll catch yourself smiling more often there and snuggling into bed at peace every night? If so, fight for it. Take the leap. Get that other job. Make connections, network and talk to people so that when new opportunities arise, you’re the first person that comes to mind.

8. You Work in a Toxic Environment

You want to feel respected and comfortable around your peers and superiors. Listen to your gut when it talks to you and get out of situations that make you uneasy. Never let supervisors take advantage of their authority over you. American University sophomore Cheren Alvarado said, “When I was 16 I worked with a bunch of 20+ year olds in a restaurant. It was fast-paced, and I felt very out of place, so I tried to come across as older than I was. Two older men, my superiors, were talking about me in detail about how sexy I look. I was 16; they were at least 25. I laughed along because they were my superiors and I didn’t want to risk my job.” A toxic work environment includes more than sexual harassment. Whispered conversations about other coworkers and an inconsistent enforcement of company rules make a normal work environment into a toxic one. If you notice these signs at your current workplace, start sliding one foot out the door.

9. You Dread Walking in

For many people, a dream job will always stay a dream. However, your job should make you smile and laugh every so often. You spend 40—or more—hours of your life every week working this job. It should feel like a second home. Check in with yourself every now and then, and dive into how your work impacts you emotionally. As a customer service agent, you might struggle to keep your cool at the tenth person that cries over their broken internet. And as a line cook, you might accidentally slice your finger while dicing up tomatoes at the speed of light for the restaurant critic’s soup. Don’t take that customer service job if you don’t like people. Ditch your position as a line cook if you can’t work under intense pressure. You should feel comfortable at your job. Leaving the house in the morning should never feel like walking to your execution.

10. You are undercompensated

Grinspan said, “Young professionals don’t have family, kids or major responsibilities. You’re willing to stay in a poor position just for experience. When you’re 45 with two kids and a mortgage, you will be forced to look for the best salary. You can’t be underpaid and still decide to stay anymore.” Knowing when and how to ask for a raise or go after a better paying job is an essential skill in the work field. Recognize when it’s necessary to negotiate a better salary, or need to go after a higher paying job. Know your worth. Do you find yourself going above and beyond without recognition? Are you often given extra responsibilities without compensation? Do you see yourself as an essential cog in the machine? If you recognize yourself as one of these people, come up with a game plan. List out your reasons, practice your pitch and make that walk to your boss’s office (preferably when they’re in a good mood.) You’ll never know the outcome unless you try.

I'm a sophomore in journalism at the University of Florida. In my free time, you can find me on a lake with my rowing team, collecting new exotic houseplants, or sleeping in a hammock on campus.

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