THE BLOG
07/30/2010 11:05 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ten Ways to Explain Why You Want to Change Jobs

Dear Liz,

I'm job-hunting and I need to be able to tell people why I want to leave my job. I've gone as far as I can go in this organization and I'm also pay-limited, but I don't think I want to say those two things exactly. Any advice?

Thanks,

Avery

Dear Avery,

It is fine to say "I had reached a plateau in that job" or "I felt that I'd
grown as much as I ever would in that organization." Here are ten more reasons
for leaving a job, expressed in Don't Say and Do Say versions:

TEN REASONS FOR LEAVING A JOB: "DO SAY" AND "DON'T SAY" VERSIONS

Don't Say

My boss is Lord Voldemort.

Do Say

I'm looking to work more independently in my next job, in a company that needs
people who can figure out what to do and do it.

Don't Say

I was underpaid.

Do Say

I wasn't going to be able to grow in that job.

Don't Say

I was overworked.

Do Say

I'm very big on looking at my work and figuring out smarter ways to do it. I'm
pretty flexible for the most part, I think, but mindless scutwork drives me
crazy, and I'm looking for an organization that is oriented to make things
simpler and smarter all the time.

Don't Say

I got passed over for a promotion.

Do Say

Some organizations look at a person and say "What can this person do?" and they
have that person work on different things, whatever he or she is good at,
regardless of what the job description says. Other organizations are ruled by
their policies and job descriptions. I was in the second kind of company, and
I'm looking for the first kind.

Don't Say

I got laid off.

Do Say

The big strategic issue in the company over the past year has been, "Do we want
to continue to sell to both resellers and consumers, or pick one?" and the
ultimate decision was to support the resellers exclusively. That is probably the
right decision, but it made client-service coordinators like me unnecessary, and
so our group was downsized. The silver lining is that I learned a ton about both
B2C and B2B client service in that job, and I'm looking to use that knowledge in
my next assignment.

Don't Say

I'm looking for something closer to home.

Do Say

The job was an hour from my house, which actually would have been fine if the
challenge and the intellectual stimulation gave me something to mull over and
strategize about while I was on the train, but what I found is that the job
itself was rote enough that the two hours per day were all but wasted,
brain-activity-wise. All that thinking time made it clear that I need a job
where I'm more engaged, that will use more of my gray matter and let me do more
important work for the company.

Don't Say

The company is about to go under.

Do Say

What's fun about moving through different organizations is that you get to see
how industries work and how companies survive and thrive in their competitive
landscapes. In that organization, I felt that the attention to product quality
and customer service weren't at the level that it would take to compete against
our competitors, but the strategy was to stay at the entry-level end of the
market, where sales volume has been eroding fast. It was an incredible learning
experience for me, but the signs were clear that it was time for me to make a
change.

Don't Say

I had a bad performance review.

Do Say

The organization's goals were to grow market share and launch new products, so
it was a great fit from that standpoint. My manager was pretty consumed with a
Salesforce.com implementation, and my job had little to do with that project,
but was very important to our sales team and its VP. I worked closely with those
folks and loved it, but I'm interested in Sales Operations rather than in having
a sales territory, so I decided to find something less focused on IT and more
targeted at creating leverage for the sales force.

Don't Say

The politics in that place could choke a horse.

Do Say

I found that over the last year most of my time was going to non-essential,
internal procedural and who-needs-to-approve-this type issues. I am sympathetic
to the leadership team navigating some difficult terrain in the marketplace, but
I needed to find an organization that's focused on its opportunities and
clients, and a job that's about the future and what is possible.

Don't Say

My job was billed as one thing and turned out to be another.

Do Say

I took the job for the opportunity to work with a group of contract trainers
around the globe -- two of my favorite things, virtual teams and international
work! As the company shifted to working with agencies rather than individual
trainers, my work became more clerical, related to contract terms with those
agencies, and was a waste of brainpower both for the company and for me -- my
strong suit is building teams, setting up processes to make the clerical stuff
easy, and then keeping the remote teams happy, in the loop and looking forward.

Cheers -- Liz