I’ve quit plenty of jobs over the course of my career.
I quit two without notice.
I was a teenager when I walked away from OfficeMax without giving notice as a retail employee making $6.75 an hour.
My boss at the time told me I was “burning bridges” – which terrified me because OfficeMax was my first job. Without a single good work reference on my resume, I thought my career would be over.
Instead, I found new employment literally 10 minutes later at the Rack Room Shoes next door.
I quit my second job five years ago. At the time, I was a television shopping host – yes, true story – making $75,000 a year. I didn’t turn in a resignation letter that time either – I just rage-quit and walked away.
Hilariously I was more scared when I quit OfficeMax than when I quit home shopping. With age, comes wisdom.
Both times, however, I remember the feeling of dread at the thought of having to explain myself to my friends, family, or a future prospective employer.
After all, “quit” is such a dirty word.
In this article, I will share a list of dos and don’ts on what to say when people, particularly a new potential employer, if they ask you about quitting your job.
PS: If you’re currently thinking about quitting your job I highly recommend doing as I say and not as I do and preparing a letter of resignation before making your departure. Giving proper notice always makes for a smooth transition into the next phase of employment.
1. DON’T simply say “I quit”
There are better ways to sugarcoat a planned departure than simply saying you “quit”. Plus, it’s rare this ambiguous phrase isn’t followed up with a slew of probing questions that you may or may not want to answer.
2. DO say “I wanted to change career paths”
Instead, say that you wanted to change career paths. Career pivots are part of life and something that almost everyone can relate to.
3. DON’T complain about your previous employer
Don’t complain about your previous employer in public, on social media, or in a job interview if you ever plan on working for something else again. It may make you appear to be difficult and petty.
4. DO say “there was a change in circumstance”
Instead, say that there was a change in personal circumstances beyond your control.
Maybe the company relocated and the commute became too long. Maybe you had a child, or a family member became ill. Or maybe your job role changed after a merger.
I once quit a job (with notice) because the company wanted me to move from Tennessee to Indiana and I hate cold weather. Everyone – from my current employer to interviewers – was more than understanding about my decision.
5. DON’T say you wanted a better work-life balance
While this is a perfectly acceptable thing to say to your friends and family, try to refrain from saying it to a new prospective employer as it may come across as lazy. Few bosses want to hear that their employees are looking for ways to lessen their workload.
6. DO say “I wanted to seek new opportunities”
Instead, say that you wanted to seek new opportunities and challenges.
Maybe you wanted to take on more of a leadership role. Perhaps you wanted to learn new skills.
Again, this frames your departure as an easily relatable no-fault situation. Who hasn’t wanted to grow as a professional and expand their horizons a bit at some point?
7. Bonus Tip: Synonyms for ‘quit’
And finally, if you’re less worried about explaining your situation and instead just looking for a list of words and phrases that you can use just to mix it up a bit, try a few of these on for size:
- Walked out
- Walked away
- Bowed out
- Made an exit
- Stepped down
- Abandoned ship
- Surrendered your position
And whatever you decide to tell people, just remember, you have no obligation to explain yourself.
The idea of quitting may feel negative and even sound scary to some. But I can tell you from first-hand experience, every time I’ve quit something it’s led to better opportunities, improved quality of life, and, usually, more pay.
At the end of the day, it’s your life and your decisions. People who love you will understand, and so will good employers.
Did you recently quit your job? What do you tell people? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to connect with me on social media.