In a perfect world, you would secure a fabulous new job offer first, and then hand in your letter of resignation to your current employer. But the world is not perfect, and many people leave their existing jobs while they are still looking for another role. In these instances, there is an employment gap of anywhere from 3-12 months or more that needs to be explained.
Your explanation for leaving will tell a potential employer a lot about you, so consider your reason and chose your words carefully. Never ever refer to issues with your ex boss or any staff members and do not criticise your past place of employment.
8 Acceptable Explanations For Why You Left Your Last Job
- Opportunity to Travel
This is actually a very ’employer friendly’ reason for leaving any company and it is relatively easy to explain. Many employers will actually be glad you have had a good break as long as you reassure them you are relaxed and ready to get back into the workforce again. However, if they feel you still have the travel bug, they will not take a chance on someone who will only stick around until their next holiday.
- Personal Health Issues
Employers cannot discriminate against you for any personal health issues you may have had that do not impact your work. That said, your past health issues will definitely have an impact on an employers perception of you – they just won’t admit it. Your best bet in this scenario is to explain the gap as a ‘personal issue’ and focus on what you did during that period to enhance your experience. If you must disclose the nature of the illness, keep it brief and highlight the fact that the issue was temporary and that you have dealt with it effectively and are ready to move on.
- Caring for Baby/Children
Employers know women and sometimes men take time off to care for young children. In this instance, all you need to do is explain that it was the best choice for your family and then focus on the life skills and experiences you acquired during your time away from paid work. See our post – How to Turn Mom Skills Into Job Skills.
- Caring for Sick Parents
This is a perfectly acceptable reason for time taken out of your career. All you need to do is explain that the period of caring is now over and you are ready to pick your career back up where you left off. You can also focus on the desirable traits you demonstrated such as responsibility, dependability etc… all of which are desirable in the workplace too.
- Location Too Far / Travel Time
Too much travel time can have a huge impact on your work life balance so leaving a job because the travel time each day was excessive is perfectly valid. Once you explain the length of travel time you undertook each day, you also need to add that ‘unfortunately flexible work arrangements were not available’ to show that you tried everything you could to make it work.
- Lack of Growth/Advancement Opportunities
This is valid especially in small to medium size work places where there are not many potential openings. You need to ensure that you have spent at least 18-24 months in your current role however before employers accept that you really did need to move on. Leaving to soon shows a lack of patience and a short term view of your career path.
- Poor Salary
This one is a little less palatable to employers because it will make them think you only care about money. You need to link this reason to another reason if you are going to use it. For example, a poor salary and a lack of advancement opportunities is a perfectly acceptable reason for leaving. You can explain you were happy to start there and learn but you had hoped for an improvement over time which did not occur.
- Looking For a Better Company
This reason is fine as long as it is phrased correctly. It can easily be used in a company going through financial difficulties, potential takeover or large scale staff turnover. All these reasons can be given to show that the workplace did not feel stable and viable in the long term and that you were looking for somewhere better where you could learn and grow. Be careful not to criticise any individuals within the company but focus on factors like financial instability, lack of growth, uncertainty etc…
Once you have clearly established your reason for leaving put together a short explanation that you will use when any potential employer asks you about your employment gap. Our post below will step you through the process:
If your employment gap looks like it is going to last longer than 6 months then have a look at the posts below: