6 Good Reasons To Leave a Job (And Advice for What Comes Next)
The Great Resignation. The Great Reshuffle. The Great Rethink. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been so much change in the job market that the only fitting adjective repeatedly used is “great.” A season of change at the national level has caused many to reconsider their own choices. Individuals from careers all over the map have spent some time reflecting and deciding to pursue something different in their work life.
While the recent rush of people looking into a career change is noteworthy, the desire itself is nothing new. If you are looking at switching careers, you can spend a lot of time grappling with questions: Is there really a better job out there for me? Can I be sure that I will land on my feet? Do I have the time or money to go back to school and develop a new skill set? Thankfully, if you are asking these questions, you are not alone. Many have asked, answered and decided to take steps to pursue something new.
While everyone’s story is different, there are some commonalities that may help you decide if it is the right time for a career change. Let’s look at a myriad of good reasons to leave a job and then some advice on how to go about it.
6 Good reasons for leaving a job
Leaving a job can feel like a tough decision to make. But there are many good reasons to go through with it. Here are some of the most common reasons to leave a job.
1. To follow your passion
One of the first and biggest warning signs that you may not be at the right job is if you don’t care at all about what you are doing. While not every job is going to be an immense source of fascination, there should at least be some aspect of the work that keeps you engaged. If you lack passion or even interest for your work, days can quickly become a slog. This is a strong sign that you may be meant for a different line of work.
Sometimes, you get blindsided by an opportunity that will truly excite you. When Renee Rosales, founder of Theara®, learned about developmental delays diagnosed in her child, she realized that she was neurodivergent as well and had been managing lifelong ADHD with few resources.
“I was determined that no one else should have to walk this path alone,” says Rosales. “I left the security of a 23-year career in education to pursue my passion and start my own business. Once I realized my calling, I couldn’t ignore it. I drew on my extensive experience as an educator, advocate and mother to create a company that aims to bring education, awareness and empowerment to the neurodiverse community.”
You may not have a stark “Eureka!” moment like this where a career change comes clearly into focus. But if there’s a clear pathway to working on something that’s truly interesting to you, you ought to at least consider the viability of making it happen.
2. Because loved ones gave good advice
Our closest friends and family members know us better than anyone else. If we are struggling at our current place of work, they will almost always be the first to notice. After all, if you are in a job that you complain about often, they are usually the ones who hear it. Those closest to us can identify when these complaints are a normal part of venting after a bad day or week at work, but they can also identify when the issue is bigger than just a tough stretch.
Has a friend ever told you that it may be time to consider another job? Have they ever said, “You might be really good at XYZ”? Those suggestions are often worth hearing out.
Laura Barker, of Laura Barker Coaching, recalls the conversation she had with a friend that led her to consider a new job as a career coach. Barker was skeptical at first, but after hearing it again from another friend, it clicked.
“Something had shifted, and I knew this was what I was meant to do,” Barker says. “I quit my project management job which I thought was going to be my new career direction.” After a two-year process of taking courses to get certifications, she launched her own business and now works in a role in line with her core values.
3. Because you’ve been under too much stress
Stress at work is a massive, national issue. It’s not just a matter of feeling pressure or being uncomfortable with work demands—it can also have a substantial impact on your overall health.1 Stress at a job is an important thing to consider when making a career decision, whether that may be making changes in your working conditions or leaving a job entirely.
“I was working for a government entity in an already-stressful job. Then COVID-19 caused a lot of stress in the system,” says insurance agent Travis Price. Before ultimately making the decision to leave, Price took time to reflect and make sure he was making the right call. The moment he realized his heart wasn’t in the job anymore, he knew he had to leave. “I wasn't getting a lot of support from the organization, and I no longer felt that I was contributing what that the clients I was serving deserved.”
Work-related stress is often a hidden factor when considering career plans, as it’s not easy for outsiders to identify and quantify—not everyone is stressed by the same factors. If you have a clear idea of what’s stressing you in your current role, be sure to keep that in mind as you plan your next move.
4. To navigate a change in the industry
The 2020s have thus far led to large changes in so many different industries. Cyndi Zawenski, owner of Ascent StoryCraft, started her career as a TV and newspaper reporter. When the pandemic hit, that industry experienced a lot of turmoil.
“I saw so many of my colleagues lose their jobs,” Zawenski says. When business owners she used to report on came to her, asking for website and social media copy to keep their companies afloat as their stores closed, she responded to the shift. “My freelance copywriting career was about to be born.” She decided to further develop this skill set by going back to school to earn a digital marketing certificate.
While a move from journalism to advertising and copywriting might not have been on Zawenski’s radar initially, her base of skills in journalism provided a natural pivot point as she adapted to a new field. As you’re considering other options, it can help to seek out roles that share some overlap with the aspects of your job you do like.
5. To make time and space for what you love
However you feel about your work life, there are probably many things you love doing that have nothing to do with earning money.
Paul Lewin, founder of Home Water Research, was working as a marketing executive but felt the call to adventure. “I knew I wanted to travel, but at 26, I felt like backpacking had passed me by,” Lewin says. Mulling over some career options that would include more travel experience, he decided to get certified in teaching English abroad in Vietnam.
After teaching there for a while, he gravitated back into marketing. “Through friends of friends and a bit of networking, I was able to find a remote job. I'm happily back working in marketing where I started. But now I'm living in an interesting culture, speaking a new language and feeling much more fulfilled than I ever did before!”
6. To gain financial stability
It’s hard to justify working in a job you don’t like if you’re barely keeping up with expenses. Whether you desire a higher quality of living, need to support your family or are looking for more long-term security, the paycheck you receive plays a big role in your job satisfaction. In a 2021 Pew Research Survey, the leading cause behind career changes during the pandemic was due to finances, with 37 percent of respondents citing low pay as a major reason why they ultimately decided to change careers.2
Often, conversations about money and finding a new career come with an elephant in the room—the cost of new training or education. Career changers need to evaluate what they want to invest in their new life direction and what it will take to make it all work financially. Thankfully, this isn’t a process that you need to undergo alone. Our article “Your Most Pressing Financial Aid Questions Answered” can help shed some light on financial aid.
Career change advice from those who’ve been there
The stories above illustrate how powerful a career change can be to help you forward into a happier, more fulfilling career. These professionals also offered their best career change advice. If you are thinking of leaving a job, try these tips for a better experience.
1. Pursue a purpose
“My advice to anyone considering a change would be to pursue a purpose,” says Rosales. “Having a purpose helps me keep motivated even when times are tough, and having a clear vision sustains me on days when I struggle. Find your why.” Rosales says staying focused on the reason you are pursuing something different will help you persist and thrive.
“One-third of your life is spent at work—and with technology, it feels like more than that!” says Zawesnki. “We all deserve the opportunity to enjoy fulfilling work because one-third is a big chunk of time.”
Whether you’re drawn to working for a purpose-driven organization, seeking a change of pace, aiming to provide a better life for your family or are driven by learning and growth opportunities, having a solid “Why?” at the heart of your search can help you keep what’s most important in perspective.
2. Test the waters first
You don’t have to jump headlong into the deep end of a new role. “If you're not sure that the new career is going to be exactly right for you, look for a low-risk way you can give that career a trial,” Lewin says. Give yourself a certain amount of time to try it out or acclimate.
“Look to shadow someone or take a lower-level position in an organization that you want to work in,” says Price. “It gives you more insight into what's happening. When applying, talk to the company and express your desires.”
3. Consider your options for schooling
If you do choose to go back to school, the question of what to study can be a big one.
“I think your career choice should drive your schooling choice,” says Barker. “Once you know what you want to do, you can explore how it’s taught at different schools and determine if the content they provide matches what you need in your new career.” Barker says this research will give you a little more control over how you want to go back to school as an adult.
“When I finally decided to choose a school, the choice was fairly quick,” says Zawenski. “I knew what I wanted out of the curriculum. I thought about: Could these classes be taken online? Could these classes be taken at night? How long would it take to earn a degree? How frequently would the classes meet? Narrowing it down to schools that fit my needs helped the process right along!”
Are you still asking, should I change jobs?
Leaving a job might feel daunting, but for many career changers, it was a crucial decision for their long-term health and happiness. With some extra planning, reflection and research, pursuing a new career can be an exciting experience.
If your potential job change could involve more education, it’s understandable if you’re on the fence about making that decision. Our article “8 Benefits of Going to College You Shouldn't Overlook” can help make the case for taking this big step.
1Steven Sauter, Lawrence Murphy, Michael Colligan, Naomi Swanson, Joseph Hurrell, Jr., Frederick Scharf, Jr., Raymond Sinclair Paula Grubb, Linda Goldenhar, Toni Alterman, Janet Johnston, Anne Hamilton, Julie Tisdale, “STRESS… at Work.” National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-Issued, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1999, [accessed June 2022], https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/default.html.
2Kim Parker and Juliana Menasce Horowitz, “Top reasons why U.S. workers left a job in 2021: Low pay, no advancement opportunities.” Pew Research Center, March 9, 2022, [accessed June 2022], https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/.
Theara is a registered trademark of Renee Rosales.
Pew Research Center is a registered trademark of The Pew Research Center.