Q: I had a management position for several years, the nature of which changed drastically during that time. I grew unhappy, and the stress was taking its toll. I eventually did leave the job, but I am blessed that I accomplished a lot and added to my knowledge and skills, and that shows on my applications and resume. I want to make the best impression, though, and if I put "stress" as a reason for leaving, it makes me look weak and incapable. I am neither. - Holly
A: J.T.: Please know that you are not alone. Many people are making the bold decision to leave stressful jobs. After all, professional success at the cost of a healthy and happy life doesn't really feel like success, right?
Dale: Yet, Holly, you're bang-on in your belief that offering "stress" as a reason to leave a job will mark you as being of questionable fortitude. After all, everyone in corporate life feels stressed. I was just talking with a friend whose work consists mostly of going out to lunch, and he told me he gets weekly massages because of all the pressure he's under.
J.T.: And that helps Holly how?
Dale: Ah, yes, the point: If all hiring managers believe their work environments are stressful, then they all will feel that they're doing you a favor by tossing out your resume. So I'd suggest you start by singling out what it was that caused your last position to turn unacceptable: long hours, a screaming tyrant boss, or what? The first honesty is with yourself.
J.T.: However, there's no need to get into specifics of that honesty when answering the dreaded question about leaving your last job. Something like this: "I learned a great deal. However, the role changed through the years. I really want to keep growing my skills, so I decided to free myself up to explore new opportunities." Hiring managers will read between the lines without you having to go negative.
Dale: Nicely said. But you'll still need that honest self-assessment to evaluate whether the new job solves the problems of the old one. Try asking, "What kind of person does best working here?" and "Why is the job open?" You might even try saying, "Every place has its pressures and stresses, what are the ones around here?"
J.T.: I think you are going to be surprised by how understanding hiring managers can be, Holly. With job dissatisfaction rates at an all-time high in America, your positive and inquiring attitude is going to be a very attractive quality.