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How to Overcome Leaving a Job Abruptly

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If you left a previous employer abruptly, with no notice, a prospective employer will want to know why. This type of behavior has the potential to paint you as an irresponsible or unprofessional individual with little consideration for her employer. Don't be the one to bring up the issue -- the employer might not know about your situation at all. If it does come up, provide a detailed account that explains your actions.

Unforeseen Circumstances

A number of unforeseen circumstances could necessitate leaving a job abruptly. For example, if you have a military spouse who is transferred without notice, a family medical emergency in another state, or even your own health issues that precipitate the abrupt departure, explain the details. Emphasize anything you did to help your employer cope with your unexpected departure, such as bringing another staffer up to speed, writing instructions for daily job responsibilities or attempting to complete projects or hand them off to someone else.

Hostile Environment

Finding yourself in a hostile work environment, particularly one where you faced harassment or the threat of violence, is a legitimate reason for leaving a job abruptly and without notice. If these were your circumstances, you can explain it to a future employer. However, be aware that your claims of a hostile work environment might send up of a red flag for some companies. If you appear to be a problem employee, using this reason for a fast departure may do you more harm than good.

Personal Issues

A variety of personal circumstances might prompt a sudden departure from a position. If these are matters you're comfortable sharing with a prospective employee, do so, using caution not to justify your actions, particularly if you left your employer in a bad situation. Always try to spin your exit in as many positive ways as possible to demonstrate it isn’t something you do on a regular basis, and was the result of extenuating or unusual circumstances.

Overcoming Objections

Any discussion of an abrupt departure from a company has the potential to cloud a new employer’s idea of you as a responsible, reliable and dedicated employee. Do your best to overcome this perception by highlighting your professional achievements and contributions, making note of long-term employment stints, and setting the behavior apart as an isolated incident. If you have positive letters of reference or recommendation, include these with a copy of your resume to demonstrate you’re highly thought of by former colleagues and business associates.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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