Motivation to Change

“Why do you want to change jobs?” Applicants have to answer this question at least in the interview at the latest. The question of motivation to change. The answer may allow conclusions to be drawn about the previous employment relationship, but should in particular clarify the expectations regarding the new job. Many applicants fear exactly this topic in the cover letter and also in conversation, because: »How do I say that I no longer got on with the boss? Can I write that I have been dismissed for operational reasons? How can I cleverly disguise why I actually wanted to leave? «My perspective: As an applicant, clarify and say what is going on!

Stop! Not the way you might think now: say that the bad colleagues bullied you. That you were lost in the bitch war with your boss or that you were tired of the boss’s eternal macho behavior. That she’s been boring the job for years. That you didn’t get any further and were no longer interested in lifelong internship status. That you felt like something new and the new job is so conveniently around the corner …

This is how you convince as an applicant when it comes to motivation to change

Motivation is motivation. And motives have something to do with your goals. Motives drive you, they are the intention behind your goal. They let you burn for something you really want. Either it is the achievement of a certain goal or the way there that motivates you. It’s about the future. What appeals to you about the new and what are you particularly looking forward to? What do you associate with the change of employer?

But when I talk to applicants about their motivation to change, most of them are mentally moving away from the world. They list reasons why the last employer no longer fit and they urgently had to leave there. Are you interested in a new employer?

Gossip from the ex?

Yes, he is certainly interested, but that belongs more in the gossip category. It is clear that you shouldn’t put something like this on the table:

My boss, Mr. Müller, just shouted at me all the time.

I was just bored lately and nobody noticed.

Everyone is trying to get out of THE shop.

They make fun of their customers. I don’t want that anymore!

My affair with my colleague came out, it was really embarrassing.

For the future boss, this is certainly all interesting information about the applicant and especially about the old employer. Especially when both companies come from the same industry and are competitors in the market. Who doesn’t want to tap hot insider information about the competition through the good little bird applicant?

I’m not telling you anything new, that of course you should n’t say something like that. The rule “Don’t speak badly about the ex-employer as an applicant!” Still applies.

Yesterday’s snow doesn’t matter for the future.

In a coaching apprenticeship, I learned the clever sentence “The solution doesn’t matter why a problem arises.” Problem and solution are – purely methodologically – independent of each other.

Of course, we like to talk about problems and often speaking about them also fulfills certain therapeutic purposes of reflection and processing. However, it is not absolutely necessary for the solution and therefore the next step to understand the way into the problem.

And it is the same with motivation to change. Applying to a new employer is the next step for you. Part of the solution, i.e. your personal idea of ​​the future.

You have thought about what type of career you are and which employer or activity suits you, makes you happy or is good for your professional and personal development. That is your solution. Why you couldn’t stand it with the old employer or why there were certain problems, in the end, is not part of your solution and is actually irrelevant for the future-oriented motivation to change.

Here are 12 examples that I believe every applicant can truthfully disclose as a reason for changing jobs. They are examples as ideas and clues for you to think about your own personal motivation to change and to be aware that the answer to this question is not dangerous, but is very important for you and your next job.

Plain text for applicants: 12 examples of your motivation to switch

6 completely uncritical change motifs

The first 6 change motifs should be absolutely uncritical. You are explaining reasons for your change, which are obvious and well-known for decision-makers in the company today. Important: Don’t let your motivation to switch act like a justification or even an excuse. Instead, make it tangible and concrete for your counterpart: Give examples and say what this change motif means in concrete terms for you and which goals you personally – and not one! – connect with it:

  1. I would like to develop professionally / personally / learn new things.
    Which development opportunities are particularly important to you and why do you think that they will be possible with exactly this employer? What are your interests and what is the goal of learning new things?
  2. I want to get to know a new industry.
    What exactly do you like about this industry? Why is changing the industry a good development step for you personally? What do you gain from this? Why is the new company a good choice in this industry?
  3. I want to work in a different work environment.
    What exactly is your dream work environment? Are there other structures or dimensions (group / start-up / medium-sized company)? Or the office situation? Or the colleagues? What do you need for a good work environment and why do you think you will find it there?
  4. I want to work more in an international context.
    Many employees want that! International smells of more money and an aspiring career. So: why is it so important for YOU? If it’s the money and you hope to get there faster, yes, why not say that too? Perhaps you are also eager to finally be able to use your language skills again? Or do you feel like traveling? Or would you like to fill a position abroad sooner or later and are looking for the right springboard in an international company? Not so bad that you can’t say that, right?
  5. I feel like new challenges.
    This is actually the applicant slime platitude par excellence. Here too, the real motivation to change becomes clear when you explain what “new challenges” mean for you. Are there perhaps new tasks that you have never done before? Are they larger projects or more employees to be led? If challenges are important to you as a value in the job, make yourself aware of when this value would be fulfilled for you in the next job.
  6. I want to change for family reasons.
    Your partner starts a new job and you have decided to move to another city together. Other family reasons can also be the reason why you want to change your career. Most of these change motifs should be easy to communicate. Nevertheless, think about what you want to reveal from your private life when you first get to know it and thus explain your motivation to change.

6 critical motifs of change today and why you should say what is going on here too.

These are examples of change motifs in which the opposite side could possibly misunderstand you. But here, too, I stick to it: with a real, personal reasoning, you disclose what is really important to you. How to create the clarity that is important for you in the new job – should you get it – for you personally and also for your new employer:

  1. I want to spend less time on the job and more time with X (e.g. the family).
    It is clear that you will immediately throw yourself out of the race with some jobs. Wherever overtime is the norm. But then you wouldn’t have applied there either. If you’ve worked like a madman for the past 20 years and you’ve now realized that other things are important besides your job, then this is an important finding. You will only be happy with your next employer if you get exactly this freedom in your job. So create clarity – right from the start.
  2. I no longer want to lead employees and instead deal with X more.
    The step back from a leadership position is still often interpreted as a step backward or failure. In a few years’ time it will look very different, I predict. From my point of view, the following also applies here: Clarify why this step is so important to you. What do you gain if you take this supposed setback and see it as an opportunity? As your new employer, you would break open doors with me with this “self-awareness” because you have reflected on your life, are aware of your goals and know your way. Many decision-makers in the company are certainly ticking differently here today, but even then the motto is: with this motivation to change, look to see if this employer is the right one for you.
  3. I want to work for a big brand.
    With this motivation, status and recognition are probably important to you. Here too, turn your naive wish into real motivation. What exactly do you associate with a brand manufacturer and specifically with this brand? Why is it important for you to work in this environment? Don’t fall into honey to smear the beard. It is not about proving to the company how great it is, but about your very personal perspective and what is behind this professional goal.
  4. I want to move big/high.
    Moving things, creating new things and having the necessary freedom to make decisions and take action is very important to many employees today. A frequent motivation to change especially experienced specialists and managers who have been slowed down in their last job. This is a very legitimate motive and a positive message provided the new employer has a real interest in such active, creative and solution-oriented employees. Attention! Applicants who want to go high or create great things can very easily be arrogant or overqualified appear in the conversation, even scare the future boss. Not that you want to saw on his chair! Here, clarity with instinct is required.
  5. I want a safe job.
    Safety is important to many employees. Security is often associated with money. Even if hardly any job is really safe until retirement today, there are of course employers and industries in which the motive of security is more fulfilled than with others. So: Why is security so important to you? What does security mean to you? What distinguishes a safe job? Why do you think that is exactly what applies to this position or to this company? Attention! The desire for security could also put the stamp of the time absentee, loafers or the conservative boredom. A drawer that you certainly don’t want to be put in. It is all the more important that you actively clarify what you associate with safety and how it affects your motivation to work.
  6. I want to make more money.
    Yes, this motivation is also often the impetus to change jobs, especially for younger employees, because this is the only way they see an opportunity to make bigger salary jumps. Even if many people have a problem with materialistic claims for themselves, money still stands for freedom, security, and independence. Leaving an employer simply because it is no longer possible and the salary level is clearly higher in the same job in another company or another branch is a clear motivation to change. In my experience, addressing this should not kick you out of the race either. I would, however, list other, more content-related / subject-oriented motifs here, so that they are not reduced to just the money.

Canceled! Because it was time to separate.

What to do if your employer has fired you? I often meet applicants who have been dismissed for operational reasons and this is also documented in the certificate. Sometimes it is the dissolution of an entire location, sometimes the relocation of parts of the production abroad. The bottom line is always “ran stupid”. And even though they didn’t let themselves get into debt, many of them feel like losers and losers.

Logically, this situation is not pleasant and I can understand that it causes frustration and a feeling of helplessness. But with regard to the communication strategy towards a new employer, I believe that the best way is to use plain language: “Yes, I was fired for operational reasons because …” Just and only in this way can you clarify that you have not stolen golden spoons or noticed by your poor performance.

If you were not fired for operational reasons, but because you performed poorly and did not achieve your agreed goals, then it is certainly difficult to communicate to a new employer. Here I recommend actively focusing on the future and drawing attention to the positive motives for changing above. If your partner does not give up, explain that your employer and you have split up, but stick to the truth. Without chatting out of the box, you can show what conclusions you have drawn from the termination for yourself and your future. Perhaps you also openly address your weaknesses as development potential in your new job. What will you do differently at your next employer?

If you have given notice of termination yourself, explain briefly and factually the background why it was no longer suitable for you. Here you can quickly talk about your motives for a change and thus about the future, but please without warming up the past months with the old employer. It just wasn’t fitting anymore, the values ​​and goals of employers and employees can diverge over time. With your termination, you have decided to change something.

There was still something! What else you wanted to know …

For your personal change motifs, it is not only important that you bring them across authentically and with life, but also that you can estimate yourself based on the reactions of the company representatives whether your motives and goals, which you associate with the change, in this Job and also to be fulfilled in this work environment:

  • Will you be able to develop in this position with this boss?
  • Will you really be able to work internationally?
  • Will the new job really offer you real challenges?
  • Will you have more family time again?
  • Is your decision to relinquish leadership truly accepted?
  • Will you have a chance to actually make a difference?
  • Does the position offer you the form of security that is so important to you?

My tip: Before starting the interview, think about which questions in connection with your motivation to change are important to you in order to receive exactly this information.

It is only half the battle if you are aware of your motivation to change and can sell it perfectly, but are not able to assess whether you will actually get what you expect from a change of job with your new employer.

(Photo credit:, 22087247 , alphaspirit)

Dr. Bernd Slaghuis

I work as a career and business coach in Cologne and have specialized in topics related to career planning and professional reorientation. I work with applicants on their application strategy, the optimization of their documents and the preparation for interviews. I support managers in finding a healthy basic attitude. I write outside of this blog for various career and management magazines and was named “Top Mind 2019” by XING.


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  3. A motivating discussion is worth a comment. I do think that you need to write more about this subject matter, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don’t talk about these topics. To the next! Cheers!!


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