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In computer programming, an EXIT statement is used to immediately break out of a control structure such as a loop. Often this is used if an extraordinary condition is encountered, when more sophisticated methods like exception handling are not available and/or appropriate.

While looking for work, the exit statement is a short statement that explains why you are looking for a new position. It's important to prepare this statement beforehand as part of your job search strategy. This helps you to answer this common question in a positive way, and to quickly move the interview along to something else. Ideally you have a two- or three-sentence answer:

  1. A short mention of the past/current position that you are leaving/have left. This should be as succinct as possible, without casting blame or aspersions. If possible, the parting should be portrayed as amicable or at least a regrettable consequence of 'market forces' or other outside actors.
  2. An immediate shift to forward-looking language, that's positive about the change and enthusiastic about the opportunities it presents. This acts to move the discussion in the direction of your aspirations and how they might match new opportunities.

This exit statement can and should be used in everyday situations, such as the neighbor who notices you're home during the weekday, as well as in actual interviews. Consistent messaging is important as you network, and practice will help your delivery to seem smooth and natural.

Mine goes roughly like this (with a few details lightly obscured):

As you may know, ACME Corporation is transforming its business model away from mail-order explosives due to changing market conditions. ACME has undergone several rounds of workforce reduction during this transition in order to reduce operating expenses, and I was let go in the most recent of these events. This change has given me the chance to explore new challenges and to focus on opportunities that will make the best use of my wooden crating and shipping skill set.

My statement is neutral about the cause, not assigning culpability to any individual or to bad decision making. "Changing market conditions" is a lovely one because it's open-ended. (Once suspects that ACME might be under a lot of pressure from the Department of Homeland Security.) My statement also includes the fact that I was let go in a tertiary round of staff reduction, because it's common to use an initial round of terminations to dispose of poor performers or problem employees that don't quite merit being fired for cause. Being able to distance myself from that is a subtle way to avoid that particular taint.

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