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I am currently a one-person department at my current job. My boss left about 6 months ago and instead of hiring a replacement boss for me, management decided to let me take on my boss's role in addition to my own. On top of that, I also spend about 25% of my week in another understaffed department at the company.

Recently I have had some health issues that have resulted in taking sick time, and having regular doctors' appointments. I have applied for Short Term Disability/FMLA (US) because of the issues I'm having. My not being in the office is affecting both departments I work in, but management also acknowledges that I need to recover. This is resulting in messages from management like, "Our first priority is your health... but can you still come in to work [other department] Sunday?"

My company was bought by a much bigger company a couple years ago. I have reached out to the owner company to ask for assistance and have been stuck on trying to schedule a phone call with the proper people. Management here has recently told me that they have asked owner company to requisition a second person in my department to share the load with me, but I feel that is too little, too late. I am looking to leave this job once I am healed up fully.

When I go forth to interview, whenever I get my first one, what is the most gracious way to explain my current situation? My fear is that potential employers will assume that I must be the type that flakes out when the going gets tough.

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Mention on your CV your new senior position, from the time your old boss was left. You have some choices:

  • Understaff and eventually being redundant, so it's not your problem
  • Require medical attention, so you quit the job. But now you are back healthy for a new job
  • You want a change, away from the recent merging political activities
  • Simply talk about all the positive things from your old job, no negative at all.
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what is the most gracious way to explain my current situation?

Well, the rule rule of thumb is, unless absolutely necessary, you don't talk about the current job scenario (which is usually negative), rather focus on the positives for the new job / role you're aiming for.

If they want the exact detail of why you are leaving, you still can say the same answer: looking for new challenges where I can use my knowledge and capabilities to add value to the organization while advancing my professional career in a way which is aligned to my long term goals.

Again, to repeat, do not talk about negatives, talk positive points:

  • How you want to shoulder responsibilities
  • How you want to show your leadership capabilities
  • How you can add value to the organization
  • How you experiences are relevant to the role you're applying for etc.
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What you do is:

  1. Take advantage of all the hard work you’ve been doing by putting it on your resume and using it to explain your value to the new company. Leading the department, doing the work of the department, helping the other department.

  2. Never say anything negative, you state what it is you want out of the new position. You don’t say “Oh sweet Jesus I’m spread so thin doing all this stuff,” you say “I’d really like to focus more exclusively on leadership|department 1 type work|department 2 type work (whichever the job you’re interviewing for is about), as that’s where I think I can bring the most value to your organization.” (Managers will understand what you’re saying.)

Net result is they see you can do 3 different things not just one, you’ll step up in a pinch, and you know how to communicate professionally.

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