Arriving at a decision to quit your job takes a lot of consideration and introspection. When you have established roots in a company, resigning can often be difficult. You want to move on, but you also may have working relationships that you will miss. However, once you have made up your mind and informed your employer that you are quitting, next comes the task of submitting a formal resignation letter.
No matter the reason for your resignation, even if it was not under the best of circumstances, you need to know how to write a resignation letter without burning any bridges. You can never tell when you will encounter your employer or any of your colleagues in a different work situation. Always plan to leave on good terms and with a well-written resignation letter.
A resignation letter is a formally written announcement of your intention to leave the company. Even if you have already verbally expressed your resignation, it is always professional to follow this up with a formal letter.
A resignation letter is not mandatory, but it is expected. It officially documents your resignation and provides a paper trail. It is considered a legal document, as the date of your resignation is the start of official notice to the company and becomes the basis for determining the last day of your employment.
Most companies require two weeks’ notice and the date on your letter shows compliance. The resignation letter will most likely end up with the human resources (HR) department and will form part of your permanent personnel records with them. You should also keep a copy of the letter for yourself, preferably duly acknowledged and stamped by the human resources department.
While you may usually communicate with your employer and colleagues through email, instant messages, or phone calls, you should print your resignation on bond paper and ensure it’s signed. An exception might be made here if you are stationed out of state or in another country.
Normally, you would address your resignation letter to your current line manager, direct supervisor, or HR department. Usually, you would formally address the person in question, but if you are familiar with them, you may soften the letter by addressing them by their given name. Most professionals agree that you should avoid using “to whom it may concern’, as it is considered outdated and impersonal.
The first paragraph of your resignation letter should be short and straightforward. Your intention to resign should be in this paragraph. A typical opening paragraph can start with “Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation” or “Please accept this letter as my formal resignation from (company name)”.
Make sure the letter is clear as to when your last day of work will be. Review your contract and make sure you observe the minimum period of advance notice you agreed to. Two weeks’ notice is standard.
Whether your reason for leaving your company is positive or negative, make your resignation letter one of gratitude. Even when some of your company experience may have been less than pleasant, think of what you have learned during your stay with the company, an instance when you truly enjoyed your work, or an opportunity to mentor someone in the company. Mention this memory and thank them for it.
The company invested in you, trained you, and spent time and money preparing you for your position. Leave the company in a way that they will still remember you with fondness.
In some cases, your resignation may leave some projects unfinished. It may be a good idea to outline any work-in-progress programs and projects so that your employer knows exactly how to fill in the gaps until they can find your replacement. Offer to help with the transition by training your replacement or provide interim suggestions. This section of the letter could include:
Your boss may decide to take on the transition themselves, but offering to help them during your remaining days with the company will be appreciated.
End the letter with a simple and respectful goodbye. You can use the terms “sincerely”, “best regards”, or “thank you”, followed by your name.
Knowing what not to include in your resignation letter can be just as vital as what you do include. When writing your official resignation letter, avoid the following:
While you may feel the need to explain why you are resigning, it’s best to refrain from doing so. Even if your new employer is offering a better salary package or a better career opportunity, leave these details out of your resignation letter. Stay professional, positive and courteous.
A resignation letter is not the place for rants and grievances. Speaking poorly of the company you are leaving, including your work colleagues, reflects more on you than on them. It could also get to your new employer and could affect your prospects with them as well. Make sure you have let go of any anger while composing your letter. Let a friend review it before you submit your letter to make sure it is succinct and respectful.
A calm and professional tone in your letter is much better than an aggressive or emotional one. Phrases such as “I feel” or “I think” should only be used in a positive way.
Boasting about your new position and increase in salary will not do your resignation letter any good. At best, it will just create animosity between you and your employer. Remember, you will likely stay in the same industry as your former company and professional circles can be quite small. Opt to stay on the good side of your old company. You never know when your paths will meet again.
An unedited letter filled with typographical and grammatical errors reflects poorly on you. As this will be your last official act before moving to another company, make it look as professional and pleasant as possible.
Now that you know the basic elements of a resignation letter, let us look at different types of resignation letters
Aside from the date and salutations, a basic resignation letter will have an opening sentence stating your intention to resign effective on a certain date. To make it look professional, consider adding a few sentences thanking the company and offering to help in the transition.
While you normally would give at least two weeks’ notice to your employer, there could be instances when short notice is necessary. This could take your employer by surprise, so consider talking to your immediate supervisor first and explaining the situation.
Once you get your supervisor’s approval, submit a formal resignation letter. Explain why you are resigning, but keep it general and short. Rather than lapse into a long detailed explanation, you can use “personal circumstances” or “family emergency” as reasons. Always add a paragraph expressing your gratitude to the company and thank them for understanding your situation.
This is similar to the short-notice resignation letter, but you do not have to speak with your employer first. While it is not always necessary to explain your reasons for leaving the company, you may want to do so, especially if you want to thank your employer and you have a good working relationship with them.
Some specific reasons for preparing a resignation letter with your reason for leaving may include your going back to school (for example, to take your MBA), maternity leave (when you and your spouse decide that you will not go back to work), relocation, or some personal or family reason.
To give you some idea of what a resignation letter looks like, here is a sample of a basic one:
Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name]:
I would like to inform you that I am resigning from my position as (position title) for the [Name of Company], effective [last day of work].
Thank you for the support and the opportunities that you have provided me during the last two years. I have truly enjoyed my stay with [Name of Company] and am more than grateful for the opportunities you have given that helped me achieve my professional and personal growth objectives.
If I can be of any assistance during this transition in order to facilitate the seamless passing of my responsibilities to my successor, please let me know. I would be glad to help in any way I can.
Your Typed Full Name
Here is another example of a resignation letter. This time, the letter contains a reason for leaving. Observe how one can word it without creating a negative response from the company you are leaving:
Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name]:
The purpose of this letter is to announce my resignation from [Company Name], effective two weeks from this date.
This was not an easy decision for me. The past 10 years have been very rewarding. I've enjoyed working for you and thank you for all the opportunities you sent my way. I am proud of how our production operations have expanded from a medium-sized local operation to one that is now global. I am also very proud to have managed a very successful, hard-working team dedicated to producing quality products on time.
I have accepted a position as [New Position Title] in [Location of New Company]. This opportunity gives me the chance to continue growing professionally while allowing me to relocate my family closer to the rest of our families.
I wish you and the company all the best. I do hope our paths cross again in the future.
Your Typed Full Name
Please accept this letter as my official resignation from PowerTrain Technologies. My last day of employment will be Friday, January 29. I will do everything I can to ensure that my projects are completed and my responsibilities are handed off before I leave.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to work at this company, and for the support you have given me as I learned and improved in my time here. My experience at this company has made me a better data analyst, and I will miss working with this team.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the transition before my departure. I hope we can stay in touch.
Dear Mr. Steve Phillips,
Please accept this letter as formal notice that I am resigning from my position as Marketing Manager with Digital Dog Media. My last day will be Wednesday November 28th.
I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work for this great team and company over the past 5 years. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to grow my digital marketing skills and look forward to taking what I’ve learned on to my next role as I build my career. This has truly been a stepping to stone.
I’ll do everything I can to wrap up my duties and train the team and answer questions over the next two weeks. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help pass along info during my transition.
I wish you all the best of luck in the company’s future success and hope we can stay in touch.
Now that you have a proper resignation letter in your hand, here’s what happens next:
Your company may not be ready to let you go, and might ask you what it will take for you to consider staying. You may get an offer for an instant promotion, or a raise. Whatever the counteroffer may be, be prepared to respond. It is wise to remind yourself why you wanted to resign in the first place, and whether accepting the counter-offer would eliminate those reasons.
Some people that tender their resignation may already have another job, a career change, or a family responsibility waiting in the wings. However, others may be resigning without such an alternative. Maybe they want a short break from all the stressm, or want to travel first before buckling down to finding a new job.
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Community Success Manager & CV Writing Expert
Ben is a writer, customer success manager and CV writing expert with over 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their best careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume summary and the power of coffee.
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