All things come to an end. You’ve found another job, or you want to take a step back and reevaluate your career. Either way, there is a process you should follow when quitting a job. A major part of it is writing a resignation letter that lets you leave on good terms.
Why the resignation letter matters
You should always write a resignation letter when leaving your current role. “Whether your experience at the company has been a dream or a personal nightmare, there’s no benefit in burning bridges,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. “It’s a small world, and you never know when your paths may cross with this company or its employees again.”
The letter of resignation serves two important purposes, as explained by Augustine.
- It makes both your intention to leave and your final day of work crystal clear, as they are now well documented.
- It indicates professionalism, which will go a long way.
“It’s one of the last things that go in your personnel file,” says Toni Frana, a career services manager at FlexJobs. “It’s proof that you left the job willingly and in a professional manner.”
What to do before sending the letter
Before sending the letter of resignation, LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill suggests setting up a meeting with your manager to inform them that you are leaving and give them a proper two weeks’ notice. The meeting could be in person or through a video conference platform as many companies are still operating remotely.
Having the conversation in person or via a video conference allows you to read your manager’s body language, says Augustine. She also adds: “It speaks volumes about your character when you have the professionalism to break the news face-to-face (or screen-to-screen), rather than over the phone or, worse, via email, Slack, or text.”
Moreover, as Stephanie Vozza reported, make sure that your boss is the first person to know that you are leaving. Resist the urge to share the news with colleagues first. Instead, ask your boss for a time on their calendar to share the news.
Just like any professional conversation, remember to keep your emotions out of it. It’s true that the great resignation is partly led by employees leaving toxic work environments and toxic bosses, but airing your frustrations will serve nothing.
Prepare ahead of time. Lead the conversation. Keep it short and sweet, but be firm and confident, while “steer clear of guilt and gripe.” It could go like this:
“I wanted to meet with you today to tell you that I am resigning from my position. My last day will be [date]. I also wanted to thank you for the opportunity to be part of this team. I learned a lot. And I would love to help [company name] and the team in any way I can during this process.”
If your boss or anyone else asks where you’ll be heading and you have no job lined up, McCaskill suggests saying something like this:
“I’m going to be taking some time off between this job and what I’m doing next to get a good reset before venturing into this new opportunity, but I’ll be sure to let you know what’s coming once I’m settled.”
The goal is to always use positive language during this time. Avoid saying or doing anything that may make it easy for your soon-to-be former employer to blacklist you, as you may still need them as a reference.
How to write and deliver the resignation letter
“Following a live conversation, an emailed resignation letter should suffice for companies,” McCaskill notes. “If you’re unsure of next steps, you can always ask your manager in the initial discussion about the specific process at your company.”
Your role during this time is to make sure that your transition out of the company goes as smoothly as possible.
When writing the letter of resignation, keep it simple. “Disclosing why you are resigning is not necessary,” says Elaine Boylan, the assistant director of assessment and graduate outcomes at Adelphi University.
“It’s customary to give a two weeks’ notice,” adds Frana. “Although some companies have their own policy on this, and they may or may not require you to stay through the end of the notice period.”
- A clear statement that you are leaving your current role
- Your last day of work
- Expression of gratitude for the opportunity that was given to you. (Yes, even if you hated the job.)
- Willingness to help in the transition process
If you choose to divulge the reason for leaving, Boylan suggests focusing on the positives. Moreover, keep it short, as adding lengthy details about your new opportunity can put off your current employer.
Similar to the live conversation, avoid criticizing or lodging complaints about your boss or the company.
“You can always request an exit interview if you want to provide constructive feedback to the HR department,” explains Augustine.
The letter must be sent or given to both your manager and the HR manager. You can send it as an email attachment, or you can physically hand the letter to them if possible.
Here are some resignation letter samples:
Example 1: After having a conversation with your boss
To: Hiring Manager
CC: HR Contact
Subject: Letter of Resignation: [Your First and Last Name]
Hi [Supervisor Name],
Per our earlier conversation, I am writing this letter to inform you that I am resigning from my position as Marketing Communications Manager. My last day will be Friday, June 10, 2022, [X days/weeks] from today.
Thank you for your support throughout my time at [Company Name]. I enjoyed working with you and have learned lessons that I will take with me throughout my career. Please let me know how I can help during this transition to make it as smooth as possible for the team.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me at [your personal email address] if questions arise. It’s been a pleasure working with you.
Note: If you truly enjoyed working at the company and want to outline specific steps you intend to take during your final days at the company, you can add a line to your middle paragraph. For example, “I plan to document my current work processes for the team and am happy to prepare training materials as I close out my projects.” Thanking your boss can be as heartfelt as you want it to be while maintaining professionalism.
However, if you did not enjoy your time at the company, remove any language that indicates otherwise. For example, instead of thanking your manager for their support or saying that you enjoyed working with them, you might say something like: “I appreciate the opportunity to work at [Company Name] and will remember the career lessons I’ve learned here” —and then leave it at that. Less is more when you’re leaving a job you didn’t like.
Example 2: Informing your boss you’re taking another job elsewhere
Dear [Supervisor Name],
First, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow professionally at [Name of Company] over the past [insert number] years. I’ve learned a lot about [insert something applicable to the role you were in], and I am confident that this experience has prepared me well for future opportunities.
After much thought and careful consideration, I have decided to pursue another career opportunity and am resigning from my position with [Company Name].
I am willing to stay until [Month, Day] to assist with the transition of my responsibilities before I leave.
It has been a pleasure working with you and the team, and I wish you all the best for the future.
Example 3: Leaving without another job lined up
Dear [Supervisor Name],
After careful thought and consideration, I am submitting my resignation effective [Date, YYYY.] Working at [Company Name] as a [Job Title] has been very rewarding. During my time here, I have learned a lot about [insert something relevant about the role]. I feel ready and able to take on new challenges because of the wonderful training and development opportunities I have been given in this role.
Please know I am happy to assist with my transition and can be available after [Date YYYY] if needed. I wish you, the team, and the rest of the company nothing but the best going forward.
Thank you again for the opportunity to work with you at [Company name]. I look forward to staying in touch and following the company’s future success.
Example 4: Short, sweet, to the point
Hello [Supervisor Name],
After careful consideration, I have decided to pursue another career opportunity and am resigning from my position with [Company Name].
I am able to stay until [Month, Day] to assist with the smooth transition of my responsibilities. Please let me know what the next steps are.
Two weeks’ notice
Two weeks’ notice is not a requirement, but it has become a norm in the workforce.
Boylan explains that, “In the [past], unwritten agreements existed between labor and the higher echelons of corporate America. Two weeks’ notice was the norm for resignations, protocol that was generally passed down via word of mouth.”
More often than not, your new employer will also ask you to provide a reasonable start date with the understanding that you will need extra time to tie up loose end at your current job. In addition, by asking your new employer for extra time to complete your current role on a good note, you’re conveying a message that you are professional and dependable, which will impress your new employer.
It tends to be a red flag if a company wants to start immediately, regardless of your need to give ample notice at your current job, reported Vozza. It indicates that they are not supportive and that they don’t respect processes.
“Technically, most employment in the United States (with the exception of Montana) is “at will,” explains Augustine, “meaning that an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason without facing adverse legal consequences.”
“However,” adds Augustine, “because employment is ‘at will,’ you also have to be prepared that your employer may waive your two weeks’ notice and end your tenure immediately. This is more common when the employee works in sales, account management, or consulting, and the employer is concerned about employees taking their book of business with them when they leave.”
To better prepare for this outcome, Augustine suggests backing up documents and contact information that you would like to keep after leaving, and gathering data to update your resume or brag book before informing your boss that you are resigning.
How to follow up to leave on good terms
In the weeks leading up to your departure, prioritize wrapping up projects, documenting processes to assist your manager and team, and providing training whenever necessary. McCaskill suggests reconnecting with your manager twice before you leave (a week before the final day and the eve of the final day) to ensure all transition details are final.
Doing this will set the team for success.
You can also go above and beyond by sending your former boss, colleagues, and clients (if applicable a thank you note to reiterate your gratitude for the time spent at the company. This is a good opportunity to mention a project that you enjoyed working on and share your contact information if they do not have it yet.
Many times, people leave a company because they are not satisfied or worst, because they felt mistreated. In this case, a resignation letter and a two weeks’ notice will suffice. You should still tread lightly during the time left before your departure, and you should still resist the urge to rage quit during your remaining days, the reason being that it will hurt you more than you realize.
The workforce is made of tight-knit communities. As McCaskill reiterates: “It’s a small world. You never know when, or in what circumstances, you may cross paths with a former boss or colleague in the future.” Even though The Great Resignation put some power back in the hands of employees, you are still on the losing end.
So, check in with yourself from time to time, look to the future, and remind yourself that the worse is over.
As Boylan notes, “Burned bridges benefit no one.”