Getting a gold watch for staying at a company for 25 years is far from the norm in 2019, so you will probably have to draft a resignation letter at some point in your career.
Even if you are tempted to skip the resignation later as an outdated, unnecessary, and overly formal gesture, don’t. Your employer will appreciate your professionalism — which, of course, can ultimately benefit you if you need a solid recommendation from them in the future.
With these considerations in mind, here are some tips for drafting a respectful and effective resignation letter.
1. Keep It (Relatively) Formal
Just as with any formal letter, include the date and addresses of both you and your employer. Salutations should be businesslike, using your supervisor’s last name preceded by their title (Mr., Mrs., Ms.). If you are in a less formal office atmosphere, use “Dear” with the person’s name. If “Sincerely” feels too formal as a sign-off, a “Best regards” will do.
You can adjust the level of formality to reflect your working relationship, but generally, you don’t want your letter to come across as too breezy and informal.
2. Keep It Simple
Now isn’t the time to get into any details about your experience at the company — especially bad — or your reasons for leaving. Remember, you want your parting letter to be a positive reflection on you and your time there, so thank your employer for the opportunity and for all you have learned on the job.
You may want to offer your availability to help the employer transition to a new employee, and you can offer some positive feedback if it seems appropriate but, again, keep it short and sweet.
If you have decided to apply for a new job (especially within your industry), word will get around. You do not have to tell anyone about your business.
3. Give an Exit Date
One of the most important functions of a resignation letter is to communicate with your employer when you will be leaving. Offering two weeks’ minimum notice is customary, but this may vary, depending on your situation. Try to keep your employer’s needs in mind, because leaving them without adequate time to find and get your replacement up and running will not reflect well on you. Your employment contract or employee handbook also may have specific provisions concerning this time frame.
4. Keep It Under Wraps
When drawing up your plans to resign, don’t tell anyone about them, except for your supervisor. In some situations, you may feel comfortable telling them in person and following up with a resignation letter, while, in others, it may make more sense to simply deliver the letter first.
In any event, don’t broadcast the news in the office — either intentionally or unintentionally — which means you should type up and print your letter at home, far away from prying eyes. Word travels quickly, and you don’t want to inadvertently leave a copy of your resignation letter on a shared printer, which could make you look bad in the eyes of your employer if they find out you’re leaving via the office grapevine instead of directly from you.
5. Use Paper
Yes, a printed letter is old-fashioned and formal, but email isn’t the proper place for a resignation letter, even in 2019. You don’t have to send your letter through the mail — handing it to your boss is fine — but the tangible aspect is important. This also allows your supervisor to pull you into their office and have a chat with you, so try to avoid handing over the letter on your way out the door unless you want to stay after work for a conversation.
Getting a new job can be one of the most exciting times in your life, but, before you move on, take the time to leave your current position the right way.
6. Thank the Appropriate Parties
Your life has changed in some significant way – that is probably why you are drafting the resignation letter in the first place. You have to make some changes in your life or lifestyle, and the job no longer fits in with what you are doing. At the same time, your life can change again in the future. You do not want to leave any bad blood between you and your soon to be a former employer. If you have to come back into the company for any reason, you will need allies. Don’t think that life can’t throw you another curveball!
Look to the bright side of everything that you have done with the company. There is no need to thank anyone by name – this may offend others who you do not have the room to put in the correspondence. However, you should leave everyone feeling good about you as you walk out the door. Let them know that you are leaving because of a life change, not because of any negative experience.
7. Watch the Legalities
Your resignation letter shouldn’t get you into needless trouble. If you are resigning because of a legal matter or some sort of professional disagreement, make sure that you are not leaving any “bread crumbs” that could come back to bite you later.
According to LegalZoom, keeping a resignation letter short and to the point does much more than give off a professional impression.
It also keeps you out of serious legal trouble that could occur if you mention any problems that you may have had during your tenure at the office. Do not get into the details of anything that occurred there. Keep names out of the letter, even if you are speaking about someone in a positive way.
8. Focus on the Transition Period
One of the best ways to get across a good impression is to focus on the transition period between the time that you deliver your resignation letter and the exit date that you state within it. What are you prepared to do to help the company move on from your presence there? One or two lines about it can send you off in the right way.
You do not have to get into details here, either. Keep in mind that someone might call you on your bluff if you try to be overly helpful here. Simply say that you are prepared to help the company transition into a new person to handle your position and that you can offer your assistance during the remainder of your tenure.
9. Write Your Letter a Week before Sending It
Yes, you may need to marinate over your decision before you finalize it. This is especially true if you are leaving because of some unexpected situation or unfortunate incident. Give your emotions time to calm themselves so that you can make a completely rational decision. What’s more, this time between production and delivery gives you time to plan.
Do you have new employment waiting on you once you leave your old position? Are you financially prepared to give up your job right now, or do you need your next paycheck to come in? Is your resignation letter delivered too close to a contentious incident to look innocuous? Are you writing your letter as a bluff because you did not get the raise that you wanted?
These are all things that you need to consider before letting the boss know that you are letting go of the job for good. If you can make the same decision on two different days, then you know for sure that decision is the right one to make.
Delivering a resignation letter shows that you are professional and respectful, and will help ensure your employer remembers you fondly. Now your next step is to update your LinkedIn and write a perfect resume for your next job!
Now get writing, and good luck!