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Writing a Professional Resignation Letter

While writing a professional resignation letter can be a difficult task, it's an absolute must. Here's how to professionally approach it. [TWEET]

Writing a professional resignation letter can be difficult for a variety of reasons. If you like the work you are doing and your company/supervisor, it can be hard to leave, even when it’s best for your career. This means your letter can be tough to write, because how do you express your gratitude when the news is bad? On the other hand, if you hate your job and are excited to leave, it can be a challenge to temper that in a professional document, but for your own sake and for the sake of your career, you absolutely must. So what are the key elements to writing a resignation letter?

To determine the answer and how to write a resignation letter, follow these steps:

  1. Keep it short. This is still a document that is likely to go in your personnel file and you want to keep it to-the-point, as well as concise and clear. The best approach is to start with a salutation, followed by “I am writing to inform you that I will be resigning from my position as [TITLE] effective [DATE].” From here, the remaining content in the professional resignation letter will be customized to your situation, and then you will close it with a formal signature.
  2. Be honest, but grateful. If you love your job, this is easier, because you have positive things to say. You want to follow with a brief thank you for what you gained during your tenure. Of course, it’s still important to keep it short. Two or three sentences will suffice. Again, if you love your job, you can always discuss further with your boss in private or send him/her a personal email, but this is a formal document that outlines your resignation. It’s for HR and like most HR communications, brevity and professionalism are the rule. If you didn’t like your job, it’s still a good idea to be gracious. “I appreciate the opportunity to train and learn about the industry,” or “Working here was the perfect place for me to launch my career and I will always be grateful for the time I spent with this company.” Ten years down the line, you don’t want a professional resignation letter on file where you detailed all the flaws with the management team! You’re leaving – the professional thing to do is show humility and gratitude for the time you were employed.
  3. Be firm in your terms. Many companies have an expected timeline for resignation and if possible, you should always keep that in mind. If they ask for two weeks, give them two weeks minimum. If they ask for six, do your best to accommodate. For some situations, you can’t, but always try to give them as much time as you can to find a replacement. However, when you give a date, stick to it. Your resignation letter should be firm and clear that you are leaving and don’t use it to negotiate a counteroffer. In addition, after you give a date, barring extenuating circumstances, stick to it. I can assure you payroll will be!
  4. If you’re willing to help train your replacement, offer to do so. In the letter, after you clearly outline your termination date and thank the company for the opportunity, you can offer to assist with training/recruitment if you are truly willing to do it. If you are not, don’t offer. You may be expected to, of course, but if you are wrapping up some key projects in the interim, don’t take on more than you can complete before changing jobs. Be upfront and if asked later, make the decision then to do your best to oblige. If you didn’t offer, though, you have more room to ask for assistance.
  5. Finally, submit your letter via email and in person. The last thing you need is for an email to get accidentally missed and no one even realizes you are leaving until the week before you do. Send the email, but deliver the letter as well and ensure it gets into your direct supervisor’s hands.

Starting a new job can be hard enough without baggage from your previous employer and learning how to write a professional letter. Being professional and courteous when resigning is not only proper etiquette, but it minimizes the stress of the transition as well.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!