Resigning is a big career step and should be handled professionally with an eye on the future, not the past. Despite your feelings about your job or your boss, being professional, courteous and helpful provides closure and a positive path forward. How you leave a job (and terms on which you leave) can have positive or negative effects on how you are viewed by future employers.
On The Balance, Alison Doyle, founder and CEO of Career Tool Belt, said resignation letters are not rants on why you’re leaving your job or why you’re unhappy with it.
“Regardless of your work experience, good or bad, it’s not advisable to use a resignation letter to burn bridges with previous employees,” Liz Torres wrote for Monster.com. “You never know who you could work with in the future or what connections your current employer has in your industry.”
The resignation letter should have a neutral tone that informs your employer that you are leaving and on what date, plus it should offer to assist in the transition to someone new and thank them for the time you were part of the team.
“While this isn’t the first step of quitting your job (that would be submitting your two weeks’ notice and sitting your boss down for a one-on-one), it’s an important one,” says Erin Greenawald on The Muse. “The official document you submit to your higher-ups and HR will set the tone for the next two weeks at the office, as well as your relationship moving forward.”
What your letter should say
Resignation letters should be simple and straightforward. Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster, laid out the four basic elements that should be included in your letter:
- The date you’re submitting the letter (usually included in the heading)
- A formal statement of resignation
- Your proposed end date (usually at least two weeks’ notice)
- Your signature
Beyond the basics, it’s a good idea to express gratitude in your letter. Even if you had your differences, thank your supervisor for the opportunity to work for the company.
“Conjure up … the best time at your job, and have that image top of mind when you write your resignation letter,” said Alex Twersky, co-founder and vice president of Resume Deli. “Let your boss think they were great, even if they weren’t. [You might] get a good recommendation out of it.”
Twersky added that you should offer to assist in training a replacement and preparing the team for your departure during your last two (or more) weeks.
What your letter shouldn’t say
Why you’re leaving: Although it might make sense to explain a relocation or a decision to leave the workforce, our sources agreed that it is not necessary to tell your current employer why you are resigning. If you wish to say you’re leaving to accept a new position elsewhere, you can, but in general, telling your old boss exactly where you’re headed is irrelevant and ill-advised, Salemi said. This is especially true if you are leaving for a competitor: Spiteful employers may contact your new workplace and speak poorly of you.
What you hated about the job: If you’re leaving your job for another opportunity, it’s likely that your relationship with your boss, co-workers or management had something to do with your decision. No matter how bitter you are, resist the urge to vent in your resignation letter, Salemi said.
“If you worked for a horrible boss and you’re looking forward to moving on, there’s no need to mention it,” she said. “If you were underpaid and your new job is giving you what you’re worth, congratulations. But leave that point out of your resignation letter too.”
Emotional statements: Twersky stressed the importance of keeping a calm, professional tone in your letter. An aggressive or otherwise emotional letter will only come back to hurt you.
“You may be resentful [and] overworked, but don’t quit angry,” he said.
Similarly, Salemi recommended avoiding emotionally charged personal sentences that include “I think” or “I feel,” unless they are expressing a positive sentiment of gratitude.
Doyle added that many employers will keep a copy of your resignation letter in employment files, and it could be shared with potential future employers. So, added Doyle, keep your letter professional and polite.
These are also good tips to keep in mind when you have the conversation informing your supervisor or manager that you are leaving. Short and simple is fine; there is no reason to explain your reasons if you don’t want to. Just stay polite, respectful and professional throughout the discussion.
An idea of what your letter should look like
Based on advice from our experts, here is an all-purpose resignation letter template you can fill in with your personal details. Remember, you are not required to include your reason for resigning in your letter.
Dear [supervisor’s name],
Please accept this letter as my formal resignation from my role as [title]. My last day with [company] will be [end date].
To ease the transition after my departure, I am happy to assist you with any training tasks during my final weeks on the job. I intend to leave thorough instructions and up-to-date records for my replacement.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the knowledge and experience I have gained by working here. I am very grateful for the time I have spent on our team and the professional relationships I’ve built. It’s been a pleasure working for you, and I hope our paths will cross again in the future.
[Your signature and printed name]
If you opt to provide a reason for leaving, either in your letter or during the conversation with your employer, be clear and positive, focusing on what you are gaining from the change and not the circumstances that caused it.
“Even if you experienced negativity in your job from others, it’s best to resign from one’s position gracefully and with gratitude,” says Doyle. “You want to leave the organization on good footing, for you never know when you might need to ask for a letter of recommendation or referral.”
Less is more when it comes to resignation letters, Salemi said, so be as succinct as possible. Even a single paragraph can be acceptable, as long as you’ve dated it and indicated your last working day, she said. She also noted that you should submit a revised letter if your end date changes for any reason.