Great news! You’ve found a new job. Or, maybe you’ve simply decided it’s time to leave that hellhole of a job you’ve been suffering through for the last year. And, now it’s time to figure out how to write a resignation letter so you can take the next step in your career.
Your reasons for leaving a job can range from the personal to the financial to the “I just had an epiphany and must quit”. Maybe you didn’t like your coworkers (because they were *ahem* toxic beings). Or, maybe you’ve decided to freelance full-time. More likely, you’ve just outgrown your current role.
Whatever the reasons, you’re confident that it’s time move forward. As exciting a time as this is, it can be a nerve-wracking one. You’re ready to move on from your current employment—but how do you let your boss (kindly) know you’re ready to leave the company? And how do you do it without making the situation seem personal? Or, like you’ll jeopardize the team? To find out, we asked Toni Patterson, a career mentor dedicated to helping women create strategic career choices and transitions.
Here’s how to write a resignation letter that hits all the right notes
Aim for the right timing
We understand that sometimes if you’ve been hired on a “start immediately” basis, you might not have much wiggle room. But the best employees know that it pays off to leave a job on good terms with their former boss and colleagues. What does that mean? Give enough notice (two weeks’ remains the bare minimum) so that your boss and colleagues aren’t caught off guard. You don’t want to leave during the middle of a big project when it’s an “all hands on deck” situation.
More importantly, read over your company’s formal policies for departure and gauge the office culture, Patterson advises. “Going against these formal or informal notice requirements may mean losing out on your vacation payout or foregoing a glowing reference for the next job,” Patterson said.
Oh, and be sure you’re really ready to quit your job
Understand that once you put something in writing, there’s no real going back. If your intention was to get your boss to potentially give you a counter-offer (which may happen) recognize your job is not always safe.” Once you turned in the letter, you projected to your employer that you’re not satisfied and you’re not as loyal to your company as they want you to be,” Patterson said.
A better alternative? Bring up work concerns to your boss during a one-on-one meeting and see what changes can be made. The gist is, don’t resort to a “I’m quitting,” or “I found another opportunity,” unless you’re truly ready to go—and have something else lined up. (If you’re still debating whether or not to quit, we’ve crafted a handy checklist for you to think it through.)
Look at the letter as the start of a conversation
Your heart may be set on leaving the company for a fancy new gig, but the letter of resignation is meant as a precursor to a larger conversation. Think about it: Perhaps you’ve already given your supervisor some (informal) notice that you’re looking for new opportunities. Or, you’ve been made aware that your department is downsizing and you want to make the transition elsewhere before you’re on the chopping block.
By the time you’re writing your letter, you likely already have your ducks lined in a row, and what’s left is formality. “The letter to the boss is meant to start the HR and the transition-my-files processes in motion,” Patterson explained. “The letter is meant to be the precursor to a conversation. If there is anything more that you want to say to your boss, you should save it for the in-person conversation.”
Aim for a short, sweet, and professional three-paragraph letter
While the resignation letter is a formality, don’t aim to recount your whole career trajectory at the company. This is especially true for employees who’ve been at the company for several years. Aim for a formal tone and three paragraphs in length, Patterson advises. “Remember that this is going into your HR file, and may be reviewed at some later point if ever you need this employer for a reference,” she said.
Be sure to include:
Don’t forget to send a thank-you email to coworkers
“The company-wide email is basically just a ‘farewell and keep in touch’ email which is typically sent on your last day of employment,” Patterson said. Take a quick moment to write a short email thanking everyone you worked with for the opportunity and good experience. You’ll also want to include your personal contact information, like your personal email address and, if you wish, your phone number.
That’s it! Good luck on your next venture.