When someone resigns from a job in the movies, it is usually sensationalized with rants and one-liners for a heated parting, and sappy comments and tears for happy ones. In reality, a resignation is a big career step and should be handled professionally with an eye on the future, not the past.
On The Balance, Alison Doyle, founder and CEO of Career Tool Belt, said that your letter can help you maintain a positive relationship with your old employer while also paving the way for you to move forward. It's important to note that resignation letters are not rants on why you're leaving your job or 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."
While you should tell your supervisor or manager in person that you are resigning, such a conversation is usually followed up with a resignation letter. The resignation letter should be a neutral-toned document that tells them you are leaving and on what date, offers to assist in the transition to someone new, and thanks them for the time you were part of the team.
Here's what career experts have to say about the dos and don'ts of writing a resignation letter.
What to include in your letter
Resignation letters should be simple and straightforward. Vicki Salemi, a career expert for Monster, laid out the four basic pieces of information that must be present:
- 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 your assistance in training a replacement and preparing the team for your departure during your last two (or more) weeks.
Topics to avoid
Doyle reminds professionals that their resignation letters will be kept in their permanent employment files. It could be shared with potential future employers, so keep its contents professional and polite, she wrote. With that in mind, here are a few items you should not include in your resignation letter.
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.
These are also good tips for the conversation in which you tell 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.
Resignation letter template
Based on advice from our expert sources, here is a basic, all-purpose resignation letter template that 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]
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.
You can find additional sample resignation letters on the following websites:
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.