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How to write a letter of resignation

When it's time to move on, just shouting "Ciao!" at your boss is not enough. As a professional, you'll want to write a brief, but cordial, letter of resignation. This will help avoid ambiguity and set the tone for your departure. This letter is nearly the last thing you'll do at this job, so do it with class.

First, make sure you are certain about quitting this job. If you're feeling wishy-washy about the new job, don't commit yourself to paper just yet. And if you're thinking about "announcing your resignation" as part of some ploy to get a lucrative counter-offer, a letter could lock you into an undesirable position. If you're playing this delicate/dangerous political game, skip the letter and talk to the boss about your new offer and see what develops.

If your new plans are indeed rosy, and you're truly ready to depart, then pull out the pen and paper...or, nowadays, belly up to the keyboard and turn on the printer. Don't write more than necessary. Keep it short, simple, positive, polite, discreet and mature -- without sentences full of adjectives like those.

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The elements of your letter should include:

  • Use of proper business letter format. Before starting the letter, put your name and address at the top, then the date, and the employer's name and address.

  • Begin with a direct statement that you are resigning your particular job, and when your last day of work will be. Two weeks notice is polite. Jobs with more responsibility are often expected to give longer notice. Don't make them do the math -- tell whether this is two-weeks notice or if you are resigning immediately. Keep in mind that some companies may require you to leave the day you resign. Something like: "I am resigning my position as Junior Bottlewasher, effective in two weeks on August 23, 2002."

  • Tell them why. This is not the time to rant. Keep those negative reasons, opinions and disgruntlements to yourself. Any problems with the current company are in the past as of this letter. More legitimate and respectable reasons for leaving include going back to school, accepting another offer or moving to another city. If your only reason is because you hate this job, this boss and this company, then just skip the why. Something like: I am returning to school this fall to complete an advanced degree in bottlewashing.

  • If it's sincere, thank management for their help, mentoring, whatever. Something like: I appreciate the opportunities I've had at Bottlewashers United Inc. My supervisor, Joe Glass, taught me so much that I've decided to pursue bottlewashing as a profession.

  • Say "sincerely" or something else polite and professional, and then sign it. Take a deep breath. Turn it in.

Now that your letter has been read by the boss and the goodbye party is scheduled in the conference room, don't start coasting. No one appreciates a lame duck -- pull your weight until your last day.

You might be done with the place, but this job will be on our resume for years to come. Therefore, fulfill your obligations. Then, in a few years, when asked for a recommendation, the last thing your old boss and co-workers will remember is what a pro you were and how much they missed you.

Now, that's a happy ending.





--Updated: Aug. 23, 2002

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See Also
Negotiating the price of your soul
Take this job and shove it?
401(k): You can (and should) take it with you
Financial advice glossary
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