You’ve made the decision to leave your job, you’ve gotten through the uncomfortable conversation with your leader, and you’ve started packing up your desk. Give yourself a pat on the back, because that stuff isn’t easy. You’re almost out the door and on your way to a new opportunity! But wait—before you get too carried away, don’t forget to send a resignation letter.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to write a professional resignation letter that will keep you from burning any bridges and help you move on with total peace of mind.
What Is a Resignation Letter?
A resignation letter is an email or printed document formally explaining that you’re leaving your job. Sometimes a resignation letter is required for all exiting employees so the company can have it for their records, but even if it’s not a requirement, it’s still good quitting etiquette to send one before heading out the door. It should never replace an in-person conversation, though, unless email-only resignations are a company policy or you have an unusual, urgent situation that makes resigning in person impossible. Your best bet is to have the conversation first and then follow up with the formal resignation letter.
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Your resignation letter should be emailed or given to your direct leader, and it doesn’t hurt to CC or give a copy to your HR department too.
What to Include in a Letter of Resignation
Resignation letters shouldn’t be too long, but they shouldn’t be one sentence either. They should be just long enough to state that you’re leaving, give a brief explanation as to why you’re leaving (if you choose to give one), say when your last day in the office will be, offer to help make the transition as smooth as possible, and express gratitude for the time spent at the company. You don’t have to be dishonest and say things you don’t mean, but in this case, you can find something to say that’s professional and positive.
What NOT to Include in a Letter of Resignation
This is not the time to air your grievances or say anything that could come back to bite you later. Don’t speak negatively about your boss, coworkers, compensation or experience at the company—even if you have plenty of well-founded complaints. Remember, this is a formal record of your departure and will probably stay in your company’s files for a long time, which could affect your chances of getting a letter of recommendation or referral in the future.
It’s also not a good idea to rave about your new job in this letter, even if it’s your dream job or will help you pay off debt faster. Don’t say anything that implies the company you’re going to is better or pays more than your current company—comparison is never a good look.
How to Write a Resignation Letter
Okay, now it’s time to get down to business and actually write the darn thing. Here are seven easy steps to follow when writing your resignation letter:
1. Add a subject line.
Leaving the email subject line blank is a classic mistake—but not on your watch! This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A simple “(Your Name) - Resignation” will do just fine as a subject line. If your resignation letter is not in email form, you should also include today’s date on the top left side of the page.
2. Formally address your leader.
The standard greeting for a letter like this is, “Dear Mr./Ms. (your leader’s last name).” That’s best practice here unless you have a leader who insists that you call them by their first name and you always have, but even so, I’d keep it formal here to be safe.
3. Open with a clear statement.
The first sentence of your letter should make it clear that this is your formal resignation. Don’t beat around the bush, be wishy-washy, or apologize. Just state the facts and keep on moving.
4. (Briefly) say why you’re leaving.
This part is optional, but if you have a solid reason, it doesn’t hurt to give a few details. Be honest here, but don’t feel the need to make it a long, drawn-out explanation. This could be anything from “I’m pursuing other opportunities” to “I’ve decided to make a mid-life career change” to “I’m moving out of state to be closer to family.” But it’s best to leave this part out if your real reason for leaving is because you hate your boss or you think your job is boring.
5. Give a concrete last day.
Don’t keep anyone guessing about when your last day in the office will be. Make sure that you’ve already decided on this date—which should ideally be two weeks away—in collaboration with your leader, or that you’ve at least made them aware of this date in person. Then repeat it in your resignation letter so it’s in writing and there’s no possibility of confusion.
6. Offer to help if needed.
Again, this one is optional, but it’s a great way to go the extra mile for your team and your company. This can be as simple as saying “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” or as detailed as saying exactly what you’ll do to make the transition easier, like onboarding and training your backfill. But don’t overpromise anything you’re not prepared to follow through on.
7. Close with gratitude.
This is the most important part in my opinion. No matter how much you disliked your job or coworkers, at the very least, you had a steady paycheck and an opportunity for growth and learning. The only scenario where I could see leaving this out would be if you were abused in some way or the work environment was extremely toxic—otherwise, thank your leader for your time at the company.
One more note: If you like your coworkers enough to want to stay in touch with them, or if you want to maintain a good relationship with them for future connections, send them a separate email with similar details explaining that you’re leaving, thanking them for working with you, and letting them know how they can contact you once you’ve left.
Resignation Letter Template
Here’s an example resignation letter that will help you get started. You don’t have to copy this word for word (in fact, you shouldn’t—give it your own personal touch!). But this template will point you in the right direction.
Subject Line (if emailed): [Your Name] - Resignation
Date (if printed):
Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name],
I am writing to give you my formal resignation from [Company Name], as I have accepted another position that will provide the specific type of career growth I’m seeking at this time. My last day in the office will be [Date].
Please let me know how I can assist with this transition period—I am available to help in any way I can. Thank you for everything you’ve done to support and encourage me during my time here. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve this company and our customers, and it has been a pleasure to work with you and the team.
Pretty simple, right? Don’t overthink this—keep it classy, professional and thankful, and you’ll leave a lasting good impression. And just remember, once you hit send, you’ll be off on your new adventure with plenty of new experiences to look forward to. Press on!
Still deciding if it’s actually time to quit your job? That can be a tough decision, but my free Should I Quit My Job Quiz will help you get more clarity in five minutes or less.