Time to leave? Here's how to write a good resignation letter.
Resigning from a job can be nerve-racking. First, there's the meeting with your manager to break the news; then there's the staff announcement that goes around, not to mention the endless run of questions from your colleagues asking why you're leaving and where you're heading to next.
Navigating the path to your next venture with professionalism and grace is key to ensuring a smooth transition. And it all begins with a notice of leave, also known as a resignation letter.
What is a resignation letter?
A letter of resignation is an essential part of leaving a job. In it, you formally express your intention to end your employment with your current employer. Resignation letters may feel ceremonial, but they help to clearly start (and document) the process of your leaving in an official capacity.
Why do you need a resignation letter?
Whilst it is not a legal requirement in the UK to provide a notice of leave or resignation letter, it may be stated in your employment contract that you are required to provide written notice of leave. It will also benefit you to have your resignation in writing in case there are ever any discrepancies in the future.
You may think that giving your notice verbally is enough, and it may be for some employers. However, it is better to cover all your bases and put it in writing as well.
How do you write a good resignation letter?
The best advice for writing a resignation letter is to keep it simple, courteous and professional. You're not required to mention your reason for leaving – especially if it reflects negatively on the company. Instead, focus on thanking your manager for the knowledge and skills you have developed during your employment.
It is also advisable to avoid mentioning your new employer in your resignation letter. For example, bragging about the salary increase you will receive at your new job is not something your existing employer wants to see.
What a resignation letter must include
You may be leaving your job, but you still must be thorough in your resignation letter. There are essential elements, and you should include them all to guarantee an easy transition.
The date of your notice
The heading of your resignation letter should include the date on which you are submitting it. This will help you, your manager and the HR department keep track of your employment and leaving plan.
Your leaving date
Your manager needs to prepare for your departure, so they must know exactly when that will take place. Be clear and decisive here; a statement like 'whenever is a good time for you' will do more harm than good.
Your leaving date may also not be up to you. You'll often find the expected notice period listed in your employee contract, and whether that's one week, two weeks or something else, you'll have to follow it.
A thank you
Whether or not you've enjoyed your time at this job, it's important to end on good terms and acknowledge the opportunities it's provided you. Thank your manager and wish the company well in your resignation letter, telling them you appreciate everything you've learnt in your position.
This is not only gracious but also strategic, as you may need to leverage this role in the future and maintain connections.
Optional: a reason
You don't have to give reasons for leaving your job. However, if you have a close relationship with your manager or team members, you may opt to. If you choose this path, be concise ‒ there's no need to include extravagant details about your new position and life plan. A simple mention of a new opportunity or a decision to spend more time with family is enough.
An exit plan
Show that you aren't abandoning your manager by helping to prepare for your departure. You can offer to outline your duties, document your processes or even train someone during your notice period so they can take over your tasks. If you are currently in the middle of a project, it is especially favourable for you to ensure its completion by putting steps in place so it will succeed without you.
Tips for writing the best resignation letter
Address it to your direct manager. When writing a resignation letter, address it to your direct-line manager, rather than an HR worker. If you typically call them by their given name, you can use that ‒ there's no need to be unnaturally formal.
Keep it short. A letter of resignation should be no longer than one typed page. Remember, it is not necessary to go into excessive detail.
Use a positive, professional tone. Despite taking on a new role, you may need to contact your former employer in the future for references. Adopt a positive, professional tone in your letter and avoid any negative language towards the company, your managers or colleagues.
Offer to help after you leave. This is optional, but it will ensure that you maintain a positive relationship with your soon-to-be ex-colleagues. Don't imply that you intend to be on call for the company, but if you're willing to answer a question here and there, tell them.
How do you deliver a resignation letter?
You have two options for delivering your letter. First, you can print out a hard copy and give it to your manager when you have your face-to-face conversation to break the news. Alternatively, you can email it to your manager on the same day that you give your verbal notice. If you take this approach, copy both a representative from the HR department and your personal email address on the message so you have a record of it being sent.
Professional resignation letter sample:
If you still find yourself asking 'How do I write a resignation letter?', see below for a resignation letter template:
Dear (manager's name),
Please accept this letter as my formal notification of resignation from my position as (job title). As per my employment contract, I will be giving (notice period e.g. two weeks) notice, which means my last day of work will be (insert date).
I am thankful for the opportunities and support I have been given during my employment with (company name), and I wish you and the company success in the future.
I am happy to document my current processes and tasks to help with the transition to my successor. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries after I leave. It would be a pleasure to stay in touch.
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This article was updated in November 2020 by Lauren Settembrino.