Your reasons for leaving your job are less important than the wording of your resignation letter. Whether you just scored a higher-paying job outside the company or you can't stand your current supervisor, writing a brutally honest letter is tempting. Unfortunately, such displays of candour will come back to haunt your future, like during the next industry association conference or when seeking a referral for potential clients. You never know what bridges you'll need in the future, so save the rant and exit gracefully and tastefully.
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Address your supervisor or designated human resources representative with a professional greeting. A greeting like "Dear Ms. Smith" is appropriate.
Write one or two brief sentences stating your decision to resign and your last date. An example is "Please accept my letter of resignation as Assistant Director of East Coast Sales. My last working date at [current employer] will be [at least two weeks away]." Some companies may require more or less time, but two weeks notice of resignation is standard professional courtesy.
Write a new paragraph stating, in a few sentences, your resignation is due to personal reasons. Include specifics only if your reasons are truly personal, like the illness of a parent, a spouse's new job or returning to school: "My resignation from my current position is due to my desire for further education at the graduate level."
If your reasons are more contentious, simply write, "My resignation from my current position is due to personal reasons." Keep the paragraph to a maximum of three or four lines. You don't need to detail the long-fought battle over whether your immediate family would, one day, return to the opposite coast.
Conclude your letter on a positive note of gratitude, even if gratitude doesn't accurately capture your current feelings. Use the example, "I want to thank you for the learning experiences I've had at [company name]. I've enjoyed being part of [team or division name] and working for [supervisor's name]," as your model.
Be brief but upbeat and refrain from making negative comments about your coworkers, the organization or your supervisor.
Tips and warnings
- Familiarise yourself with your organisation's resignation and termination policies so you can pack up your personal items if necessary. Positions that work with sensitive data will require you to vacate the premise immediately upon submitting a resignation later to prevent information theft.
- Submit your letter of resignation while calm. Even the most diplomatically worded letter will leave a sour taste in your supervisor's mouth if you slam it on her desk and stomp out.
- Refrain from discussing your resignation with coworkers if your reasons for leaving include persons or policies at the company. Even if your coworkers were already aware of these issues, now is not the time to rehash or elaborate.
- Do not speak negatively of the organisation or its employees, even in e-mail or instant chat. Privacy is limited on a company computer.
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