Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but that’s never stopped anyone.

More than four million people quit their jobs in both July and August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This despite the fact that drafting a letter of resignation, informing one’s employer and formally making the jump can be a stressful process.

For one, it’s tough moving on from your work family. Coworkers are “folks who you interact with — it’s cliche, but it’s true — a lot of times more than your family,” said Keith Wolf, managing director of Murray Resources, a Houston-based staffing firm and resume service. “Not only are you changing work, you’re affecting people that you’re used to seeing every day.”

That amplifies the need to resign gracefully. “You want to leave on a positive note, [so] there’s anxiety in making sure that you’re not fracturing those relationships,” Wolf added.

How to Write a Letter of Resignation

  • Thank your employer.
  • Express gratitude for the opportunity.
  • Give your final date of employment.
  • Offer to help with the transition.
  • Include your contact information.
  • Keep the letter brief.
  • Air any issues in the exit interview, not the letter.
  • Deliver the letter face to face.
  • Make sure your boss is first to know.

That strain is more intense for entry-level folks. With experience, the process feels less fraught, but “leaving early jobs is so, so gut-wrenching,” said Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, managing partner of Masthead Media and host of the Coffee Break With NYWICI podcast. The fact that employers often don’t formalize resignation expectations also makes it more challenging for early career workers, she added.

But resigning professionally is, of course, a must. The stain of blowing off an employer without formal notice is impossible to scrub, while the benefits of a professional notice are just as long-lasting.

Wolf recalled how one former employee emailed her resignation, effective immediately — no meeting, not even a phone call. It happened years ago, but the experience still stands out. On the other hand, multiple former employees went on to work with Wolf in some capacity post-resignation, including one who consulted for the firm.

RelatedDon’t Get Stuck: Ask for a Raise and Level Up Your Career

 

delivering resignation letter
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Delivering the Letter of Resignation

Schedule a Face-to-Face Meeting

It may be obvious, but it’s worth stressing: Request in-person time with your manager, print a hard copy of the resignation letter and deliver the news face to face. No out-of-the-blue emails, no surreptitious letter drop-offs and certainly no ghosting.

“Setting aside time to get [the manager’s] full attention — meeting to make sure you’re actually talking to them, not just kind of doing it in passing — are both really important,” Ilkovich said.

It’s about respect. Yes, resigning directly and professionally is partially self-serving — why burn network contacts or potential references? — but it’s also just the courteous thing to do. Wolf recalled the justifiable blowback some companies faced after holding mass terminations via Zoom or conference call during the pandemic. Any departure — whether voluntary or involuntary — is sensitive, and should be treated as such by whomever is delivering the news.

“Give the employer the same courtesy you would want,” Wolf said.

 

What If You Work Remotely?

Speaking of Zoom, how does remote work complicate the process? Even as more employees return to their once-shuttered offices, many companies have allowed some portion of their workforces to remain offsite. In that case, the etiquette still stands, just digitally.

Again, schedule a meeting time with your manager, block your calendars and deliver the news face to face on whichever video-conferencing app is the company’s default. Even if you’re anxious about meeting, don’t disable the video. Then, send the letter of resignation via email after delivering the news. In short, even in the “new normal,” regular expectations apply.

“It’s obviously been a really interesting time to be in the career-advice space,” Ilkovich said. “But the standard, respectful rules of business don’t change, even though we’re in this virtual world.”

 

Make Sure Your Boss Is First to Know

Inform your manager first, not your work friends. Otherwise, the news can spread, potentially sowing resentment.

“It’s important to let the company lead the process of how they want your resignation announced,” Wolf said. “I’ve seen that botched before.”

That’s especially true for more senior employees, whose departures are often a more delicate matter.

“Early in your career, it’s not as big a deal, but later on, as people’s roles become more important in an organization, that’s pretty sensitive,” he added.

Still, even early career folks should avoid jumping the gun. That includes sharing “some personal news” on social media.

“Make sure all the key people know what’s happening within your organization before talking about it online,” Ilkovich said. “Also, understand what your new employer is comfortable with you saying. Yes, it’s your news, but you do want to be conscious that there may be some guidelines.”

 

Know Before You Go

Before meeting your manager and handing over the letter, be certain you haven’t forgotten about any contractual agreements that might preclude your next employment options. That includes agreements like non-compete and non-solicitation clauses — “things that you may not have thought about for years and years, because you haven’t read it since you started,” Ilkovich said.

Related8 Strategies for Acing Your Next Career Opportunity

 

How to Write a Letter of Resignation

The precise phrasing and details of a letter of resignation will vary by individual. That said, all letters of resignation follow a basic structure. The letter should include each of the following components, listed in order:

  • Date: You’ll be writing the letter ahead of time, so be sure to date the letter to reflect when you’ll actually submit it.
     
  • Contact information: Include your name, email address and phone number. It’s also common to include your home address.
     
  • Note of address: “Dear, [Name]” is appropriately formal. “Hello, [Name]” and “To: [Name]” are other options. Always use a person’s name, not a department.
     
  • Notice of resignation: State in plain language that the letter’s purpose is to inform the employer of your resignation. Include your last date of employment in this section.
     
  • Expression of gratitude: Thank your boss for the opportunity to gain experience, develop new skills and grow professionally. Specify individual projects or accomplishments if you like, but a general expression of thanks will suffice.
     
  • Note about transition: Offer to help with the transition. Don’t overpromise, but a good-faith willingness to assist with next steps will be appreciated.
     
  • Closing and signature: Again, directness is expected — “Best,” “Thank you,” or “Best wishes” are customary. Be sure to then sign the printed copy, or if you’re notifying remotely, drop your signature in the emailed letter of resignation PDF. You can use the Preview app for Mac or Microsoft Edge for PC to create a signature.

A few of these details are worth unpacking a bit more. Below is some additional advice on the more important facets of the letter of resignation, along with some extra general guidance and a few common missteps to avoid.

 

writing resignation letter
Image: Shutterstock

What to Do — and Not Do — in a Letter of Resignation

Include Your Contact Information

This might seem redundant, since your employer likely has all or most of your contact information on file, but it’s customary nonetheless. Contact information — name, address, phone number and email address — is often listed near the top of the letter.

 

Show Gratitude

Always be sure to thank the employer for the opportunity, and let them know you’re appreciative of their hiring you and investing in your development.

That said, don’t overdo it. Resignations can be emotional, especially if you’ve been at the job for a while or had strong feelings about the employer, but avoid being overly emotional, particularly in the letter, Ilkovich said. The meeting with the manager is a better forum for expressing deeper sentiments.

 

Give a Date

Make it clear when your last day will be. It’s customary to give an employer at least two weeks’ notice. In rare instances, that’s not possible. In that event, make sure to acknowledge the standard and apologize for not being able to meet it. (You may want to briefly explain the short notice, or simply leave it for the meeting.)

 

Offer to Help With the Transition

When you resign, you’ll be leaving the organization a person down. So be sure to offer to help with the transition, whether that’s drafting a job listing, recommending potential replacement candidates, training a replacement, tidying up ongoing projects or whatever the organization needs to move forward successfully.

For technical roles, that likely means significant hands-on collaboration.

“You have to document the things you’ve been working on, and then meet with your managers to figure out who has the bandwidth to take them on,” Katelynn Weingart, a software engineer at LaunchPad Lab, told Built In. “Then have separate meetings with those people, and walk them through the code. Make sure they understand what you’ve been working on.”

 

Don’t Go Into Detail

Like a job-interview follow-up email, the letter of resignation itself should be something of a formality. You can explain the reasons behind your departure during the resignation meeting and again at the exit interview. Despite what some advise, the actual letter isn’t really the arena to get into finer details.

“If you were to look up what you should include in your resignation letter, a lot of times it does say to include a little explanation about why you’re leaving. I don’t think you need to do that,” Ilkovich said.

However, if you do feel strongly about including reasons in your letter, keep the terms simple. Mention that you’ve accepted a new position, decided to make a career change or are leaving for personal reasons, as the case may be. But there’s no need to name your new employer, cite the new sector or explain the personal issues in the letter. In other words...

 

Keep It Brief

Concision is key. Hit the must-do’s in the letter — and avoid the must-don’ts — and be done. A professional resignation letter is usually only a handful of sentences. When in doubt, err on the side of less.

“If you’re nervous about your writing ability and don’t want to say the wrong thing, then just keep it super short,” Wolf said.

Altogether, the letter of resignation should briefly hit a few key points and maintain a respectful, even keel. Ilkovich has a helpful lens through which to think about it: Ask yourself, “Is this something I’d be comfortable having shared around the organization?”

“In the moment of writing, you may feel like, ‘Oh, this is just for my boss,’” she said. “But it’s something that could be passed along, or your company may document it in some way.”

 

Want more tips on writing a letter of resignation? See career strategist Heather Austin’s advice video. | Video: Heather Austin

Letter of Resignation Examples

Boilerplate language won’t capture the individual nuance you’ll want to bring to your letter of resignation. For example, you might want to further emphasize your sense of gratitude or acknowledge the depth of personal relationships you’ve built, especially if resigning from a longtime employer, in a way that non-personalized templates won’t do justice. But the five examples below should nonetheless help you on the way.

 

Example 1: Two Weeks’ Notice Provided

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email]

 

Dear, [Name],

I’m writing to inform you that I have decided to resign from my position as [role]. My last day will be [two weeks from day of notice].

This was not a decision I made lightly. My time at [company] has been professionally and personally fulfilling. The support and encouragement I’ve received from you, our team and the company as a whole has been extraordinarily valuable. Please know that I am grateful for the opportunity you provided and the chance to gain experience and hone new skills under your direction.

I will, of course, use my remaining time to help with the transition as best I can. I will document and share the status of my projects and, if desired, assist in the search for a replacement.

Best,

[Signature here]

[Name]

 

Example 2: Fewer Than Two Weeks’ Notice Provided

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email]

 

Hello, [Name],

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation. My last day of employment will be [date].

I know it is customary to provide two weeks’ notice, and I sincerely apologize for any problems that my short notice might cause. Know that if there were any way I could have avoided it, I would have done so. Unfortunately, my new employer needs me to begin right away, and I could not negotiate a different start date. [If you have a different reason for the short notice, explain.]

I will always appreciate my time here, and I am truly grateful for the professional guidance you provided. I gained invaluable experience and grew much as a [role/position] during my time at [company]. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Since my time remaining is short, I know that the transition may be more difficult than usual. Know that I will do all I can to thoroughly document the status of ongoing projects and help tie up any other loose ends.

Thank you,

[Signature here]

[Name]

 

Example 3: the Short Version

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email]

 

Dear, [Name],

This letter is to notify you that I am resigning from my position as [title] at [company]. My last day will be [two weeks from date of letter].

It has been a pleasure working with and learning from you over the past [X years or months]. I wish you and [company] all the best going forward. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

In my time remaining, I’ll be happy to help with the transition in any way that I can.

Thanks again,

[Signature here]

[Name]

 

Example 4: Citing a Reason — if You Do Decide to Include It

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email]

 

Hello, [Name],

I’m writing to let you know that I’ve chosen to resign from my position as [position]. My last day at [company] will be [date].

I am resigning because I have decided to accept a new position. I believe the new role provides an excellent path for how I’d most like to steer my professional growth. [OR I have decided to pursue a career change and am applying for jobs in the X industry/going to school for Y field of study. OR I have decided to resign from my current role due to personal reasons.]

This was a difficult decision. I very much enjoyed my time here and am eternally grateful for all I learned. The experience and knowledge I’ve accrued has been invaluable. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

I will of course do all I can to facilitate a smooth transition. Please do not hesitate to let me know how I can best assist with next steps.

All the best,

[Signature here]

[Name]

 

Example 5: Acknowledging Non-Compete Clauses

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email]

 

Dear, [Name],

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation. My last day of employment will be [date].

Of course, I don’t make this decision lightly. I have treasured my time at [company name], gained great experience in [field/role] and was allowed to grow and develop professionally. Thank you sincerely for what has been a wonderful opportunity.

As I write the next chapter in my career, I have been careful to honor the terms of my non-compete clause. Know that I have and will continue to abide by the details of our contract.

I will be happy to use my remaining time to help facilitate a smooth transition. I can document the status of all my projects and, if you like, assist in the search for new candidates and help train a replacement — whatever I can do to help with the transition.

Best,

[Signature]

[Name]

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