How to Write an Effective Resignation Letter

08/02/2017 10:11 am ET

When you are ready to move on from a job, one of the ways to leave on positive terms is to submit a well-written letter of resignation.

This short message will shape the last days of your tenure and is similar to a thank you note. Not everyone writes one and you set yourself apart when you exhibit this level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail.

It also serves as your final communication with the company and has the power to leave a lasting impression. It paves the way for favorable references, good feelings and even a future relationship. Though you may be thrilled to move on, there’s a good chance you could end up working with the same people, either as co-workers elsewhere, performing contract work for the company or even seeking a job at the same office sometime in the future.

The secret to a successful resignation letter is knowing what to include and what information to leave out.

Put the Details in Writing

You’ve explained to your boss you are leaving and told her why. There’s no need to reiterate the reasons in this letter. Just note that you are quitting and include the details you have discussed: “This letter is my formal notice that I am resigning from my position as [your title] with [name of company]. My last day will be [date–generally two weeks from when you announce your resignation].”

Thank Your Boss

Whether you love or hate your manager, they almost certainly taught you something, so be sure to say thank you. You don’t need to go overboard but sincerely mention one or two things you gained from your employment: “Thank you for the opportunity to work in this position. During the last [number of years you worked there] I have learned a lot about [specific aspects of your job, your industry, etc.]. This experience has been truly valuable and will benefit me greatly in the future.”

Commit to a Smooth Transition

Pledge to help with whatever you can in your remaining time to ensure a successful transition, such as keeping deadlines or training a coworker on your duties. Convey a spirit of cooperation: “In the next two weeks, I will do my best to wrap up projects and inform other team members of my ongoing work. Please let me know if there are other ways I can be of service to help ensure a smooth transition.”

Close Gracefully

End the letter with a warm sentiment expressing a positive sentiment: “I wish you and the company continued success. I look forward to staying in touch in the future.” This allows you to keep the doors open—industry circles are surprisingly small, and your paths are likely to cross again in one way or another. Then print and sign the letter (or at a minimum email it) and submit to your boss or HR manager.

What you leave out of the letter says as much or more as what you put in. Here are two things to never include:

A List of Complaints

The tone should be professional and positive; this isn’t the time to do a brain dump of everything that is wrong with your boss and the company overall. Even in an exit interview, diplomacy will always serve you well; constructive criticism has its place, but it’s not in the body of your resignation letter.

A Nasty Attitude

If you use this opportunity to send a “take this job and shove it” message to your boss, you are shooting yourself in the foot. A snide or gleeful exit will haunt you in future job searches and will almost certainly damage your professional reputation. Any satisfaction you might get will be fleeting; it’s not worth being branded as an immature hothead. Always take the high road.

With a poised, gracious resignation letter in your permanent file, you can move forward into your future endeavors on firm footing.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy reading 7 Things to Do When Your Job Suddenly Changes. You can also visit Diane’s blog, connect with her here on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on PinterestInstagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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