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Dear Electra,

I'm looking to leave my current job but I'm having problems writing an appropriate resignation letter. Do you have any links to a website regarding design of resignation letters?

Making a Getaway

Here's an example of the WRONG way to write a resignation letter. For years Electra has had, pinned to her bulletin board (don't ask why), a quotation from William Faulkner's Letter of Resignation from his job as postmaster for the University of Mississippi.

"As long as I live under the capitalistic system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation."
[Apparently Faulkner was a lousy postmaster. To learn more see the Faulkner Trivia site...where "itinerant scoundrel" is said more boldly.]

Faulkner didn't know (or didn't care) that settling scores and telling the company "what you really think" has no place in a letter of resignation. Unless you're planning to win the Nobel Prize, you had perhaps exercise more caution.

First, because very few resignations are truly "good-bye." You'll continue to list your former employers on your resume in years to come. You may need references from your boss or a co-worker. If you stay in the same industry, you're liable to run into each other at professional meetings and conventions.

Second, because it's always nice to make a "classy exit." Whatever problems there may have been, they (and your old employer) are now in the past.

The RIGHT way to write a resignation letter is this:

1. First paragraph:

"Please accept my resignation from the position of Chief Buttonpusher with This Wonderful Company, Inc. I have really enjoyed working with all of you and have learned so much from our association." (Put this in your own words.)

2. Second paragraph:

"Even More Wonderful Co., Ltd. has offered me a position as Director of Buttonpushing and I feel that this is the right move for me to make. The experience I have had at This Wonderful Company was essential in preparing me for these new responsibilities." (Also in your own words.)

3. Third paragraph:

"My last day will be in two weeks, March 5, 2007. I will hand over my files to the Assistant Buttonpusher and finish my work on the Sort-of-Big Project by then." (Make sure you insert a date here. Two weeks is the expected notice for most positions. You might want to add a sentence to assure your employer that your last two weeks will be spent productively.)

4. Final paragraph:

"I wish you continued success at whatever and please let me know if I can be of assistance in any way."

Permit Electra to slip in one more piece of advice:

TRY, if you can, to keep your former boss and your co-workers as an active part of your network. Write a letter to your boss and your co-workers after you've settled into your new position, giving them your new phone numbers, etc.

You may need these people one day to find a new job--or to cement a consulting contract with your old firm. And even if neither of those situations comes to pass, it never hurts to have friends.

Websites you may want to check:

CareerLab - 250 Letters for Job hunters
From 200 Letters for JobHunters by Willam S. Frank: letters for making a graceful exit. (Take a look at "Don't Leave Kicking and Screaming" also by William S. Frank.)

Graphic Resources: Resignation Meeting
How to break the news, what to expect and guidelines for a letter of resignation from Graphic Resources, a recruiting firm.


Page last updated: 7:28 PM on 5/22/09