How to Quit Your Job Gracefully (And Write that Resignation Letter)

The day has arrived.  Maybe you’re going back to school or you plan to start a family or you’re just sick and tired of your supervisor nuking salmon in the microwave. Whatever the reason, it is finally time to quit your job. But breaking up is hard to do, and unlike parting ways with a delinquent boyfriend or messy girlfriend, you may need your supervisor to put in a good word for you down the line.

Quit gracefully

While circumstances will certainly vary depending on your relationship with your supervisor and the company, here’s a how-to guide for resigning from your job with grace and class.

Quitting with Grace

The only universal rule for quitting your job is to be professional. At no point should there be any yelling, cursing, screaming, name-calling, or biting. Be cool, be calm.

If you're leaving a bad situation, keep it short and sweet. Say you are quitting, give your notice, and let that be that. It may not be the grand comeuppance you envisioned during your lunchtime fantasies, but the short-term thrill of laying into your boss will likely be outweighed by long-term losses. Trust us, you’ll feel better when the job is behind you.

With that said, here are a couple tips to round out the details:

  • Don’t quit over the phone, by text, or through email. You wouldn’t (and if you would, you really shouldn’t) break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend via emoji cryptograph, so why do this to your employer? Schedule a face-to-face meeting and let them down gently.
  • Provide at least two weeks’ notice or whatever time frame is stipulated in your contract.
  • While you don’t have to stay longer, consider helping with the transition if it is appropriate for your situation.
  • You aren’t required to mention why you’re leaving. School, parental care, a new job, the rancid salmon smell wafting from the break room—it doesn’t matter. Whether you disclose this information or not will depend on the rapport you've fostered with your supervisor.
  • Don’t mentally check out early. Give a strong performance all the way to the last day.
  • Always thank your soon-to-be ex-employer for the opportunity and experience.
  • Ask for a letter of recommendation if it is appropriate. Definitely bring up the possibility if you are staying longer to help out.

Oh, and don’t forget to write a resignation letter to make it official.

Print Isn’t Dead

Despite its daunting name, the resignation letter isn’t all that complicated. Its purpose is simply to provide written notification that you are quitting, thus removing the wiggle room of a verbal notice. The letter doesn’t need to be a work of Shakespearean genius; in fact, your wording should be deliberate, straightforward, and lacking any “thous.” If you want a more emotional and heartfelt farewell, consider sending an email to your coworkers. Treat the letter like an official document.

Here’s a rough outline to follow when crafting your letter of resignation:

  • Employ a traditional letter format.
  • Open with a proper salutation. Whether this is formal (Dear Ms. Stoklasa) or more personal (Dear Alison) will depend on company culture and your relationship with your supervisor.
  • Open the letter with a clear statement of intent. Something like, “I am writing to announce my resignation from [position] at [company name].”
  • Specify the time frame. Even if you’re giving the standard two weeks, be sure to state so.
  • Include a positive note. You can mention the experience you gained, something you found rewarding, or something you learned at the position.
  • Don’t include anything negative. If you write a sentence and instantly imagine your mother sucking her teeth at you in disapproval, you’d best delete it.
  • There is no need to state why you're leaving, but it is an option.
  • Wrap up with a hearty thank you for the experience and best wishes to the company’s future success.
  • A simple, professional valediction such as “Sincerely” will suffice. Don’t forget to sign it. Yes, even the worst chicken-scratch signature is mandatory.

The entire letter will consist of three to four paragraphs with a sentence or two each. If you’re more of a visual person, you can find plenty of examples online or even in your word processor.

You’ll notice that many of the tips and tricks for the letter are the same as for the verbal notice. That’s because the only absolute for quitting your job is to keep it professional and resign with grace. If you do that, you’ll begin the next chapter of your professional life free of regrets (other than, of course, the regret that you’ll never be able to order salmon ever again).

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