Your Resignation Letter: How to Do It Right

You've landed a new job. And it's a good one. And you're excited about moving on.

Cue the confetti! The fireworks! The high-fives all around!

Firming up a job offer and planning for this next stage in your career is often such an exciting time. But there's one little thing left to do. And for most of us, it doesn't feel like so little of a thing at all.

If you're in a job that you'll soon be departing, it's time to think about the resignation letter.

How do you exit stage left from your current job gracefully, properly and with all bridges left unburned? Here's a quick list of do's and don'ts:

DO: Be Succinct and Straightforward

Even if you're feeling guilty or sad or bad or whatever about moving on, remember that this is business. People come, people go and pretty much no one crumbles or dies in the process. That said, you truly don't need to apologize, over-talk or provide every last detail about what you're doing and why.

State your intention, with specificity, and your proposed end date. Generally speaking, two weeks' notice is appropriate industry standard, but you can and should gauge how vital your role is, and timing of projects in progress when you consider how much notice to offer. (Also, factor in the required or desired timing of your new employer.)

DO: Be Conscientious

In the resignation letter, proactively propose the steps / actions you're willing to take during your final days, to help ensure a smooth transition. Offer to hand off projects to certain team members, wrap things up with clients, train someone on that thing you do (if you're the only one around who knows how to do it), etc. In short, make a clear offer to leave the company positioned for success as you walk out the door. 

Do note, however, that your proposed offer may not be accepted. Realize that some companies will ask you to leave immediately, once you tender your resignation. Don't be offended by this. Sometimes, it's policy. Sometimes, it's reactive emotions. And sometimes, companies fear what might happen if they allow you continued access to files and clients, when they know you're on the outbound. 

DO: Be Appreciative

Even if every fiber of your being wants to run screaming for the door, show some gratitude for the opportunity you've been given with your soon-to-be-former employer, and outline briefly something you've learned or gained from the experience and / or your boss. This shows that, in spite of the reasons for your departure, that you're truly one of the good guys.

DON'T: Give Zero Notice

Again, industry standard is two weeks' notice. Storm trooping the boss' office, throwing down your resignation letter, and storming out may give you loads of immediate gratification, but it's almost never going to be the right long-term solution. If you simply cannot give two weeks' notice (due to timing of the other job, or other factors), offer up at least a few days, so that you can help wrap things up, transition work, and close out your current projects.

DON'T:  Bad Mouth Anyone, Or the Company

The resignation letter is not, repeat: IS NOT the right place for airing grievances about your co-workers, boss or the organization you're leaving. The purpose of this letter is to succinctly state your intentions, and propose a timeline for your departure. This document is going to live on and on in your file. It should be to-the-point, and it should be written in "hold my head high" style.

If you do have grievances to lay out, the exit interview will give you an in-person opportunity to share this feedback (Just be sure and do it in a constructive manner).

DON'T: Try too Hard to Win Favor

Realize that not everyone is going to be happy when you resign. And, if you're super valuable, they may be downright pissy about your pending departure. That's totally natural, and should be expected.

And, while you may feel bad or guilty, you surely don't need to fall all over yourself in the resignation letter, trying to make sure they're not mad at you. Never offer up a timeline or propose a "before I go" workload that simply won't align your starting this new job, just to smooth feelings.

Again, some of your colleagues (and maybe your boss) are very well going to be surprised, annoyed, hurt or nervous that they're about to get a wheelbarrow full of extra work dumped on them. Your agreeing to stay an extra two weeks isn't going to fix that, and it could jeopardize your future at the new job. 

Be professional. Be appreciative. Be succinct. But don't go so far out of your way trying to be the good guy that you end up agreeing to something that doesn't work for your new commitments.

AND LAST: Be Confident in Your Decision

Once you have handed your resignation letter over to your supervisor (yes, if humanly possible, it should be done in person), don't waffle. It's done. Mission accomplished. If people around you are grumbly, so be it. Hold your head up as you serve out your last days. Be helpful and kind. Don't feed into any mopeyness, "jokes" about your departure, or snarkiness from those who hate to see you leave. Instead, stay focused on wrapping things up ... and get really excited about all the great things on your horizon.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (EKGTechnicianSalary)