Resigning your way to success...your ticket to good references for future jobs

Melvin Luthy
Chief Editor

Resignation Letter Must-Know Tips

Your resignation letter will be the final document in your personnel file. This means it will be the first document seen when a future employer calls for a reference or if you reapply at your company.

Resign correctly and leave the windows of opportunity open for future jobs. The goodwill you build now could help you network with colleagues later. Resigning incorrectly by "burning your bridges" may haunt you in the future. Your inappropriate reaction might even be considered a serious character flaw.

Your Character...More Valuable than Gold

Your personal and professional reputation is on the line here. You will be remembered by your employer and co-workers by how you handle this important last impression.

And why should you care? Because the world is much smaller than you can foresee. Chances are very good that you will meet these same people in social and professional circumstances in the future.

The people you leave behind may affect (or afflict) your future life. Treat them accordingly. You may be angry and you may have been treated unfairly, but keep a cool head and show that you are a person of composure and style. Settling scores by venting has no place in a letter of resignation.

Resignation Considerations

Before you resign, consider the following:

1. The Company Resignation Policy

Find out how your company treats resigning employees before you hand in your resignation letter. You may give two weeks notice but two minutes after your boss receives your resignation letter you may find yourself standing in the parking lot without your personal belongings.

Some companies consider the day you announce your resignation your last day of employment. If you are unsure, ask a few trusted fellow employees whether they know company policies and how previous resignations have been handled. Don't give your employer excessive advance notice when you may be dismissed immediately.

2. Your Legal Rights

By resigning, you may forfeit severance pay, unemployment benefits, stock options, and other forms of compensation. Make sure you carefully examine any employment contracts or other agreements that you signed. If you are considering leaving the company for reasons of harassment or discrimination, consult an attorney before signing any documents or submitting a resignation. Your letter of resignation may be used in a lawsuit or other legal action. Never put in writing what you may regret later.

3. Preparation

If your company's exit policy requires you to vacate as soon as you give notice, make sure you have "cleaned up" before you submit your resignation.

Gather all of your personal files from your computer and office and any other personal belongings that you will want to take with you. Many employers will not allow an employee access to computer equipment, the network, or their work space once they have announced their intention to leave. If your home budget, e-mail, resume, or other personal files are on your computer, you may not see them for a period of time, if ever. Back them up on a CD-R before you announce your resignation if you do not already have copies at home.

Any questionable material in your work space or on your computer may be used by a disgruntled employer as leverage to withhold compensation or to create other problems for you. Make sure that you are prepared for an immediate exit if this were to happen.

4. Counter offers

Letters of resignation should never be used to solicit a counteroffer. This tactic is not a professional way to negotiate a better salary.

If you are a valuable employee, your employer may make a counteroffer, but before you jump at the chance to stay for a few extra dollars (or a lot of non-binding verbal promises), consider the following:

5. Reality Check

The National Employment Association claims that over 75% of employees that accept counteroffers are no longer with that company six months later, either through voluntarily leaving or dismissal. Still, there may be circumstances in which a sincere counteroffer is extended, evaluated, and accepted.

With the above cautions in mind, you can be prepared to make a wise decision. If you have thought through your decision carefully, stick to it and move on.

Tips for writing your resignation letter

Much of the advice that you will find on web pages suggests that a resignation should be short and concise, offering little additional information. In some cases this may be okay, but we suggest a better way—a way to let your resignation letter sell you in future job opportunities. This is what we call "Resigning Your Way to Success."

A well-written resignation letter provides enough information to make the employer feel good about the person resigning. An expression of gratitude and sincerity goes a long way.

Here is a basic resignation letter format that takes a positive approach to resigning with the intention of securing a positive future reference.


Tips for Leaving

When you have made the decision to move on, keep the following in mind:

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