Once you know you’ll be resigning from a job, you should consider giving your employer at least two weeks notice before your last day of work. This length of time is considered the minimum requirement within most industries, and remaining in your current position during this grace period enables you to stay on good terms with your current employer. Although you should try to give your supervisor notice in person, we recommend that employees also send written notice so that there’s no chance of miscommunication about the transitional timeline and the date of your last day of work.
A formal resignation letter also gives your soon-to-be former employer the chance to make a formal counter-offer, in case they want to entice you to stay with a better salary or more benefits. Whether you’re moving to a new job or taking time off from work, our career advice is simple. Do everything you can to maintain a good relationship with your manager throughout the transition. After all, you never know when you’ll need a good recommendation or another opportunity in the future.
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After speaking to your manager in person, it’s traditional to send him or her a formal letter giving your notice. These days, most people send an email with a two weeks notice letter as an attachment. You might copy a representative from your human resources (HR) if your company has one. For the subject line of the email, you should write something like, “Resignation of [Your Name] Effective [Agreed Upon End Date].” Whenever possible, confirm the end date with your manager before writing the email. It’s important to communicate well so that your manager isn’t surprised by the content of the email.
For example, when you speak to your manager, you may want to mention the competing job offer that made you decide to leave your current employer. Once you’ve mentioned the offer to your manager in person, you can also include that information in your two weeks notice resignation letter, so that your manager and the HR department can discuss making a counteroffer.
The formatting of your two weeks notice should be consistent with other professional letters. Include your full name, job title, and your personal contact information. Address the letter to your manager or direct supervisor, and include the current date.
The Content of the Letter of Resignation
In your letter, you can mention that you have a new opportunity; however, keep a positive tone when you speak about your current employer. If you have any grievances with your company or manager, you will likely have the chance to bring them up in an exit interview at a later date.
The letter is an opportunity to confirm the time frame of your remaining employment. Explain that you’ve given a notice period of two weeks (or greater), and note the date of your final day of work. You can also offer your commitment to facilitating a smooth transition of your duties. You may be required to train a replacement, so this cover letter allows you to offer your employer help to shift any functions of your current job to new team members.
Be sure to express gratitude about any aspects of your current job that you loved. For example, you might highlight that you enjoyed working with a great team, and you appreciated the company culture. Remember that this letter will likely be the last item within your file documenting your employment, so be sure to leave a good impression.
Regardless of whether you plan on leaving for a new job opportunity, a job search, or a personal project, you never know what the future holds. It’s best to stay on good terms with your coworkers, since you may come into contact with them again in a professional capacity. For example, years later, you might encounter a former coworker representing a new employer. That former coworker may be in the position to hire your company as a vendor. Although you may have been on equal footing when you worked together, in her new position, she might decide whether your company’s proposal gets accepted or rejected.
Ryan Kahn, writing as a Credible Career Coach, explains, “It doesn’t matter if you’re moving across the world to take a new position—it’s never beneficial to burn bridges. You don’t know who they might know when you seek your next opportunity. And you don’t know where they’ll end up working.”
Giving More Notice
Some career experts advocate that you should give more than two weeks notice. Robert Glazer, writing for Harvard Business Review, says,
This job-hopping mindset, combined with the inefficient standard of giving two weeks’ notice, can be an incredibly contentious and expensive problem for companies. How an employee leaves a company can also develop into an ongoing obstacle in an employee’s career, thanks to the increased use of backchannel reference checks.
If an employee develops a reputation for leaving jobs suddenly, while giving minimal notice, that behavior may be seen as a red flag by potential employees. That said, when you have a new job offer, your new employer may expect a start date within two to three weeks, especially if they’re eager to fill a vacant role.
Consider two weeks the minimum notice, and try to give more notice whenever it’s possible. Ultimately, the resignation letter format matters less than the spirit with which you approach the final weeks at your old job. Try to be a team player, don’t leave your coworkers in a lurch, communicate well, and convey your sincere best wishes before you walk out the door.
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.