How to resign from your job ... write

Time to resign? Don't forget to write it out. Great job opportunities may be scarce in today's economy, but there's always a chance that a glittering new opportunity will present itself.

Cue the resignation letter.

Writing a formal statement about leaving a job is a more common practice in big companies, but there's good reason to adopt the practice even if you work far from the Fortune 500.

Resignation letters are a professional courtesy and a graceful capper to any job. A written letter can provide a bullet-list outline to help guide you through your face-to-face verbal resignation with the boss. And if it's handled well, a resignation letter may even open the door to opportunities down the road.

"Having this letter in your employee record is helpful should a future employer call for a reference and someone unfamiliar with you responds to the call," says Sandra E. Lamb, author of "How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You'll Ever Write," (Ten Speed Press, 2011). "It gives you one last opportunity to communicate something effectively and positively."

Lamb offers these suggestions on constructing a resignation letter that will do you proud.

Use strong words

Don't be a flimsy writer. Strong sentences are an effective way to illustrate the skills learned at the job you're leaving behind. Lamb likes upbeat phrases such as "seek a new challenge" and "special camaraderie." The right words can make a memorable letter and leave a lasting impression.

Accentuate the positive

No one likes Negative Nancy. A negative resignation letter defeats the goal of departing with grace. If you don't have anything nice to say about your tenure at a company, you're better off not writing a letter at all.

"Being positive puts you in a congenial relationship with your employer," Lamb says. Leaving on a good note is the best way to make sure you're remembered for better, not worse.

Get personal

How specific should a resignation letter be?

"It's always a good idea to mention particulars," Lamb says. Naming projects and other details of the job will highlight the skills you have acquired and the contributions you made.

Don't be afraid to be a name-dropper. Mentioning important work relationships made during your tenure is a great way to strike up later conversation with fellow employees. This can lead to networking possibilities for future jobs.

"It never hurts to pat someone else on the back," Lamb says.


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