If you’re preparing to leave your job, you’re not alone. Data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) stated that from February 2020 to February 2021, almost 975,000 Australians changed jobs. According to the ABS, these statistics are quite normal. Most years millions of Australians leave their jobs (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021). And experts are expecting these numbers to increase as the ‘great resignation’ phenomenon that impacted America’s labour market this year is expected to hit our shores in 2022. Consequently, with so many workers already taking the plunge or looking to move in the new year, knowing how to leave your previous government agency or local council on good terms is paramount- and a key step in leaving an organisation is writing and providing a resignation letter. Done right, a resignation letter helps you maintain a positive professional reputation, have a better chance of acquiring strong references from former colleagues and provides a formal record of your termination, which then allows for a smoother transition into your next role.
To help those who are preparing resignation letters now, or looking to write one in the new year, we provide the key criteria that need to be included to not only clearly state your resignation, but also remain respectful and positive to your former workplace and colleagues.
The purpose of a resignation letter first and foremost, is to provide formal evidence of your decision to leave a role/organisation. Verbally telling your manager or team leader that you’re leaving doesn’t provide an official record of your decision. This physical record is often needed not only for the government agency's own HR team, but also to show your work history to future employers, as a resignation letter proves you not only worked at the organisation but left of your own accord. Your resignation letter also enables you to specify essential housekeeping information like the effective date of your resignation and the intended date of your last day of work (following conversations with your manager and in line with your notice period). Having these details in writing means that everyone is on the same page of your last day, eliminates confusion and ensures that these dates can’t be altered later.
It’s also important to remember that while a resignation letter should be brief and kept to the essential information, it doesn’t mean it needs to be cold. Resignation letters are often a way to provide a formal thank you to both the organisation and your managers for providing you with the opportunity to grow and develop your career and let them know that you’ve enjoyed your time with the organisation. This again helps you to exit on a positive note.
NB: It should also be noted that before handing in your letter of resignation, you will need to let your manager know of your resignation in person. Your resignation letter is the document to support and go alongside this conversation.
1. State The Key Dates
The easiest thing to start with is the date you write the letter and intend to send it to your employer, as this will be the official date you’ve given notice. Prior to doing this, it’s important to check the amount of notice you’re required to give. This will be clearly stated in your employment contract and most government organisations will also have information around resignations and notice periods stated on their website. Notice periods must be adhered to, so ensure the date you specify in your letter aligns with this notice period. The other key date to include (ideally in your first paragraph) is the day you finish up with the organisation. This detail will be one of the key things your employer will be looking for and will help your former team to work out their handover process and when they should be looking for/securing your replacement. Again, this date needs to comply with your notice period.
2. Know Who The Letter Should Be Addressed To
Like any formal letter, it’s important to address it to the right person. In most instances, this will be your manager or supervisor, but some organisations require the formal letter to be addressed to your HR department, or maybe a particular department head. If you’re unsure of the process, you can always check the organisation’s guidelines for resignations or confirm the process when you speak to your manager about leaving.
It’s also important to include a simple statement of your resignation in the first paragraph to reiterate the purpose of the letter. You don’t need to go into detail as to why you’re resigning. Saying something as simple as ‘I would like to inform you that I am resigning from my position as Project Officer for City Council X, effective January 14 in order to pursue a new job opportunity” will provide enough context.
3. Be Positive
It’s important to remain professional in your resignation letter because as we’ve already mentioned resignations stay on record. You should avoid saying anything that could be construed as negative – e.g. complaining about a colleague or a particular business decision that was made. Even if you have grievances, writing these down in a resignation letter means you won’t ever be able to take them back. It will also come across as petty and lessen your chances of staying on good terms with colleagues or even getting a reference from them in future.
Alternately, try and remain positive and upbeat; this letter is a chance to say thanks and demonstrate how grateful you are for the opportunity to work for the organisation and the experiences you’ve had. If you’re struggling to think of something positive to write – ask yourself what did I take away from this job? It doesn’t have to be overly emotional or long-winded – just a simple and genuine few words like ‘I have appreciated the opportunities for professional development you have provided over the last three years’ will do. These comments will also leave a positive impression on those reading it and help cement your relationship with the colleagues you’re leaving behind.
4. Build on Relationships
In the final paragraph, it’s worthwhile to mention your willingness to make the transition of you moving as easy for everyone as possible. This means offering to help your employer with the handover process, including things like helping to train a new employee, completing thorough handover notes/guidelines or helping a colleague to upskill or become familiar with your roles and responsibilities. This again is great for maintaining good relationships with your former colleagues as it highlights that you’re a team player and don’t want to leave anyone in the lurch.
It can be worthwhile (though not necessary) to include your personal details at the end of your letter, especially if you’re hoping for a reference from the person you’re addressing the letter to. It will also help keep communication lines open and maintain the professional connections you’ve made at the organisation. This can be an advantageous move within the public sector which has a high portion of contract roles and means that more often than not, you'll work with the same people within different organisations, especially if you work in quite a niche industry or area like stormwater engineering for example. By keeping in touch with the other colleauges within your specialised area, you're keeping yourself open to potential opportunities that may come your way.
You can then conclude with your name and signature.
While leaving a government agency or local council - especially one you've worked at for a long time - can be a daunting task, writing a good resignation letter is a great first step in making this process easier. Once completed, try not to worry too much about how the letter/news will be received. Trust in your decision and look forward to the exciting opportunities ahead of you.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021). Job Mobility. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/job-mobility/latest-release