When I first heard “turnover” when I was younger, I thought my dad was talking about an apple turnover (which, BTW, is delicious). However, after going through undergrad and graduate work and seeing which turnover my dad really meant (FYI, not as delicious), I began to get used to it. I worked at a mid-size university, where it was common each year to hire 1-2 new Resident Directors, and maybe one new Assistant Director. Turnover rarely impacted me, and I kind of let it wash over me like a small tidal wave.
Now, seven months into my brand-new, first-job-out-of-grad-school position, we are having massive turnover. This is like angry-waves-of-apple-turnovers turnover. I am at a smaller institution, and there are three other people who hold the same title as me, along with two assistant directors and one director. In the span of three months this semester, our director and two of my coworkers left. This leaves me, one coworker, and our two assistant directors. Then, about three weeks ago, my coworker informed me that they were leaving as well. So, starting April 27th, it’s just me.
At first, I got very nervous. I mean, I’m only in my seventh month of the job, and now I would be considered the most senior person in my role. My student staff also got very nervous. Suddenly, the amount of buildings I oversaw doubled, my students tripled, and my staff grew from 12 to 25, not including desk staff. What was happening?!
Then, I calmed down. And I got excited.
See, the thing is, everyone who left their roles this year left because they got AMAZING job opportunities. Two of them found their dream jobs, one of them found a new role at a new institution, and our director had an opportunity he could not pass up. So, the turnover wasn’t bad, it was something to be celebrated. I was so excited for my coworkers! Once I told the staff about this, I saw the nervousness melt away. They could see that people weren’t leaving the department because they didn’t like it. They were leaving because the department had given them the tools they needed to go after their dream job.
Then, I started thinking about all the cool hats I would get to wear.
I would get WAY more conduct experience, which I was thrilled about. I would get to work even more closely with campus partners, which I desperately wanted to do, since I was still new and still trying to figure out who was where. The other cool part was I would get to have more say in a lot of areas, from how we hired summer staff, what the structure for our RA training looked like, and what ways we could improve our programming model. Some of our campus partners also experienced a bit of turnover in their conferences office. So now I would get even more experience working closely with summer conferences.
Now, turnover didn’t seem to be as scary a word.
I used some of my training in positive psychology to re-frame the way I viewed this shift in our department. It has worked wonders! I’m not even worried about being the only person in my role at the end of April. In fact, by witnessing me calmly and happily approach this change, my staff has even calmed down. They are not as worried as they were before. So, they can continue to focus on their role and being the best they can be for their residents.
So yes, turnover sometimes doesn’t taste that great.
Sometimes, it feels like a giant wave is about to crash onto you. I know the way I may approach turnover is not the way others may approach it. That is totally fine! Every department’s turnover is different and occurs for different reasons. I hope what you took from this is that even if it seems overwhelming, or scary, try to find something positive in it. Whether that is being able to have more decision-making power, or even getting more experience in supervising staff members, find something that makes you breathe a little easier. Turnover happens, and hopefully, sometimes the turnover really is an apple turnover.