Transition is something that seems to be ever present within student affairs, and takes place in many different formats. Whether it be a professional who is moving up to a new position, somebody who is moving on to a new department, somebody who is moving schools, or maybe even someone who is leaving the field altogether. It was this idea of transition that really drew me to this past week’s #SAChat about transition.
If there was anything that I felt was a universal take away from the chat and just a general truth about the whole experience, it’s that transition is never easy. There is usually a lot of paperwork, a lot of tying up loose ends, and ultimately saying goodbye to the students and staff that you have made connections with (Which can be the most emotionally exhausting part of it all). However, you have to follow all the right steps. How you leave says so much and plays into the legacy that you leave. I will go ahead and put a disclaimer out there and say that none of these suggestions are hard and fast rules. Instead, they are more of general suggestions that I know have worked for others and myself. Remember that transition is your own journey, and you have to make the professional and personal decisions that are going to be best for you.
I believe that an important step to consider in the process is making your transition public or who you decide to tell. Now, I recognize that this can often be the elephant in the room. Everyone leaves a job for a different reason. Sometimes it’s for advancement, sometimes it’s for personal reasons, or even sometimes because you don’t like where you are working. The choice to talk about transition is something that you have to make on your own. In this scenario, I believe there will never be a bona-fide right or wrong choice, rather, there are just consequences that come along with the choices that you make. If you choose to tell no one about your job search and transition, you as a professional have to be okay with the fact that you could lose out on getting positive and strong references. You could also miss the chance to stay connected with students and professionals or you could taint your name in the field of student affairs. Recognize that you have a personal choice, and that you and only you will know what is best for yourself in the profession at the end.
Another important part of moving on is preparing everything for transition. Preparing some type of transition manual is usually a helpful step. I recognize that doing such a thing in a successful way can take a chunk of time, however, one of the best ways to learn is to provide experience and speak about mistakes. Typically a transition manual can do this. When writing the manual don’t just include the bare bones information, but maybe include some personal experiences that you have encountered. To use my experience in residence life, something I typically like to include is quirks of the building. In my transition report this year I included the fact that sometimes you have to tap your ID three times at the front door to get it to work. Another important part of preparing for transition is to prepare the space. I have witnessed what happens when people leave offices as they are. They are typically messy, under stocked, and not a prepared for work to be done. As a new professional that can be an awful feeling. Everything around you is suddenly new, and you don’t even have a clean office to work in. I think that many people forget that after all is said and done, the university still has to be successful and so does that person, remember that you were likely once excited to work at this place as well. Give the person the same experience you would have wanted. Additionally, what type of legacy does it leave if your office is a mess, and you write a transition manual that you just don’t care about? Part of leaving a legacy is making sure that something is a little bit better than when you found it.
I think the final part of leaving an institution is closure. You have built yourself up as a professional at this institution for potentially multiple years. Are you ready to leave, and have you said what you wanted to say? I believe part of the closure process is to make sure that you are having conversations with students. Let students know that you are leaving, and say the things that you want to say to them while you can. People leave all the time within this field, so it’s important to give those who matter the most, the students, the courtesy of letting them know. Give them the truth while you can. Let people know the impact they have made on you, and the positive things that they have done for you and your career. This can provide closure for them as well as closure for you. Also in finding closure for yourself, make sure that you are ready to leave. Emotions are real, and they are meant to be felt. The transition process isn’t easy for the university and it might not be easy for you either. Make sure to go through the things that you want to do before you leave. You can still make changes even in transition. Don’t be afraid to have conversations that make change, or provide input that may lead to some positivity at your institution before you leave. Your legacy will then have an opportunity to continue when you leave.
Transition is all apart of the student affairs journey. There are many steps along the way and many decisions to be made. It’s important to remember that this process is as much about the you as it is the universities that you will be leaving or joining. Take time to make the decisions that will be best for your career both personally and professionally, and understand that each decision you make shapes your student affairs legacy you leave behind and ultimately take with you.