Leaving a job that you love can be daunting. How do you say goodbye? How do you move on? I just left my Teen Library job in January and I thought I would share some things that I did to help me move on and to help the teens transition to a new librarian.
Some background: I worked at the library for 3 years. Two of them as the teen librarian. I had gotten pretty attached to the kids and I knew that it would be hard to say goodbye. I had worked hard to build a thriving teen area in our library and our Teen Advisory Board had grown quite a bit since I started. My teens were instrumental in helping me make positive changes in our branch and getting their friends to come to programs. I’m really proud of the TAB members and their dedication to making the library a great hang out spot for their peers. If I had to be happy about leaving, at least I was leaving on an upward trend.
Blogs and sites with great advice:
I asked for some advice on Teen Services Underground and got some good ideas on how to start my transition. One of my favorite bloggers The Magpie Librarian has a great post about leaving your library. While our reasons for leaving are different (my husband got a job out of state), I still found her advice on point. Check out her post: On Leaving your Library.
One of my favorite points from her entry is to “create an “I’m Leaving” elevator speech. Trust me, you will need this. You will get asked by lost of people including patrons why you are leaving. It can become very exhausting to offer a lengthy explanation each time. My response varied depending on the person.
Patron Response– “My husband got a job in another state. It’s a really great opportunity for him and while I’m sad to leave a job that I love, I think it will be a great fresh start for the both of us. Besides, Colorado is beautiful!”
This response kept things positive and upbeat. I used this on adult patrons and parent’s of the teens I worked with. It summed up the reasons without giving too much away. If they had further questions I could respond or walk away as needed if I was busy.
Co-Worker Response– ” My husband got a job in another state. It’s a really great opportunity for him. I’m really going to miss working here. You have taught me so much (if this was a mentor). I’m thankful I got to work with such a great staff.” (This is just a short example)
Be sure to thank co-workers who have mentored you. I worked for a huge system so it was hard to get to everyone before I left. Send cards or personal emails. Make a point to visit with staff that you are close with and have those “hey you’re an awesome person and thank you” conversations. I also sent a goodbye email to our branch and to the youth staff. If you want to stay in touch be sure to include your new contact information.
Here is another blog with great career advice and some good words about some of the responses you might need to prepare for when you announce that you’re leaving: Resignation After-Effects
Telling the Teens: Be prepared for the feels…
So for this part I’m going to tell you what I did and what I wish I had done differently. My husband left for his job the first week of January. We knew in December that this was happening. I thought that it would be a good idea to tell my supervisors that I was leaving as soon as possible so they were prepared. Everyone knew I was leaving for about 2 months. If I had to do this again I would have waited a bit longer. While it was great for transitioning the teens (more later), it sucked having the “oh your leaving” conversation for 2 months straight. It wore me out emotionally and physically.
I told my TAB kids in December. I wanted to wait, but one of the kids found out through social media. His sister had aged out of the teen program and we are friends on Facebook. (she’s now in her 20’s) He convinced me that it would be better to tell everyone now than wait until the rumors got started. It turned out to be a good thing.
Let me tell you this was the hardest conversation I have ever had with my teens. They were shocked and I did tear up a bit. I managed to not sob and I was very thankful that my volunteer was with me to help explain things and pass out Kleenex. I let them know that my hubby had gotten a job and we were moving to a new state. I told them that they were wonderful kids and that I would miss them so much. I also told them how proud I was to be their librarian. I listed all the awesome accomplishments we had as a TAB group and then let them ask me questions.
- Be honest– They can handle things better than you might think.
- Be prepared for a range of emotions– I was surprised by the sheer amount of tears from my teens. Totally not expected. A few were mad. One had to leave the room. Let them deal with their emotions as long as they are being mature. You might have teen that rages about never coming back to the library. Let them rage. Then remind them that there are other awesome librarians that care about them. You might also get a ton of hugs!
- Tell them as soon as you can- I’m so glad I gave the kids 2 months to prepare. I had time to transition them to the new librarian. I also had a chance to ask them what they wanted from the new staff. They gave me honest and thoughtful answers and came up with a list of things they liked and didn’t like about the current program. One of my teens even wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the librarians applying for my position. It was adorable and I think it helped her get the job!! I also had time to visit my outreach schools and break the news. I was able to talk to almost all of my kids before I left so there were no surprises. I know that my transition time was pretty unusual and the typical time is a few weeks at best. Go with what works for you.
- Let them throw a party– You might be shy or uncomfortable with parties. Teens are not. Having a going away party with your teens is a wonderful way to close doors and help them move on. It also lets them do something for you. My teens planned a snack night glitter fest. It was epic! We had a blast and no one left in tears. It was a happy celebration of my time with them and I love every second of it. (even though I’m still finding glitter in odd places)
- Decide how to keep in contact– My teens knew that once they graduated from High School they could friend me on Facebook. By that time they are “adulty-ish” enough to make their own decisions. They can however, follow me on Twitter or Instagram since most of my posts are library or book related and not very personal. All of my TAB kids have my email and only 2 kids had my cell #. This is because I helped them out at school functions and speech and debate tournaments. You decide what works for you. I got a ton of messages at first and now I only hear from 2 kids on a regular basis. I’m very thankful that they seem to be moving on. (only a tiny bit sad) Some kids need that connection, but it’s okay to say no or set up a side email if you are not comfortable.
Things I would change and things that surprised me:
- Time- Honestly, 2 months was good in some respects and sucked in others. If I had to do it over I would have waited another month. There were some teens that were sad every time they came in during that time frame. They cried a lot. It was an emotional ride for everyone. I think it also got exhausting for co-workers. I got sick of having the “why are you leaving” conversation and I know they got tired of hearing it. After about a month I was ready to move on and unable to do so because I was packing my house and I needed the extra paycheck. Thankfully, I have some amazing co-workers who were super supportive during the whole transition.
- My emotional responses– I was an emotional wreck and exhausted. My hubby was in Denver and I was dealing with the house and closing everything down alone. I barely cried and held it all in. IT’S OK TO BE SAD! Crying is not a weakness. Just pick and choose your moments carefully. Sobbing in the stacks in front of patrons might not be a wise choice. Go for a walk and let some of those bottled up emotions out. Take deep breaths. Get plenty of sleep. Transitions and moves are high on the stress list. Self care is critical.
- Dealing with angry teens– While one of my kids came around and understood why I had to leave, another never came back. I wish I had stepped away from my group and had a conversation with them right then. I thought they would come back and I would get another chance to chat with them. I was not prepared for how angry some of the teens would feel. If I had thought about it sooner I might have been a bit more prepared for that response. I also realized that in the end I could not take it personally. You never know what it going on in their lives. Just knowing that anger and yelling was a possibility would have helped me prepare a response rather than standing there in shock.
- Negative patron responses– I was pretty tied to the community through my involvement/creation of LibraryCon. I was not expecting that some of them would take it as a personal affront that I would no longer be involved in this program. In the end I had to let it roll off my back. You can’t make everyone happy.
Ultimately how you say goodbye to a wonderful job is up to you. I wrote this to share some of the things I encountered when leaving. Most of them were good and I only had a few moments of “wow.” Which is pretty much the joy of working with the public! I am thankful that my job was supportive of my long term resignation. I’m also thankful that my teens took it well and helped the library hire an amazing new teen librarian!
Final thoughts- Don’t forget to take care of yourself and let some of those emotions out. Leaving a job is hard even if you are ready to go. I hope this post helps. Is there anything that I missed? Do you have good advice for leaving? Please link me up or add comments below.