How to leave a youth work job well


Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

If you’re a youth worker and you’ve just quit or been made redundant, here’s a plan to leave your job well.

In every job there comes a time to move on. Either of your own choosing or someone else’s. And how you handle that process says as much about your character as how you did the job in the first place.

Leaving a job should be about finishing up. Tidying up loose ends and getting things in order. But it should also be about “turning the soil” for what comes next. For the person who’ll take over your job, but also for you.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”


Leaving a job, whether you quit, get fired or made redundant, is an emotional journey. Here's how to move on in youth work with grace.

A tale of two finishes

I have found in life that there are two ways to leave a job. The smooth and gracious exit, versus the ugly train wreck. Sometimes circumstances will force your hand, but where possible, it’s worth trying to finish a job with grace.

I left a job almost a year ago. At the time, there were lots of raw emotions. And looking back most of my leavings have been like that. A mixture of happiness and sorrow, fear and hope.

Saying goodbye to the familiar and comfortable for the great unknown can do that to you. But there’s also space to set things up for the next person and leave a legacy that blesses not only the people who come behind you, but their clients too.

I doubt any leaving will be without some dramas. But if you’re wanting to sail off into the sunset with good memories and even better relationships, here’s five things worth doing.

1. Deal with the feelings

Like I said, leaving a job you’ve been in for any time can be hard. There’s lots of questions and doubts that creep in, particularly if you don’t have a new job to go to.

Identify those feelings, and find someone outside of your work to vent with. It’s okay to feel big emotions, but it’s best to keep your professional image intact.

Leaving a job is a bit like abseiling. It’s tough getting over the edge, but once you’re in position the journey down is less scary. Once you’ve left and can’t go back, it’s a whole new ball game. So back yourself as a capable person, who’s got lots to offer this world.

A new job will be just over the horizon, but you’re going to need to be in a good place mentally to grab hold of it.

2. Polish your legacy

Use what time you have left to cement your hard work. In your last weeks write out a list of the things you’ve done that have had a real impact. Even the little things are special.

Look at how you’re setting things up in your absence. If there are programs you’ve run with the help of volunteers, work out how they will keep going or prepare everyone to close them down well. Finish up nicely with the kids. Give them a sense of closure and a chance to move on while you’re still in the picture.

The reaction of young people can make the process of leaving hard. Start talking up their strengths and help them to see the other supports they have in their networks.

“All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.” – Amelia Barr

3. Leave something to start with

Before you walk out the door, spare a thought for the person coming in behind you. Leave your workspace neat and tidy, including your digital files. Write a welcome note and leave a personal touch that signals you’re handing over the baton.

Make it easy for the new worker to pick up tasks you were doing and run with them. Create manuals, write down processes and organise information they’ll need to do the main tasks of their job.

There’s always a question of should you come back and visit or not. Only you can make that choice, but if you do go back, make sure it’s for a good reason.

4. Look back with fondness

As soon as you finish, if you can have a break. Hit up Netflix, catch up with friends or take a trip to the beach. Youth work is exhausting and there’s a fair chance if you’ve been in your job for a few years you’re carrying a self-care deficit.

In the middle of indulging your restful self, take time to reflect. Look back on what you’ve learned in your job. What new skills you’ve developed, even in adversity. How did that job contribute to you being who you are today?

It’s amazing how quickly you can banish the any last ugly feelings when you develop a grateful heart. Every job has an impact on you, so dig deep and look for the good.

5. Focus forward

At some point it’s time to think about you. Not your work mates, or your boss. Not your organisation and not the kids. Just you.

Take some time to think about what a fulfilled life would look like now. What you’d like to be doing, and how much of it. Work out if you need to do some retraining, or build up some more experience.

The current employment market is a smorgasbord of opportunities, so don’t panic! Instead play to you’re strengths and work through a plan.

Finishing is really the start of beginning your next chapter. It’s hard to make a good start if you’re too messed up from an ending, so take a professional approach. Make a list of tasks that need to get done and prioritise them. Set aside some time outside of work to look after yourself and make some forward plans and then just take it one day at a time.

Have you got some gems to share about leaving a youth work job? I’d love you to add them in the comments section below.

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