The biggest barrier to a decent handover is a 100 per cent tragic, and (often inevitable) burnout.
It is hard to aim for sustainability when student advocate positions within which we operate are so inherently unsustainable. So, step zero: try not to burnout, so that you have the energy to do a handover.
- Individualise – the person comes first.
There has to be a handover relationship where you trust and share with each other useful info in a way that works for you both. Have a conversation about how to navigate the whole process of handover. Do informal coffee chats if that works for you, or a more structured timeline over weeks if written plans make more sense.
The person receiving the handover should take more of an active role here even though they are there to soak up all the outgoing human’s wisdoms. But, actually, the outgoing person probably would really appreciate some pointers on how to get certain things through, or what the most pressing worries/confusions/lack of information are. There’s also a power imbalance here where the new person is very reliant on the outgoing person for everything – so definitely address that and make space for the new person to shape the whole process.
- Start immediately.
Tell the person you’re handing over to start compiling their handover straight away – even better – tell them to remember what factors went into their decision to commit to the position so that they can assist others in navigating the pre-commitment-to-role considerations (which are arguably the most important part of the whole stupol thing).
As you settle into a new role, it’s really hard to remember what used to be confusing or hard to navigate. Revisit journals or friends who you’ve talked to earlier in the year if that helps to jog your memory about things that you forgot to document as you went along.
- Decide what should be documented (and document it!) and what you need to pass on in conversational/other forms (you can be creative here).
You will need to formalise some records: these are things like account information/log ins, constitutions/other governance documents, financial records, forms and processes. Don’t worry if there are gaps – just be clear about where they exist so the next person can fill them in.
Other things are more sensitive like the dynamics of working relationships, hacks, tricks and tactics that you’d rather not formalise/record in writing, and generally more personal things like navigating personal relationships, self-care and your own expectations/feelings about the role. These are maybe better delivered in person, or in other more creative forms. I’ll never forget the little care package that I received with a small candle, a journal and a pair of happy socks – they have gotten me through lots of hard times.
- Set healthy boundaries.
Boundaries are key to any good relationship – you don’t want the new person to defer to you or be constantly coming back to you, but also you want them to feel comfortable to reach out for when they genuinely need assistance and advice. Make sure you are clear about what aspects you are completely giving over – and when, and what doors are still open for chats, support and advice.
- Keep most things – especially if you didn’t engage with it
The work existed before you realised it was going on, and the work will continue after you retire from stupol – the work is most important, so try to keep good records of what you found useful (and why) and pass on the things that you didn’t find super helpful. You want to use your discretion in narrowing down things for the person you are handing over to, but also remember that people can have different priorities and ways of approaching the role, and that your organisation can experience a lot of change that might make some information more useful some years than others. Pass on the backlogged ideas that you didn’t get to see through in your term, try to prune and neaten some of the historical records of the organisation and try to add things so that you are leaving the organisation with more than when you arrived.