I currently work several part-time jobs, two of which are in fields I love, at institutions I love. One of them is offering me a full-time job sometime in the next week! The other one is in no position to take me on full-time, so for this and other, less-important reasons I'll be leaving them in the near future. As I said, I love this job and this workplace and I'm sure that leaving them will be upsetting, no matter how great it will be to have a full-time job. With health insurance!
How do I deal with the separation sadness and the feeling that I've betrayed them? How do I get over this feeling of panic over having made a real-live "career decision"? What should we drink for the former co-workers' last hurrah?
Congratulations!! The panic feeling is totally normal- that's the feeling of progress. You haven't betrayed them at all! They should be happy for you and your accomplishments. You can still meet them for happy hour drinks after work, and you'll still know them. Making honest and warm professional connections is much harder than making friends, and arguably more useful in the long run. Right now, you are taking a more stable and better job somewhere else, and feel like you are leaving these co-workers behind. In the future, when you're looking to change jobs again, to hire people you can trust, or are uncertain about your next career move, these connections will be invaluable resources. You will also be a great resource for them. So make sure you set up a way to stay in touch, and actually do it. Join a professional networking site like linked-in or a social one like face book to have access to your former co-workers, and to keep in touch with them. Ask you former boss to write you a letter of recommendation before you go, and submit it to a dossier or letter service at your undergraduate institution. Put them on your holiday card list! Wrap things up pleasantly!
You are right in wondering about what to drink at the co-worker's last hurrah. After all, why end in a whimper when you could choose a bang? You want your co-workers to be left with a great taste in their mouth, and a warm pleasant feeling every time they think of you. Is mulled wine enough? Maybe. But how about some seasonal delights that will be like you are, unforgettable.
Remember, drinks, like careers, are only as wonderful as the ingredients you put in them, and the care you take to make them. So when I say apple cider- go to the farmers market and get some of the real stuff. Don't get any drink product that has high fructose corn syrup in it. Besides tasting saccharine- not sweet- this odd and overly subsidized by-product of corn is bad for you, and will fatten you up like a pig. You're an adult now, with health insurance, and need to take care of yourself. Find the farmers market.
I encourage you to make fireside punch for this transitional time of your life. Fireside punch contains a quart of apple cider, 5-6 lemons, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of Peach schnapps, 1.5 cups of rum, and one apple. There are variations that can be made, and you can always adjust to taste (some people use equal parts schnapps and rum, you can decide- but I like more rum than schnapps). When I make it, I heat up the water, melt the sugar into it, then add the juice of five to six lemons. At this point, I've made some strong lemonade- do the same. Think about that adage, when life gives you lemons, and how you've taken your part-time jobs that weren't what you expected when you entered the job market, and turned them into a full time job with benefits and a whole list of professional contacts. Many people try to skip the making lemonade step by using frozen concentrate, but it's not as good. By taking shortcuts, they rarely find pleasure in their jobs or the delights of this punch. Into the warm lemonade, add a quart of apple cider. Making the apple cider is a little more labor intensive than the lemonade, so just buy one. Heat mixture to almost a boil. Stir in peach schnapps and some good dark rum. Pour into your punch bowl. Slice up the apple into thin slices, and place them into your punch cups. Serve hot.
For those of your coworkers who like a little more warm belly and a little less citrus, try a whiskey milk punch. Get a bottle of something nice, a jug of non-homogenized milk (you'll taste the creamy difference), a little dish of powdered sugar, and nutmeg or a hazelnut with a fine spice grater. Make these to serve, not in big punch bowl form. Pour 2 ounces of whiskey, 1 tsp of powdered sugar, and 6 ounces of milk into a shaker with cracked ice. Shake, then strain into a glass and sprinkle nutmeg on top, or grate a little bit of hazelnut onto it. Hand it to your old boss and say, thank you for all that you've taught me while I worked here. I hope we can work together in the future. Cheers!