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LinkedIn Mourning: A Post Career Lament

Now that I am finished with full time work and am off into my “retirement” adventure, I do find looking at LinkedIn evokes different kinds of emotion than I would have expected. To be honest, it feels a little like mourning.

I have studied the topic of transitioning from career to retirement, to the extent that I am now a “retirement coach”. This is a relatively new field focusing on the non-financial aspects of moving on from full time work and resetting purpose, sources of self-esteem, fulfillment, and happiness. A best practice for choosing new ways to use your time in retirement is to look back over your life to pinpoint what kinds of situations, experiences and relationships made you happy in the past. Such insights help you narrow the otherwise unlimited options for life in your “Third Age”. So, on purpose, it is wise to look back as part of planning forward.

In that context, LinkedIn is scrapbook of your professional history: a reminder of things you’ve done and people you know/have known. It is also a news ticker to see what your connected folks are up to, what they are accomplishing, and where they have ascended in their career. And many are sharing interesting commentary and useful insights. So, while I have used LinkedIn as a timeline for my own self-reflection, I also am aware of some other feelings when I visit the site:

· I liked my work and miss it. I am ecstatic to not have the pressure and all-consuming routine from my career. But the really interesting challenges, the pride from accomplishments, the (mostly) wonderful people I’ve worked with, the team feeling, and personal growth my career provided me were terrific. I give myself permission to miss it.

· Missing my work career can feel like a loss, for which I mourn….if I allow it. Looking back for insight is helpful. Reliving poor job change choices or roles I could have done better means not moving on and not looking forward. In the stages of loss context, I am now past “acceptance”, and feel my full-time work career was truly fulfilling. Rather than a loss, I now use the positives of my career experience to guide finding new ways for me to experience fulfillment….including some work as part of my portfolio of “retirement” life.

· Reading about the career moves of my LinkedIn contacts is a reminder that work relationships are another potential “loss” if we don’t do the work to nurture them. The most powerful driver of happiness in retirement is the quality of relationships (not necessarily the number). I have been remiss. Looking back through the "scrapbook" of LinkedIn reminds me of the initiative I need to take to stay connected and rekindle some of my lost colleague connections.

· My career remains part of my identity. When introducing myself I still feel that mentioning the companies I worked for and positions I achieved is a way for people to know who I am. But I am also now proud to include other important things I am doing and getting involved with to complete the picture of who I am now. How do you introduce yourself? How will you introduce yourself 5 years after you are finished with full time work?

If our careers are not sources of self-esteem, fulfillment and relationships there will be nothing to miss when full-time work is over. Mine provided those things. Missing those is natural. But now I have the freedom to re-apply what worked for me in my career to exciting new realms. I am finding new sources of fulfillment and happiness with an eye towards post full time work being my best time of life.

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