Earlier this year, after a successful 21-year career in financial services, I made the very difficult decision to leave my high-powered job and simply focus on myself.
At the beginning of my career, I adored the finance world. My gratitude while working on Wall Street in my early 20s knew no bounds; I was working on high-profile M&A and corporate finance deals that made it into the Wall Street Journal, and I felt invigorated.
Even later in my career working similarly long hours, I felt fulfilled in my management role as I built out a national sales team for my employer. Part of my job was creating and building relationships, and LinkedIn was a vital professional tool, which I used on a daily basis to grow my network, which is now over 8,000 connections.
I also used LinkedIn for personal development purposes by reading articles, taking online courses and following successful business people, which helped me advance further in my profession.
Even before the pandemic, I realized that I probably needed to make some important changes in my life. While COVID definitely did not force me to quit my job to relieve stress and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, the shift to work from home and the isolation of quarantine did shine a light on some aspects of my life that were unsustainable to my mental health.
When the pandemic hit, my personal existential crisis grew with each endless Zoom call. What was I really accomplishing? Who was I really helping? What was the meaning of my life’s work?
Even though I was experiencing burnout, I likely would not have made the contrarian personal decision to quit my job had I not endured a near-death experience last summer. After going out on medical leave, I realized that the vast majority of my life had been focused on academic and financial success, and that this ultimately did not help my mental health.
Furthermore, the prospect of going back to office and going back to “the way things used to be” had little appeal for me once I got the taste of being a digital nomad.
Once friends heard that I was leaving my old life behind, they would also ask, “What are you going to do with all of your free time?”
As I began to ponder this question, I thought back to the activities and hobbies that I enjoyed in my childhood: literature, music and the theater. Ironically the Future Of Work for me was going back into my past and reconnecting with my 16-year old self, before I felt that I had to leave those supposedly “childish” pursuits behind to achieve a successful career on Wall Street.
When I announced my resignation, I began writing several books (which I hope will be published soon) and singing my own songs on the guitar again (I literally had to fish the guitar out of the back of my closet, where it had not been touched for 25 years).
As part of launching this second (digital nomad) career, I realized that there is significant value in one’s personal network regardless of the industry in which you work. Whereas before I used LinkedIn for relationship-building and sales activities in my Corporate America role, now I use it to connect with my followers and to grow my personal brand.
Within a mere matter of months, I have recast myself into a new mold, and I am honored that LinkedIn News Editors selected me for their “Reclaiming Summer from Endless Work” collection. Whenever I make a new post, I love reading everyone’s comments, and the messages of support I receive are a reminder that the news of my journey is resonating within the LinkedIn community.
Unlike any other social media platform, LinkedIn combines the power of a primarily career-focused personal and professional network with the communal aspects of other sites, and the great thing about LinkedIn is that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you work or what you post, as long as you think it will benefit the larger professional world of your peers and connections.
It is also inspirational to me to witness others on LinkedIn talking about important milestones such as starting a new job, celebrating a new business partnership or achieving another year of sobriety. In fact, I find myself checking LinkedIn nowadays more for career and life inspiration than any other site. Hearing about others’ life journeys, especially after a period of such isolation, has helped me be more courageous in taking the first uncertain steps towards a new path.
Now, I’m starting to enjoy my life more than I ever have before, and I certainly have less stress, which has tangible health benefits. While I will miss the camaraderie and all the friends that I’ve made throughout my two decade career in finance, I realized I was not in a healthy headspace, and I’m grateful that God spared my life so that I might do something meaningful with the rest of my existence.
Please follow me on my spiritual journey toward ethical self-actualization, which I define as fulfilling one’s talents and achieving one’s true potential while also being mindful of other people, the environment and your own health. Subscribe for free to the Social Musings by Austin blog at www.socialmusingsbyaustin.com and let’s continue the Conversations For Change that are essential to the American worker reclaiming the proper balance of work and leisure.