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Grappling With the Idea of Going Back To School? Here’s What To Consider

At least once a week, I hear from a professional woman who is in a job or career she dislikes intensely (or is failing at), and wonders if going back to school for a new career is the right step. Today, many mid- to high-level professionals feel ill-suited to their work, and others have launched small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat. When they reach out for help, they share some version of this question:

“Kathy, I’m in a career (or I recently launched a small business) I just can’t stand anymore. My husband says I’m not cut out for this, and should go back to school. What do you think?”

Having coached thousands of women through every career decision you can imagine, I’ve observed 6 common reasons behind people’s contemplation of going back to school. These reasons may be legitimate for some, but for many (perhaps most), the path to another degree is not the right choice. How do you know if it’s right for you?

The top 6 reasons mid-career professionals give for contemplating going back to school are:

– The job I’m in feels like a complete dead end. I think I have to start over.

– I’m just not cutting it in this field. More education will give me more credibility, clout and authority.

– I really don’t know what else to do. I hate my work.

– I’m not earning enough in my current profession/business. I’ll make more money and be more secure if I have more education.

– My colleague went back to school and it made a great difference for him. I want to do what he’s doing.

– I’m failing in my new business, and I think getting a new degree is the only way out.

To know if going back to school is the right move for you, you need to become very clear on what you want in your life and work. You also have to understand yourself intimately (what you’re passionate about, and what motivates you to succeed, for instance) and evaluate your life and situation with eyes wide open. This is not the time to be in denial or to pretend you’re someone else. This is the time to figure yourself out with honesty, awareness and insight. (Take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge to learn more about what you really want.)

Once you become clearer on what’s important to you and your most burning life goals, ask yourself these five questions:

1. What do you believe another degree will give you?

Often, we project all sorts of misguided notions about what a shiny, new degree will give us, but we don’t really know anything about it. Do exhaustive research about the educational path you’re considering. Interview department heads and faculty at the institutions you’re considering. Shadow professionals who’ve earned this degree and are applying it in ways that interest you. Learn more about the careers this degree can lead to, and how people land exciting work after their degree. Examine the curriculum and course of study – do you find it compelling, something you feel really jazzed to learn? What are the common trajectories of people who’ve earned this degree, and do these career paths seem to be a good fit for what you really want? Finally, ask, “Is it realistic for me to take this path at this time in my life?”

2. What will it cost you – emotionally, financially, and professionally and personally?

Higher education today is expensive, to say the least, but there are other significant costs as well.  You’ll need to commit a great deal of time, money, energy, resources, and focus to succeeding on this educational path.  Do you have access to the necessary resources, and can you tap into them in a way that won’t turn your life upside down?   Can your current employer help pay for your degree? When I earned my Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy over a three-year period, it exacted a much higher price than I ever imagined.  I’m so grateful I did it, but don’t do what I did and pursue a degree without understanding concretely what it will demand of you. And evaluate what the return on investment must be, specifically and measurably, in order for you to feel it is worthwhile.



In the end, if you’re considering going back to school, understand what it will give, and demand, of you. Do the necessary legwork to explore it thoroughly, and don’t jump until you can say with 100% surety that this is the right move at the right time. Be clear about where the road will take you, and if this path will give you, in reality, what you’re truly longing for.

(To move toward building a happier, more rewarding career, take my 6-day Amazing Career Challenge).

Why I Didn’t Tell the Truth, and Why You Don’t Either

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Last week, I got a call like no other I have ever received.  My last nerve was already frayed from a really challenging week, and I was running out the door to see my son play his last soccer game for the season (which I absolutely didn’t want to be late for).  I should not have picked up the office phone. But I did.

The young woman on the other line asked, “Is this, um (fumbling around for the name of the company), the coaching company?  I said, “Yes, this is Kathy Caprino.  What can I do for you?”

This is how the conversation went:

Caller: “Do you have a few minutes to speak?” 

Kathy: “Uh, I’m sorry, not really – but is this about wanting some coaching?”

Caller: “Well, yes and no.  My husband and I live in a Canada and we are moving to the U.S. but we are unsure what the best states are to move to, for the work we do. I don’t have any money to pay you for coaching, but I was hoping you would help.” 

* * * *

I receive now literally thousands of requests for free help – sadly, many that are disrespectful, rude, pushy — but I still find it very hard to walk away when someone needs help.  But this time, I felt very irritated at what felt like a total lack of understanding of the magnitude of what she was asking. 

The conversation continued…:

Kathy: “If you don’t have any money to pay me, how were you thinking this would work?” (I meant this as a challenge, but she didn’t get it.)

Caller:  “I thought we could both send you our resumes and you can review them and tell us what states are best for us.”

* * * *

At this point, my head exploded – right there, all over my desk.  This woman, who doesn’t have the courtesy to figure out my or my company’s name, and didn’t bother to share hers, has the gall to ask me to review TWO resumes, evaluate her line of work is as well as her husband’s, and tell her what states she should move to! I was floored. 

I went onto explain that I receive hundreds of requests each month for free help, and as such, I am unable to give tailored recommendations to folks who aren’t my clients. However, I have tons of free resources for folks wanting to change careers.  This type of career help she wanted (or “work” on my part) demands my time and energy, and that requires payment. 

I said I’d be happy to share my free resources in an email.  Unbelievably, instead of backing off, she kept on and said, “But could I ask just one question?”

I said “NO. Send me an email with your question, I’ll forward along some free resources that should help,” and I hung up. I was furious for the entire night (and late to the soccer game).

Now I realize that much of this involves an ineffectual boundary of mine that needs to be bolstered.  But what I really wanted to say was this,” Would you walk into a Hertz Rental Car business and ask to drive one of their cars from Albany to Rochester and not pay one red cent? It’s disrespectful to ask a career coach to help you with your career in this way and not think of how to offer any way to compensate him/her.”

I wanted to share another truth too which is, “YOU personally need to do the work of building your career, not ask others to do what you should do.  Have you done any research at all on your own to try to determine which locations are best for you?”

The problem is, I didn’t say any of this, nor did I share the most important message, which is “I feel it’s rude and selfish of you to continue pushing for more, even after I’ve said no.”

I realize that everyone’s “truth” is subjective, and the caller may have had a completely different view of this entire interchange.  That said, it’s critical for a happy and well-lived life that we share our version of the truth (as lovingly as we can) when it’s important to.

So why didn’t I confront the caller and tell the truth as I saw it?  Here are the 10 reasons why:

1) I didn’t want to be disliked or appear offensive

2) I was afraid she’d tweet out that I’m a mean, nasty crabapple if I told her the truth about her disrespectful request

3) I second-guessed my feelings and thoughts (that perhaps she was just ignorant of the right protocol of asking for help and not being pushy)

4) I’m so overwhelmed with the number of requests I’m receiving for free help this year, that I’m resentful (of a lot of things)

5) I don’t like myself when I’m mean, and telling her what I thought about her request felt “mean” to me

6) I typically regret when I’m hurtful and not kind and gentle

7) The angry truth in my head can make a BOOMING sound, and I’m afraid to unleash that

8) I love to build up people’s confidence, not tear them down

9) I have a reputation to uphold (of being a kind, compassionate person)

10) Finally, it’s challenging for me to tell the truth in an appropriate way when I’m that stressed and angry

When I look back at these reasons (both subconscious and conscious) for not telling the truth to this caller, I can see now that these reasons are just latent fears and excuses. 

Here’s how the list above translates into fears:

I was afraid…

– Of being rejected and punished, or creating a bad reputation if I spoke up

– Of trusting myself and my instincts to go with what I wanted to say

– Of letting go and saying “no” to people and endeavors I no longer want to focus on

Finally, there is one more reason I didn’t tell the truth.  I knew that the “truth” I wanted to share was on the mean side (lacking in understanding and compassion), and was not coming from my highest self.  I also realized that at that moment I lacked the adequate self-mastery to neutralize my emotions so I could tell my version of the truth as I like to, with as much love, care, and kindness as possible.

These are long-standing challenges and fears of mine that have stemmed from my upbringing and childhood.  In short, I was afraid to tell the truth as a kid. It’s taken me years of therapy, energy healing work, introspection and internal work to get to the place where I am regarding being honest.  But clearly, there’s more work to be done.

I share this to help you understand that even folks with some training (I’m a trained marriage and family therapist, career coach and speaker) around truth-telling and communicating powerfully, sometimes fail to tell the truth as they want to, when they want to.  I share this too so that you might begin to look at why and when you don’t tell the truth in your life and career.

What have I learned from this?  That I need to start speaking up more and if that makes me more unpopular, so be it.  I’m prepared for that. I also need to create a stronger boundary so that those who want to take advantage of my time and services without compensation, can’t get through to me so easily. I need to say “no” when the answer is “no.” Finally, I have realized that I need to take care of myself more these days when the professional demands are very high and my time to restore and heal is minimal.

All great lessons that are highly relevant to today’s professional women.

Now’s your turn…are you failing to tell the truth (as you see it) in your life and work, and is that getting in the way of your health and well-being?

Review my list above of the fears that keep us from sharing the truth, and see if they resonate. If so, now is the time to speak up (and confront, if necessary) more consistently, confidently and lovingly.  Do it with me.

How Exactly Do I Change My Career?

Of all the thousands of career questions I receive from my readers and followers, this one is the most pressing and popular:

“Kathy, I know I need a career change, but what’s the best way to go about it?  How do you know exactly where in the new industry or field you fit?  How specifically do I make the change and how do I know exactly where the glove fits?

Here’s my answer to that great, probing question on my Forbes blog today:

A Step-By-Step Plan to Change Your Career To Something You Love

If you’re ready to change careers, take these steps, in the order they’re listed, commit yourself 100% to it, and you’ll find that new doors will open, powerful mentors will appear, great opportunities will emerge, and your path will be cleared for more success, happiness and reward than you thought possible.

(For more about career change and growth, visit, my video blog Work You Love, The Amazing Career Project, my new Career Success Training program, and my book Breakdown Breakthrough).


6 Core Steps to Figuring Out What You Want To Be

Image Courtesy of Pakorn on

In response to my Forbes, Huffington Post and AARP Work Reimagined posts, I hear one type of comment over and over again, more than any other, and it goes something like this: “I just don’t know what I want.  Despite all my efforts, I can’t figure it out what I want to do.”

I find this an amazing phenomenon – that so many Americans have lost touch with who and what they want to be professionally.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not judging anyone here, because this was me 12 years ago.  I built an 18-year corporate career in publishing, marketing and membership services, and for most of it, I was outwardly successful.  But throughout it all, I was inwardly very unhappy and kept asking “Is this all there is?   I loved my family life, but my career was deeply unsatisfying.  Despite my efforts to get help to figure out what else I should professionally (I saw a therapist and career counselor, took costly quantitative assessment tests [which I’m not a fan of, by the way], etc.), I couldn’t figure out what else to do.  I finally did figure it out and forged a very fulfilling path, but it took years and some very costly missteps.

After 10 years of serving as career coach and trainer to help professionals build more satisfying careers, I’ve uncovered why people are so resistant to career change.  And I’ve created a successful model with a step-by-step program to help professionals  build a career that delivers both the “essence” of what makes them happy, along with the right “form” of it to suit their financial needs, values, life intentions, standards of integrity and more.

So how do we do it?  What are the six keys to figuring out what you really want?

1)  Pull yourself out of the tiny box you’re trapped in

All people who are stuck feel this way because they’ve made some costly or rigid assumptions about what they need to be happy or what they’re capable of creating. These assumptions (often unconscious) keep them trapped in a tight little box with a lid that won’t budge.

Some of these limiting assumptions are:

–  I need to earn $XXXXXX to live the life I want

–  My marriage or family won’t survive my making this change

–  I’ll be too old by the time I make this change

–  I don’t have what it takes to reinvent myself or even repurpose what I do

–  I’m a loser and a failure – I can’t compete

–  I’m too unskilled or out of touch with current trends

–  I have nothing important to offer

–  I’m not special

–  I’m too beat up and burnt out

–  Nothing else will be better

How can you get out of the box? 

Certainly not by yourself.  You simply can’t identify your special talents, capabilities and potential alone and in a vacuum.  And you can’t solve your problems on the level of awareness that they were created.  You’ve got to involve someone else in the discussion about your life, and make it someone you respect, who’s knowledgeable, successful and fulfilled in what they do, and who doesn’t have an agenda about where you net out. Find someone today who can mentor, advise or coach you about what’s possible, and help you see what’s holding you back from identifying the power you have to make a difference, and the vast number of options that are truly available to you.

If you’re trying to do this all by yourself, you just won’t make headway.

2)  Don’t throw the baby out – look at what IS working along with what IS NOT

Many people wake up in midlife to the fact that their careers are dissatisfying and unsuccessful, and they’re so upset about it, they want to chuck the whole thing out.  Don’t make that mistake.  Conduct a thorough assessment of what you would like to preserve and maintain in your current career, and get rid of only the parts that make you feel angry, sad, frustrated, and thwarted. After all, you’ve been in this career for some time now – it’s not all bad.  You were attracted to it once, and you are utilizing some talents and skills that you want to continue to draw on.

As an example, I spent years as a copywriter and marketing professional in publishing. I didn’t enjoy writing copy for scientific books and journals, but I was good at it.  Now, I use all of those copywriting skills daily (and enjoy them), for my own business, and as a marketing consultant helping career women, entrepreneurs and small businesses promote their brands and services.

3)  Address your problems now, before making a change

I make this a mandate in all the career coaching work I do – that the client begin today to address and resolve what’s making them miserable in the current job or career before they leap.  Until you feel more empowered and  become more controlled, authoritative, and masterful in your current situation, you can’t expect to attract a better situation in the next chapter.  You’ve got to do the inner and outer work to earn a “fantastic” career – it’s not just going to fall in your lap.

I’ve found that once my clients do the work to address their problems in the current situation, their challenges tend to evaporate and often they don’t need to leap to something completely different.

(To learn more about how build your self-confidence, risk-tolerance, self-mastery and capabilities, visit The Amazing Career Project and download my free homework tool “Assessing and Closing Your Power Gaps”).

4)  Develop a supportive network and community that loves you

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the reality is you cannot get where you want to in life and work if you don’t have help.  No matter where you are in your career, you need people to help you launch to the next level.  Start building a more powerful network of loyal colleagues who admire and appreciate you and would be more than happy to help you do what you want.  There are many ways to develop a community that will support you, including utilizing LinkedIn fully, offering endorsements and testimonials to people you respect, attending association and networking meetings of professionals in your field, reaching out to former colleagues who you admire, taking a class with other exciting, like-minded professionals, and the list goes on. (Here are a few helpful resources —  my free LinkedIn Primer  and Resume Guide — to get you started.)

5)   Build your personal brand and tell your story well

Before you can figure out what you really want and get it, you have to know who you are and tell a compelling story about yourself.  Of the thousands of professionals I meet and work with each year, only a tiny fraction can answer these questions in a compelling and engaging way:

What are you fabulous at and known for?

What do you offer and do that is significantly different from what the best in your field do?

What were you noticed for back when you were a teen and young adult?

What skills, talents, abilities make you stand out?

What life experiences have shaped you in special ways?

What are your Life Intentions?

What are your core values – the non-negotiables you need in life to be happy and fulfilled?

Whom do you love to serve and support, and why?

When you’re 90 years old looking back, what do you want to have given, contributed, stood for and achieved?

If you can’t answer these questions, you won’t figure out what you really want because you just don’t know yourself well enough and others won’t know how to help you.  To learn who you really are, take my free Career Path Self-Assessment.

6)  Now…connect the dots

After you’ve done all this work, it’s time to connect the dots (listen to the amazing Steve Jobs talk about how to live before you die and “connect  the dots”).  Figure out what paths will truly make sense for who you are and what you want to achieve in life.

Gain clarity about the best path for you by conducting online, offline, passive and active (in-person) research, to answer these critical questions:

What are my passions, and which of these make sense as a livelihood and which are better as hobbies?

Based on the passions, talents and skills I have, what are the careers best suited to me?

What are all the factors I need to address in planning my next direction (money, timing, energy, geography, family needs, support, enjoyment, health, etc.)

In this process, am I making any erroneous assumptions about myself and my life that I need to rethink?

Do I know what it takes to be successful in this new direction, and am I committed to it 100%?

Do I really want to start my own business, or am I just running away from something?

How will I fund my career change or transition?

Where will I find the ongoing support I need?

Don’t make the same huge blunders that so many career changers make.  Do the inner and outer work required to 1) discover who you are and what really matters to you, 2) overcome the obstacles in the way of your success, and 3) identify and “try on” the paths that make the most sense for you and your life.

And get the help you need to reach your highest potential.

It’s takes a great deal of effort to LOVE who you are, and to relish your life and career.  But what an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding path when you do.


Do You Deserve An Amazing Career?

(As featured on Kathy’s Huffington Post blog)

As one who works with thousands of professional women each year to transform their careers ,  I’ve been asked almost every question you can think of about professional life.  I’ve also observed over these past nine years what holds women back most from having “knock-your-socks-off” success and fulfillment in their professional lives, and these blocks are not what you’d expect.

Most professionals I work with have achieved a good deal of outward success – responsibility, promotions, authority, recognition, supervision of large staff and budgets, etc. – but for the majority, something vital is missing, and they know it in their hearts and souls.  They can’t seem to put their fingers on what they want most, or how to get it.  It’s like a secret treasure that they keep hunting for everywhere – under every rock, in every new job, relationship, boss, organization, country, entrepreneurial venture — but they still can’t find it.

I’ve seen that almost everyone has at least one “power gap”– an area in which they just don’t have the confidence, self-worth, self-esteem or will power to take them to the next level that they so desperately long for.  The great news is that all of this can change, if you commit to, and invest in, doing the inner and outer work required.

What are these secret career success steps that are missing for so many professionals today, and can everyone access what they need to, to build an amazing career?

The first truth is that while having an amazing career is a potential that everyone can grasp, only a relatively few will step up and commit to it.  I remember speaking with a coach in the Tony Robbins organization who told me, “I don’t care what my clients want – everybody ‘wants’ a thousand things.  I care about what they’ll commit to.”  I subscribe to that same philosophy about career transformation.  Why? Because doing what’s required to absolutely LOVE your career – to be proud of who and what you are in the world and how you’re of service, and know you’re reaching your highest and best potential, takes a great deal of courage, work, commitment, energy, trust, and perseverance – and it takes walking to the farthest edge of your limitations, and jumping — into the scary new territory that is necessary to take you higher.

Are you one of those who WILL commit to doing what it takes to have an amazing career, or just dream about it?  Check out below the top five steps you have to take, and see if you feel ready for what’s required:

The five core steps to create an amazing career –

Step 1: Step back to understand the lessons your life and career are trying to teach you.

Your life is teaching you lessons, but most people just aren’t getting them.  Every day, you receive powerful guidance from your life about what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong (in terms of getting closer to what you want most out of life).  Most just don’t recognize these messages as clear beacons to show you the way to go.  The first step to an amazing career is to make a deep, critical and fearless evaluation of where you are today — what’s working, what isn’t, and what you want most. This includes gaining an intimate understanding of what makes you tick – your personality, values, needs, dreams, legacy, and your power “gaps” – those areas of weakness or insecurity that keep you stalled and stuck. Until you get off the hamster wheel and do this intensive work of exploration and discovery, you’ll continue to spin your wheels wondering why you’re not happier. (Take my free Career Path Self-Assessment to get you going on this.)



If you’re ready to commit to an amazing career, I hope you’ll join me in my new career transformation project —  the
Amazing Career Project.   See you there!



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