Why People Resist Career Change So Fiercely

by Kathy Caprino

In developing career growth courses and programs for professional women, I’ve spent a great deal of time in the past 10 years exploring and researching why it’s so hard for many people to build— and maintain — a joyful, successful and fulfilling career, and why it’s so challenging to shift out of one career into another, to a more fulfilling path.

Speaking from my own personal experience (a true breakdown/breakthrough journey), I faced several very huge obstacles that kept me from realizing with clarity and confidence that I wanted out of my corporate marketing career, and from taking the right type of forward-moving action to get out. It took so long for me to “find brave” that I wasted over 15 years in a corporate life that wasn’t right for me.

My personal blocks were:

1) Time – I had invested so much time in building a marketing career that it seemed ludicrous and foolish to “throw it all away.”

2) Ego – My ego told me that I had worked so hard to achieve a powerful position in the corporate hierarchy (in my last corporate position, I was a Vice President) that I didn’t want to step back and be a “beginner” again and lose so much ground.

3) Confusion – If I were to chuck this professional identity, what would I do instead? Despite years of trying to answer this question, I couldn’t figure it out. Sure, I fantasized about being in the film industry or doing something exciting and glamorous – but what did I really want to do? What would I do if I won the lottery? I just couldn’t uncover a new path that made sense to me.

4) Money – I earned a lot, and believed I needed every cent of that to provide myself and my family the living we needed and wanted.

5) Going against the pack – There were a good number of people in my life whom I feared would be unhappy (or worse) if I made a big shift out of my lucrative career. I realize now that most people in our lives want us to do the safe, reasonable and secure thing. They don’t want us to suffer, or to lose everything. So they tell us – strongly and loudly – to play it safe.

6) The unknown – finally, I didn’t want to change because I desperately wanted what I had created (the familiar path) to work out for me, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Truthfully, I was scared to death to leap into the unknown.

Now, 16 years into my career reinvention (I engaged in two career transformations, in fact – from corporaet VP to therapist, then to career coach/speaker/writer), I see things so very differently. I can say that none of the reasons above are sufficient to keep you stuck in a career and life you dislike intensely. But the only way to move forward is to loosen the vice-like grip these fears have on your life, your soul, your mind, and your body. Only then can you find the courage and energy to begin to change your career, and change your life.

Do any of these blocks and fears resonate with you?

One way to loosen the grip these fears have on you is to reframe the way you look at the blocks that keep you stuck. Here’s how:


Every minute you DON’T make the changes you long for, is a minute you spend holding yourself back from the growth and expansion that you know – deep down – that you need and want. And after revising your career to something that aligns with you more closely, you’ll find that you will use to the fullest each and every heart-felt talent and skill that you worked so hard to develop in the past.


Outer achievements are – in the end — meaningless if they don’t resonate with your heart and soul, if you don’t feel good, right, and happy in achieving them. Don’t let your ego lead you around by the nose. If it does, you’ll find that your hard-won recognition and achievement will leave you feeling empty, sad and lost.


Yes, it’s hard to sort out the “sounds-great!” career change ideas from those that will really make you happy. It’s hard, but not impossible. Find some great coaching and mentoring help and supportive information and resources to help you to do it. It’s time to get “un-confused.”


We all want and need money. The question is – how much do you truly need to make to be happy, fulfilled, and enjoy your life? And what is your relationship with money – is it healthy and balanced, or are you a slave to it, addicted to having “things” surround you, because in fact, you feel depleted and joyless? (Read The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth to help you re-balance your relationship with money.)

The pack

The pack mentality is a fear-based, group-think that doesn’t support innovation, individuality, and risk. So which type of person do you want to be – a pack follower, or a cutting-edge thinker and leader, who takes the reins of your own life and destiny?

The unknown

Here’s a fascinating truth– it’s actually ALL unknown. When we think we’ve got all it figured out, and that what we carved out for ourselves is going to be constant and unchanging, we usually suffer. Life is change. The universe will deliver to you continual opportunities for you to experience full-on your own adaptability and resilience. So, what would you rather do – embrace your resilience and proactively find a new path now that brings you joy, or do nothing, and let life foist unwanted change on you?

If you truly want a career change, I hope you’ll begin on a path today to making it happen. Empowering help is all around you.

What are the biggest blocks and fears that hold you back from taking empowered action to shift your career to something you’ll love and feel proud of?

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