Hello SOTGC community,
It’s a great pleasure to introduce you to an amazing woman I recently connected with. Her name is Kathy Caprino and she is a renowned career coach whose articles have appeared in everything from Cosmopolitan Magazine to the Wall Street Journal.
When I asked her who her target audience is, she said women ages 30-55 with a focus on the “baby boomer generation” because she feels they’ve been key trailblazers in the movement toward greater female leadership and entrepreneurship. I don’t want to spoil the interview for you, so without further ado, here is the interview with Kathy Caprino on “Why Women Should Care About Their Why.”
Marney: Kathy, as I was reading your bio these sentences jumped out and really resonated with what I have gone through in the past couple years: “I was outwardly very “successful,” but inwardly I struggled. My work began to feel false and inauthentic to me much of the time, and work-life balance was unattainable. I couldn’t speak up truthfully or be my true self.”
Do you think the modern “woman in the workforce” is going through a form of professional enlightenment?
Kathy: Yes, absolutely. Working women have experienced a great deal in the past 20 years – including the 12 common crises I share in my book Breakdown, Breakthrough, and we’re having critical new realizations about what we want, what we deserve, how we wish to lead, and how we want to integrate our lives and work. Compared to when I was going through my mid-career challenges 10 years ago, there is so much more available to women now, in terms of support, mentorship, sponsorship, education, and resources all designed to help women reach their highest potential.
When I wrote Breakdown, Breakthrough in 2008 based on my yearlong research study with over 100 women around the country, women’s issues were not in the national conversation at all. The crushing problems we faced in the workforce were what I called a “hidden epidemic.” Now, we’re experiencing an enlightenment of sorts as it has become more accepted and out in the open for women to pursue authentic paths that are meaningful to them. And there are more powerful, public role models of women who are claiming openly what they want, leading with authority, and demonstrating strength, confidence and power to pursue it.
Marney: Can you explain to our readers what “finding your WHY” means to you, and then what it meant to you professionally and emotionally once you found and pursued yours?
Kathy: “Finding your why” to me means understanding why you’re on this planet at this time and pursuing it. Maria Nemeth in her great book The Energy of Money says it best:
“We are all happiest when we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we are giving form to our Life’s Intentions in a way that contributes to others.” That says it all for me. My mantra is “Dig deep, discover your right work, and illuminate the world with it.” I mean that sincerely – when we know why we’re here on this planet, and when we can muster the courage (because it does take courage) to honor that every day, then we illuminate the world.
When we take the time and do the work to understand what our unique, amazing talents are (and every individual on this planet has tremendous talents and gifts), and realize we’re meant to use these talents in service of others, then we’ve figured out our “why.”
For 18 years in my corporate life, I had no “why” other than earning money for my family, and in the last chapter of it, I disliked my work intensely. In the last four years of my corporate career, I faced discrimination, sexual harassment, backstabbing, toxic colleagues, chronic illness, zero work-life balance, but worse than all of that was waking up every day feeling that I was wasting myself in work that had no contributive value in the world.
My “why” now revolves around my using my “mess” of those tremendous, crushing and confusing challenges I faced during my 18 corporate years (and I experienced all 12 serious crises I write about), and turning that into a “message” – finding new ways through new programs, products, services, and resources to help women the world over navigate around these challenges.
More importantly, my why is to help women recognize how stunningly powerful and important they are in the world, and to help them go out and honor who they are by using their tremendous gifts. I view myself as a catalyst for positive change in women’s lives – that’s my why. And I’m deeply honored, humbled and excited about this work. It feeds me, and I’m so blessed and fulfilled to be running my own business helping women reach their highest visions.
But there’s still a great deal of work to do. Women are still culturally trained to put themselves last, to remain somewhat blind to their talents, and to feel shame to go out and use their talents unabashedly. The other day a woman wrote me that “Women should be ashamed to go out and work. It’s selfish.” I could not disagree with this more, and I’m deeply saddened that this viewpoint is more common than we want to admit. My husband and I raised two amazing children while we both worked, and I believe that what they learned from having two working parents was highly instrumental and beneficial to them now as young adults forging their own lives.
I’m here to help women overcome their reluctance to shine in their lives and work, and when that happens, it’s an amazingly rewarding experience to be a part of that process.
Marney: At what stage in a woman’s career do you think she starts to realize she isn’t living her “WHY” and do you see it more in certain industries?
Kathy: Every woman is different. Some women shine from the minute they begin their worklives; others never achieve an understanding, or a true expression, of their “why.” I do see, however, that midlife (age 35-45) is a time of reckoning and re-evaluation for so many. Women often wake up after working so very hard to achieve all the “right” outer forms of “success” only to realize that these trappings – and the destinations they’ve been striving so keenly for – don’t equal real success at all. I see women in literally all industries, roles and functions experiencing this realization, and it’s very painful if we’re blindsided by it. Often women who’ve found themselves in crushingly competitive and male-dominated industries that aren’t a fit with their real preferences and values can feel this pain even more keenly. And many women find after having children that they simply can’t figure out how to be the highly contributive professionals they long to be, while also serving as the mothers and caregivers they wish to.
Marney: I love the title of your book Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide To Claiming A Life Of Passion, Power, and Purpose. Can you give us your three best tips for women who are going through a professional breakdown on how she can transition it into a breakthrough?
Kathy: I’d love to give you five steps that I’ve found to be crucial in getting to breakthrough. Everyone longing for life or career change needs to take these five steps to move through it successfully, to breakthrough.
1. Step back – for an empowered perspective of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. You can’t do this alone or in a vacuum. You need to step out of your habitual way of looking at your life, and you need outside help to do this (a coaching buddy, a mentor, a friend, someone who sees you for all that you are and believes in your highest potential). As Einstein so wisely said, “We can’t solve a problem on the level of consciousness it was created.” So true. I offer a great free resource – my Career Path Self-Assessment – to help people see more clearly where they’ve been, what they’re capable of and how to connect all the dots.
2. Let go – of the thinking, patterns and behaviors that keep you stuck. Start to get “hip to your trip” and identify your particular brand of holding yourself back. Do you sabotage your success when you get to close to it? Do you stop yourself from learning more or stretching because you’re afraid? Are you blocked and fearful around money because of negative family messages? Do you push away exciting new opportunities because you don’t feel worthy? Figure out how you’re holding yourself back, and do something concrete about it today.
3. Say YES! to your compelling visions – so many women won’t even invest five minutes in brainstorming new directions that would excite them. It’s time to say yes! to the idea that your life has more meaning and purpose than you realize. Take the time to visualize, brainstorm and explore several potential new directions that would thrill you.
4. Explore it – After identifying several new exciting directions, it’s time to “try them on” thoroughly. Research them in every possible way (“wear before you buy”) so you can begin to discern if these new directions would truly represent a strong fit with your personality, needs, passions, values, and preferences.
5. Create It S.M.A.R.T. – Finally, you need a concrete transition plan, with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals, and you need someone in your corner to help you be accountable for reaching these goals. Career and life change don’t just happen – you have to make it happen. And you do that by creating a powerful plan with digestible, accomplishable goals that move you forward, step by step, every day to feeling more alive and contributive in the world.
Marney: Change. This word seems to evoke many different emotions. What advice can you give women who want to search for their WHY but might be holding themselves back because of the change that it could bring to their current lives?
Kathy: Change is something almost all humans avoid and are terrified of. It’s a given. Know that. You will be afraid. The key is to recognize and embrace your fear, understand it, be gentle with yourself, but move through it.
I work with hundreds of women a year who’ve held themselves back for years from change because they’re afraid of how it will alter other aspects of their lives, or they don’t feel competent to deal with the related shifts they know will come from modifying their careers. I can offer this: When you work from your “why” – when you’ve done the hard inner and outer work required to dig deep, discover your right work and shine in it – it changes every dimension of your life experience for the better. You feel more alive, vibrant, helpful, focused, loving, powerful, confident, and more positive and in control. You also serve as an amazing role model for your children and other women who are longing to do what you’ve done.
Here’s the deal: You can stay “safe” and stuck (which actually ends up feeling quite painful in the end), or you can decide, finally, that you’ll walk through the fear and do something BOLD. You deserve to live this one life as fully and vibrantly as possible, and the only way to do that is through concerted, committed and bold action.
Marney: The Millennial generation is a hot topic among the business world. What is your opinion on their outlook towards picking a profession and what do you think it will mean for our future leaders?
Kathy: I believe that each generation has its “themes” and it seems that the Millennial themes are around meaning, purpose, contribution, integration and possibility. I’m interviewing young women who have seen generations before crash and burn in terms of how they handled their work-lives and their career aspirations. They know what’s possible, but they want to do it in a different way where they can attend to their families and outside lives, and not give up everything in pursuit of a career or job. They often don’t even use the term “career.” I see themes of wanting to launch their own ventures when the time is right, as well as women understanding that fields such as high-tech are no longer forbidden for them, and they’re going for these roles with gusto.
I see that their sense of “worthiness “ – what they deserve and what their contributions are worth – are more well defined and stronger than that of generations of women before them. Finally, the idea of getting the “corner office” is not the holy grail for them – it’s more about how they can make an impact, lead, inspire and create and innovate in a way that will make a positive difference in the world. I can’t wait to see how their new style of leadership will impact the world.
Marney: What inspiring message can you give our readers who want to move towards a more fulfilling professional life, but need to do it safely because they have financial responsibilities that they have to juggle?
Kathy: Forget “safe” – nothing outside yourself is “safe and secure.” Particularly a job. I know this personally because just months after buying a big house in an more affluent town because I was promised the moon by my company, the 9/11 tragedies occurred, and I was laid off, in a brutal way that devastated me and made me realize I was done with placing my future in another’s hands.
You can’t know what the future will bring. Only you – your mind, spirit, gifts, talents (what’s inside you) — is “safe.” No one can take that away from you. An outside job, field or industry will never give you the security you think it will. So my best advice is to build your capabilities, strengths and talents as robustly and fearlessly as you can.
And know that you don’t have to go broke in order to pursue work that is meaningful and fulfilling. That’s a myth today in our society. I always say that it’s critical to do what’s necessary to stay afloat financially, but ALWAYS plant the seeds for your future self.
If you do one without the other – focus only on the NOW without stretching yourself toward your highest visions, or risk everything for your future without a sound, realistic and well-formulated plan that will help you weather the challenges, you’ll most likely suffer.
My ultimate hope for you is this: every single day, that your talents and gifts are desperately needed in the world. Take action, be bold, believe in yourself, and pursue new ways to dig deep, find your right work, and illuminate the world with it.
About Kathy Caprino:
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized career success coach, writer, trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, and Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. — a leading career coaching and leadership training firm for professional and entrepreneurial women. Kathy is also the founder of The Amazing Career Project – a video training and group coaching program designed to help women globally build successful and rewarding careers of significance.
A former corporate marketing VP, trained marriage and family therapist, and seasoned coach, Kathy is a Forbes, Huffington Post and LinkedIn contributor and top media source on women’s career and entrepreneurial issues and trends, and has appeared in over 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national radio and television. For more information, visit www.kathycaprino.com, and connect with Kathy on Twitter, FB, LinkedIn.