What’s holding you back? Barriers to your next big career move (part 3 of 12)

What’s holding you back? Barriers to your next big career move.

Change can be complicated and wrought with roadblock after roadblock that creates resistance and holds us back. Understanding and using a simple model of change can be helpful in really understanding what those barriers are so you can clear them out of the way and be willing to make a change in your career if that is what you hope for.

Making a big career move is quite a large change. Just like pretty much any other type of big change in life, one regarding your career can be really hard to make. I’ve worked with a lot of change models in my career, and one of my favorites is a simple model called The Formula for Change, created by Beckhard and Gleicher and later refined by Dannemiller.


The Formula for Change is this: (D x V) + FS > R

Translated, this means that in order for change to happen, the ‘weight’ of the (Dissatisfaction x Vision) + First Steps must be greater than the ‘weight’ of Resistance to the change.


“We ourselves are often the biggest barriers to our own success and happiness.”


So, when applied to the topic of a big career move, in order to move forward with it there is going to need to be enough dissatisfaction with the current career situation, a vision of the future career, and clear first steps outlined to get you started. If any of these are lacking or are not clear or strong enough, the better option will sound like staying comfortable right where you are at.

We ourselves are often the biggest barriers to our own success and happiness. We really need to learn how to get out of our own way! So, let’s break down and understand these barriers of dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps as it relates to career changes.



One thing about being a woman is true. We can put up with a lot. We manage a lot in our personal lives and our professional lives. Many times, we put others before us, desiring their success and happiness, even if it impacts our own. But this change model doesn’t talk about satisfaction (what I’ll refer to as “pleasure”). Frankly when it comes to our careers there may be things that we are never completely pleased with and we can be accepting of that. Not having enough pleasure in what we do or who we do it for would not, alone, give us the necessary reasons why we should make big change.

But, when thought of, as the model guides us, as dissatisfaction (or what I’ll refer to as “pain”) that is a whole other story. When the stress or work environment makes us emotionally or mentally sick, when we can’t stop obsessing about the other work we want to be doing, when we get passed up for the promotion yet again, when our spouses are giving us ultimatums, the pain is very real and there is nothing that can stop you from making change. Not all dissatisfaction has to be this extreme, but everyone has their tolerance for pain and once you’ve maxed out it’s all you can do is get yourself out of it.



What career do you want anyway? If you are stuck answering this question you do not have a clear and focused vision and without it, the case for change will be too great to overcome. It’s like saying you absolutely hate living in the city that you live in. Without having a clear vision of the type of city or community that would make you happy it would be really hard to just pack up your house, sell it, and move. What’s the destination, right? Where are you headed with all your boxes? If you don’t know the name of the city, you at least know the part of the country, the school systems, the public transportation, the community programs, and so on. You want to be excited about this new place you could call home and look forward to settling in.

The same visioning applies to your career. If you are really unhappy with your job but you are lost on what would make you happy – whether it be the type of work or the qualities of the work environment and how they align to your needs – it would be really hard to just pack up your desk and leave. What kind of career are you headed to next, right? How will you know when you’ve found it? If you don’t know the exact job title, you at least know the type of industry, company culture, type of work, your needs for compensation and benefits, and so on. You want to be excited about this career move and the excitement that comes with it.



Change is overwhelming, oftentimes because there seems to be this never-ending list in our heads of all the things we need to do in order to make the change. And then because there are often a lot or more than our brains can process at once we get overwhelmed, frustrated, and give up on the change we so desperately want.

Let’s consider just one aspect of career change – having the necessary skills and education for the desired job. If you took one minute to think about it you could easily come up with a list of all the possible things associated with the skills and education you might need: what skills, what education, how much education, what of your current experience could translate as those skills, how do you acquire new skills, what would that look like, where do you get that degree or certificate, how many programs are available, are they online or in person, how much does it cost, what’s the time commitment, who will take care of the kids if I have to go to school. Phew, I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it. And that’s just one aspect of career change. It’s easy to see how this can prevent change from happening even if you despise your current situation and are clear on what you want next.

The beauty of this model is that you don’t need to have all of it figured out to enable change. You just need the first few steps figured out to then give you the momentum to create a few more after those are completed. So maybe in the example above, you just need a couple of most important things to get you started. Maybe you need to know that your spouse supports the financial and time commitment of you going back to school, that you’ve talked about exploring the use of savings and tax returns to cover the expenses. Maybe you know you need to sit down and create a schedule of all the childcare and house matters that need coverage so that you and your spouse can determine how to cover them if you will be in class or studying.

The most important part of this is that the steps have to be defined and really clear. If they aren’t, then taking strides towards the vision you have will be tough and you may never get started. I often talk about taking a minimum versus maximum approach with my coaching clients. Focusing on an approach that works in minimums can create quick wins that lead to even faster change and more success than what was thought possible.

Resistance to change
Resistance to change is powerful. We don’t tend to like change very much as human beings. We tend to prefer what’s familiar and comfortable because it’s within these walls of what we know that we don’t have to deal with self-doubt, others’ perceptions, risk-taking, or fear of the unknown.

The fact is though, that just as much as we don’t like change, we are extremely resilient in dealing with it. We experience change throughout our entire lives, and we learn to adapt and come out the other side most times as happy, fulfilled people. So just as much as resistance likes to hold the power over us, if we know the level of dissatisfaction we will tolerate, the picture of what we want the future to be, and just the first few clear steps towards that vision we will reign as the more powerful dynamic and make that big career change that we want!

Use the Barrier Identification Worksheet to identify what is getting in your way of making the change you want.


“The beauty of this model is that you don’t need to have all of it figured out to enable change.”

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