Real-Time HedgeHogging It: Victoria, an introduction

I met Victoria several years ago as she participated in a coach training class I was leading. We have stayed in touch since. And I believe we’ve remained in touch due to mutual respect and mutual interest in one another’s work.

I live and work in the entrepreneurial coaching space. This is the place where Victoria has mainly earned her living as a free-agent consultant within the non-profit portion of the art scene.

What I find most remarkable about Victoria is how she uses her keen intellect as well as her passion for the arts as key reference points in her quest to reimagine her working identity. I also praise her for reaching out to coaching as part of her support while making such huge transitions in her career.

What follows are Victoria’s words that describe how we’ve arrived at this intersection again. She has reconnected for further insights and support. Posting this and subsequent entries about Victoria is our joint effort to support those of you out there similarly reimagining how you will earn a living.

Victoria Plettner-Saunders:

I am a consultant to the nonprofit arts and culture industry. I am also a certified coach who left her coaching work in the back of the closet 7 years ago when it felt like starting a coaching practice was harder than launching an arts consulting business.

In the last 2-1/2 years I have moved from my two bedroom condo where I lived as a single woman for over 10 years, into a new home with my then-boyfriend. Within a year, I was engaged and we were looking to buy a home. Six months later I was married and we’d bought the home we were renting. Three months later I hired a professional coach to help me make sense of my career-related malaise. I had become tired of being pigeon-holed as a grantwriter which was not satisfying but easier work to get. I was getting cranky about my clients and dreaming of doing more of the work that I enjoyed like issues research, planning and leadership development. With my coach I made the bold step of ending my grantwriting contracts so that I could make room for new opportunities to come in the door. The problem was they didn’t come waltzing in the way I’d hope they would. During all that time I spent transitioning my identity from being the single woman to the married woman, I’d sort of lost touch with my career identity. It got placed on the back burner. I had done it because I was less enthusiastic about my work and more enthusiastic about experiencing that massive change in my personal life. But I underestimated the role that the change in my personal identity would have on me. It took a ton of energy and when I emerged, I had no energy left for putting up with work that wasn’t fulfilling anymore.


Now I was in the middle of a new transition, from the old consultant to the new consultant – but what does my new consulting practice look like? Hiring a coach helped the analytical list maker side of me. We set goals and used all the books and introspective processes I could find to help me figure out what I wanted my future working identity to be. I found that I wanted to re-engage with my coaching work and connect it with the part of the consulting work I loved that was around leadership and professional development for nonprofit arts managers.


Today I am specifically interested in those who are either at mid-career and transitioning or experiencing the role of executive director for the first time. I’ve done a lot of research about these two points in the career spectrum over the years, written several articles and talked to a lot of people. I know that coaching and support for people at these career stages are needed, but not provided in our field. While it seems obvious to me as I write this, that hanging my shingle out as a career transition coach makes logical sense given my training and experience, my internal voices make it hard for me to feel confident selling myself in this way. I will back up here and say I stopped working with my coach when she took a full time job training other coaches and I felt that coaching wasn’t what I needed. I needed to just create and work the plan. But in that time, I’ve felt a little lost too.


Gaining Momentum

At Lyn’s recommendation a few weeks ago I returned to the work of Herminia Ibarra (Working Identity) and William Bridges (Managing Transition). I’d read their work 8 years ago when I was thinking of leaving my full time job to start a consulting business. But I’d forgotten how helpful it would be when I started a new period of change. In these books, I had a huge AHA. Ibarra and Bridges would say I am in the neutral zone, the in-between place in which I am trying on a new style and seeing how it fits.


At this point, the ambiguity and some lack of clarity are to be expected. I am between the end of my old working identity and the beginning of my new one. The way to use this time wisely is to experiment with concepts for my future practice and see how it feels. Test out the hedgehog concept if you will. What do I like to do and what do I do well? And what of what I like to do and do well, sells? There are all kinds of ideas for career transition coaching services in my mind, but which ones will catch fire with people? And what is the best way to get those services out? And more importantly, how do I get started experimenting. Sometimes I feel like I stopped the bicycle I was riding and now I have to start the wheels again from a dead stop… without the aid of momentum. How does one gain momentum again?

And this is where you come into the story. Our next entry will explore the coaching session Victoria and I held based on her final question – How does one gain momentum again?

If you’d like to get in touch with Victoria, she has given us permission to post her contact information as well as her picture:  vsaunders@cox.net ,(619) 540-2925.


If you’d like to get in touch with me please respond to this blog or leave a message on the SoulSalt Inc. company phone: 801-463-5239.

To read the next entry of Victoria’s story click here.


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