Reinventing Your Career

Have you been downsized?

Has your industry changed drastically leaving you feeling irrelevant?

Do you need/want work that holds meaning?

Are you unable to leverage your strengths in your job and accomplish things you love doing with your talent?

A powerful set of tools, models and strategies are available for anyone who answered yes to these three questions.

Common wisdom may tell you:

  • decide what you need to do next, then craft a plan and execute it
  • go back to school and get more training

Both are MYTHS that often only work for a tiny percent of individuals.

Career reinvention is not a straight path. It is a crooked journey of experimenting and trying out a variety of options before settling into the perfect spot. It can be filled with fear, vulnerability, excitement and opportunity.


In this interview, Lyn Christian of SoulSalt Inc. discusses a reinvention journey in process with one of her clients. See for yourself how the reality of crafting a whole new career can look.


The next Reinvention Group begins January 14th @ 5:30, there are only a couple spots left so make sure to sign up asap! Contact, or call Shannon at 801-631-8572


Taking the Power Back

Sometimes it is difficult to remain on the sideline when you witness a client running through a rough-patch. Life can be particularly filled with sensitive moments when this person is working through a career transition. The numerous changes and shifts involved can leave your client feeling hyper vulnerable.

And so it was when Victoria and I reconnected this past week. She had taken three fairly tough punches while in the line of duty. The result was a cumulative effect that we needed to work through in her session.

The first hit came when her fear of flying was tested in a terribly turbulent, white-knuckle flight from California to the East Coast. If your fear of flying is pitted against an almost non-stop bronco ride in the air, you need a recovery period after touch-down. No such luxury for the road warrior Victoria.

The second knock came as she immediately moved into a difficult client encounter.  It took everything Victoria had to finesse her way and her client’s progress through to a successful engagement. Cranking things out in this manner, after a rough flight left Victoria completely drained.

So when blow number three hit, Victoria felt extremely weakened and small. You see, upon returning home a seasoned colleague, who had left the consulting world where Victoria plays, published a blast in her newsletter to all consultants who are servicing the non-profit sector and the foundations who often support them.  Her argument is that foundations should be spending more of their money on nonprofit organizations themselves rather than on consultants.

And while there may be some merit in the writer’s concerns, you’d think a veteran consultant would know better than to pour poison on the very ground that sprouted her own career path. Not to mention not irritating the foundation world which helps pay her organization’s bills. However, I guess not. This was the most difficult part to watch Victoria encounter. When you are re-creating your work like Victoria is, you fling yourself back into those early stages of entrepreneurial -identification.

This is a place where you don’t yet have a track record established and you feel like a fraud.  And yet, you have to trudge through these stages of gaining new experiences and making a new name for yourself. You have to learn to apply healthy helpings of good, old persistence onto your plate and you have to eat every last bite.

Even without punches one and two, this blow hit such an underbelly-tender spot for Victoria that it was about to temporarily knock her off her feet. Thank goodness for check-in calls with your clients.

I listened intently as Victoria explained all this to me over the phone. The more her story unraveled the more intuition kept whispering in my ear: “time to take her power back.”

And that is exactly where our session concluded. Victoria felt a strong call to arm wrestle the positive energy flow back into her corner.

If you’d like to read how she worded her “take the power back” move, click here.

Victoria’s Response:

Lyn was tremendously helpful by letting me share my privately held anxieties in a safe setting. Her coaching helped me realize that I didn’t have to sit silent for fear someone would just discount my response as a self-serving consultant. It’s an ongoing theme (feeling the need to defend my work as a consultant in a field that feels we are all opportunists) as I try to become better at “putting myself out there”.  Thicker skin would help but until I grow that, I’ll just have to keep putting my best foot forward in spite of the insecurities.

Interestingly my post to the editor led to a comment from the editor which you can read when you read my comment – scroll all the way to the end of the comments. She assumes I missed her point. I did not. She also assumes that consultants make career choices because of incentives that lead them away from working in nonprofit organizations. My incentive was doing what I love – planning and strategy – in the field I am passionate about – the arts. There are no jobs for planners and strategies in nonprofit arts organizations, so I had to make my own career. Now I could reply to her reply. But I’m thinking about just picking up the phone and have a real honest conversation between two colleagues about the state of our field in developing strong organizations with a healthy workforce. That’s really the bigger issue.  I think if that were achieved, people wouldn’t care as much about how “the other half” lives. What do you think?



To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.

Victoria and Building a Business Plan

In the process of re-creating her company and her work, Victoria has taken a deep dive into drafting a business plan. Using a crafty little, inviting book titled Business Model Generation she has added some juice to her efforts. Reading this book described the various sections of a small business that fit her thinking versus a standard business plan template. This new perspective seemed to fuel her ability to wrap her mind around the new business she is building.

This week she turned in a big piece of her new plan – a competitive analysis.

She also took herself through a budgeting activity that gave her several insights as well.

Left on her list is her is write up a section concerning her customer segmentation.

Victoria netted many wins as we checked in this week:

First she realized her current desired hourly rate really is the rate she needs to get/ask or in order to meet her reasonable, responsible annual budget. Said another way what she “wants” to ask is what her business “needs” her to ask.

Next, while she might not know all the “hard details” within her competitive analysis section, she has a cleaner view of the eco-system her company is growing up in. She has “enough” of an idea of what is in the environment already in order to begin establishing her differentiation and unique value proposition. She is clearer about which proposals would be good for her to write and which work to leave for others. As my mentor Marshall Goldsmith once told me in a private conversation:

“The successful individuals are those who know what they don’t do and are clear on those few things they do offer.”

All of the work she is doing will not only produce a business plan, it will clarify for her many things:

  • How she presents herself out there in the competitive world.
  • How she re-engineers her website to support her work.
  • How to create structure around what is truly her work and how she presents herself as a professional.

It helps her “see” that she is not just another “consultant” who threw a shingle out and starts looking for work. She is someone who knows how to do what is being asked because she knows how to find out what that is and uses her tools, experience and talent to deliver on it. She is creating a name for herself.

These outcomes were not anticipated by Victoria. Which also reflects back to me one of Ibarra’s tenets in her book Working Identity: We have to experiment our way into our next Working Identity.


Author’s Note

Not everyone I support within career transition coaching works as deliberately in the thinking mode that Victoria demonstrates. She is a wonderful case-study of re-invention for those who are analytical, driven and deeply interested in figuring things out intellectually. She supports the Creative Class in her work and yet is not someone I would classify as abstract, creative, … She knows things like what her overhead is. She knows how to hold the left-side of the brain facilitation in place while working with right-brain- dominates leaders and creative class members.  She does this to help them get to the next level within the field of Arts Administration. She loves the creative mind. She is sensitive to it and how it rolls out within the field known as the “arts” while also finding a way to support the business functions so needed in this industry.



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

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.

Applicable Lessons Found Along the Hedge Hog Path – Victoria

How, or better yet, when does one validate the inner call to change one working identity for another?

Often we make the shift to leave an employer or a career several months before the transition actually occurs. These early inklings start to stir internally until they shake out into action. Once again we peek in on Victoria’s transition and see where those early inklings have turned into today’s reality.

I want to wake up in the morning energized to start the day because the work that lies ahead is engaging and full of promise. I’ve learned there is a difference between doing what I’m good at (considered a strength according to Gallup) and doing what I’m good at AND what I love to do. It’s what I refer to as a Hedge Hog Strength. I spent several years as a consultant taking work on that I was good at but not what I loved to do because it assured me of income. But within a few years, I reached a point at which I was no longer waking up with excitement and I was cranky about my clients. Not good.

Through a process of re-engineering my career I’ve slowly returned to a place of waking up excited to get to work. I’ve gotten re-connected with my Hedge Hog. What I’ve learned along the way is that generally when you are waking up in the morning and doing what you love, it’s because you are working to your Hedge Hog Strengths. In general strength has hallmarks. Something that is considered strength is an activity you can complete consistently. It means that your performance is predictable.  Time after time you demonstrate how well you can perform. You do things effortlessly which leaves people asking “how do you do this so well? You make things look so easy.

But be careful. It’s easy to get caught up in what others think of you and confuse strength with a Hedge Hog Strength. I have strength as a grant writer. I built a piece of my consulting work around it. I was consistent and predictable at developing proposals that were well written, on deadline, and got funded. Time after time I was demonstrating how well I performed this strength whenever I took on a project because someone said I was good at it and they needed me. But I was never in love with grantwriting.  People will tell you what they think you are good at and if you let them define you because of fear (if I don’t take on that grantwriting I won’t be able to pay the mortgage) then you may be working to a Strength, but you are hijacking your ability to find that work that makes you excited to get up and working to a Hedge Hog Strength.

The desire to re-engage my Hedge Hog required a full on effort to re-engineer my working identity and re-imagine myself at work. I engaged a coach and read the books, did the mind-mapping and turned my Hedge Hog Strength of strategic planning on myself and I’ve realigned with my Hedge Hog  – partnering my strengths with my passions. My consulting practice has been re-focused on planning and capacity building for organizations and for people (as a coach). Over the last 9 months I’ve had two planning clients and one organizational assessment project and NO grantwriting. I’m building the coaching practice and have a few irons in the fire.

This morning (after a successful client planning retreat yesterday) I woke up early with all kinds of ideas about how to move my client forward and I couldn’t wait to get out of bed and start my day. Oh what a difference that Hedge Hog makes.



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

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.


Matt Is Nimble Matt Is Quick

Say the name Matthew Landis at a party or gathering place in Salt Lake City and heads will turn.  Two salons bear his name, thousands of Aveda advocates have been trained by him, local TV spots feature him, several businesses in the area have been branded by him and the list goes on.

Personally, Matthew is a delight to know and a rock star to coach. Within the first twenty minutes of meeting him I had a hunch that his career transition (hedgehog process) would move quickly. “Quickly” has become an understatement.

Never in my 13 years of coaching has anyone been so prepared to blow out of their outgrown perspectives and a “past work life” in order to dive into deep professional transition.

Primed for this next chapter, Matthew had determined two years ago to create a more sustainable life for himself. He sold his home. When we started working togetehr he stepped away from a draining commute and a job that was no longer exceptional.

Today we are leveraging Matthew’s name-brand recognition within the salon industry by contracting out his training and coaching abilities. We’re honing in on his value in the TV spots by clarifying his sexy new brand. And his intense intelligence and broad experience is partnering up other entrepreneurial minds to create business offerings and models in the beauty scene that have not existed before. Already, in five months Matthew’s coaching is propelling this bundle of creativity, love and learning to his next level.

I could go on, and on about Matthew. However, it might prove interesting for you to hear directly from him where he’s been compared to where we are now in his transition:

I have worked and trained in salons from Salt Lake, New York, Atlanta, and to Miami.  I have opened several spas and salons, and helped many friends with their small businesses.  I know how to attract good, talented people, and what it takes to keep them happy and provide them with incentives and opportunity to take ownership of their lives and their careers.  My real gift, however, is helping people to reach success and find that inner strength to guide them where they want to go.

Lyn was right – I was ready to jump.  I knew that I wanted something different from my career and my life but I needed someone to bounce my ideas and thoughts off of.  It’s clear to me now that I have been in this a major life transition for several years now. Lyn and the coaching process have been a tremendous help in facilitating and finding that greater sense of self and purpose that was inside me the whole time.  I was so used to creating change in my life by jumping off cliffs, sometimes to good effect and sometimes not.  This process has been experimental and methodical at the same time.  My biggest challenge now is that I get so excited I wanna change the world in one fell-swoop, but I’m learning to sit on my hands and breathe first.  I firmly believe everyone needs a coach of some kind.  I’m so, so, so glad I found mine.

As you follow Matthew’s story on this blog just know this: If we make too big of a transition too quickly, we risk leaving a chunk of financial gain and personal satisfaction on the table.

Our challenge in this engagement will be to keep an eye on the speedometer, and navigate the tight turns and twists along the road. Watch out world, Matthew Landis has just left the starting gate.


A New Working Identity

This section of my blog is dedicated to documenting and expanding on the concept of personal and/or professional reinvention. Documentation is delivered through the stories of current coaching clients while expanding the concept is delivered in entries such as this offering hints or resources.

Working identity metamorphosis is often a complex blend of excitement and fear. It undoubtedly benefits most from persistence and the acquisition of a support system. It cannot be rushed if you want the best outcome. I have found a single starting point that I would offer here as a key piece of free advice. That would be to read the book Working Identity.

Published by Harvard Business Press, this book has become a bible for me and my clients. It is the best resource you can if you are changing out an old career for a new one.

Get the book. Read it. Review it often to inform your transition.

Victoria: How Does One Gain Momentum Again?

Victoria and I used bicycle imagery in brainstorming to her question – How does one gain momentum again? One of the first things explored was how many gears she already had to help her gain momentum. Victoria answered firmly that she had, “One, solid gear in place.” This came in the form of signing up for an eight-week marketing program offered by Marcia Bench.

I‘ve heard positive accolades for this program and knew Victoria was in good hands. But she also indicated that another gear, clarifying who she served with her coaching/consulting practice and what this audience needed from her, was also in place.

Indeed this is a very strong gear and a primary place to start for most people looking to get momentum in a new practice. So we delineated what this meant and Victoria came up with two clients she serves:

Individuals who are part of what she called Arts Managers and who within in mid-career are experiencing the following:

  • “I’m burned out and need to recharge.”
  • “I need to move up. Help!”
  • “I need to move out of my current position and re-invent my career.”

Victoria also offers strong support to people who are new in their positions as executive directors within Arts Management. The move from being in charge of single projects to being charge of multiple, complex projects and a whole organization can be tricky. Victoria supports such transitions by:

  • Assisting on how to resolve work-place issues
  • Consulting on how to effectively work with a Board of Directors
  • How to deal with staffing
  • Offering a confidential place to get advice
  • Support when in need of finding useful training
  • accountability

At this point in our coaching call I was confident that Victoria was about to get her momentum going. I simply suggested that we go back to the image of riding a bike and asked, “If you are about to go for a ride Victoria, how would you get your first burst of momentum?”

“I would stand up over the bike. I’d turn and lift my foot and place it on the pedal. I’d push and in that first push, I’d have some momentum to work with.”

“Great!” I answered. “How about if you were already moving a tiny bit, how then would you be able to increase your momentum?” This question led us into a discussion about coming up out of the seat while pedaling and gaining a renewed piece of momentum from this position. Then I asked, “So, now that you have the idea of what you could do on a bike to get momentum again, how can you give that same sense of forward motion in your work?”

Victoria came up with two strong action items. One was to send out an e-mail message to her database in order to alert them to her new direction. Then she announced that she also had a chance to offer free, twenty-minute sessions to her key audience via a networking event that was already planned. She simply needed to confirm that she was interested. Bam! We had a plan for momentum.

I took a moment to check on what might prohibit her from accomplishing her goals over the next week. Victoria announced that “time management” was probably the only thing in her way. So, we spent a minute or two planning some mitigation against that threat and actually scheduling realistic time-frames for each action item.

We set our next appointment for a week from today and Victoria is off and running with a plan, a schedule, and momentum. Stay tuned.

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

To start at the beginning of Victoria’s story click here.

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: ,(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.


Genesis of Finding Your Hedgehog

For over a decade, I’ve been taking clients through a process I call Finding Your Hedgehogs. The genesis of my work started in 1998 when I began coaching. About 30% of those who came to me for coaching were seeking support while making a career-based transition. I took note and started to study unique and effect ways to “walk the sideline” of such clients.

In 2001 I read Jim Collin’s newly published Good to Great. Collin’s described the “hedgehog” concept as the convergence of three main business elements: Passion, World-Class Ability, and Economic Drivers. As I studied Collin’s book I realized that what was universal for companies, could be specifically applied to individuals.

That same year I also discovered Now, Discovery Your Strengths by Donald Clifton, the father of the Strength’s Finder Assessment, and Marcus Buckingham. Their research made sense. The Strength Profile that came with the book as an online test quickly showed me a correlation between their work and the “World-Class Ability” Collin’s spoke of. I started using the assessment with clients to help them uncover their potential “world-class” offerings.

Two years later in 2003 I read an article in Harvard Business Review about Herminia Ibarra’s new book Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Immediately I ordered a copy and devoured each page at least three times. I made extensive notes on legal pads (notes I still review on a regular basis) and combined all these findings with some methodologies of my own.

Today I have a successful system for assisting people who are reinventing or reimagining their working identities. This portion of my blog is dedicated to the testimonials, stories, downloads, and real-time reports from the playing-field of those who have, are and will be changing the way they earn their livings