Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Welcome back to the Office Witch series! I cover a range of topics from tarot spreads to get you through the work week to witching up your office space on the sly, to tarot apps and other magical technology. You can view all topics in this series here.
Tarot as Career Guide
While I do not turn to tarot to answer every question in my life (I still feel confident creating a dinner menu each week), whenever I need to make a decision that will affect my well-being, I always shuffle the deck and pull a few cards. Career planning is not an exception. After all, not everyone has a trusted mentor to turn to for guidance, or perhaps your heart and your cheerleaders are telling you different things. Maybe you've downloaded that grad school app 5 times in the past year, but you never seem to get started on it. There are a lot of factors to consider when planning how you'll spend a least a third of your waking hours, and tarot can shed light on information you may otherwise be too preoccupied or anxious to fully see.
The first time I decided to bring my career questions to a tarot spread, I was 16 years old. My high school chemistry teacher told me about a competitive summer program hosted by the Earthwatch Institute, a "science adventure" program including a month-long archaeology dig in the Great Plains. She knew about my dream to become an archaeologist, and encouraged me to apply. While I was sorely tempted, I also knew it was an incredibly competitive and expensive program, and I had planned to spend the summer working to save money for college applications. My working class family was at a total loss when I asked for advice on whether or not to apply - half of my relatives thought it would be a great experience and the other half thought it was a distraction. I had no prior experience to learn from - how was I going to make this decision?
Enter stage right, my miniature Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. I was a chronic insomniac and so one night, when everyone else was asleep and I couldn't get this question out of my head, I grabbed my deck, cut it in half, and pulled a card. I will never forget this panicky, one-card reading, because I'm convinced it changed my life. The card was the 8 of Wands, and if there was ever a card that just screamed "DO THE DAMN THING" it is the 8 of Wands. In that moment, I knew I had to submit an application. Those 8 flying staffs looked like destiny on the wind, and as soon as I saw them my heart was lit on fire. So, I applied, and I was accepted.
The program was even better than you can imagine for a nerdy, 16 year-old from a poor family in rural Kentucky. I met real life archaeologists, and other teens who dreamt dusty dreams. I met a future fiancé (although admittedly not the one I am currently engaged to). I wrote my college scholarship essay about the experience, and was given a full ride to my first choice school. I even started the long crawl away from a life threatening eating disorder while at the camp, thanks to the generous and kind Russian cook. Most importantly, though, this camp gave me a taste for adventure which I've never quite gotten over. All this, because of a final push over the decision line from a single tarot card.
Now, your mileage may vary. And I have read many other career spreads for myself over the years with varying degrees of success. But the fact remains that when I needed it most, and I didn't even realize it, the world reached out gently through a single powerful image and said, "you can do this". Isn't faith built on moments just like this? Whether faith or pragmatism brings you to tarot, there are so many ways to find illumination on career questions. I've laid out 3 tarot spreads to address the top questions I receive from querents about their jobs and careers.
Before diving into the spreads, I just want to run through a few key considerations when using tarot as a tool in career planning.
Yes/no questions don't work well with tarot. You may be yearning to know whether you'll be offered that promotion or not, but there just isn't a card that will give you a direct answer. Develop questions that need deeper answers, such as "what do I need to work on in order to be a top candidate for promotion this year?"
If your gut tells you a reading isn't right, trust your gut. Sometimes a reading just doesn't make sense given your circumstances. Treat tarot like a trusted mentor in career planning - take their advice into consideration, but don't act on their instructions blindly. At the end of the day, you are the expert on your goals and resources. Trust your instincts.
3 Tarot Spreads for Career Planning
1. Above the line/below the line spread
A great friend and former co-worker of mine, Kellie McClure, turned me onto this strengths and passions assessment exercise as a tool to help me work through a tough period in my work life. Take a piece of paper and draw 2 intersecting lines that create 4, equal-sized quadrants. Then, fill in each quadrant with a list as follows:
top, left-hand side quadrant: a list of things that you are good at (strengths) and that you like to do (passion). Example: I'd put tarot reading in this quadrant, because it's something I'm good at and enjoy.
top, right-hand side quadrant: a list of things that you are good at (strengths), but dislike doing (apathy). Example: I'm a pretty good with spreadsheets, but I really dislike having to spend my time managing them.
bottom, left-hand side quadrant: a list of things you are not good at (weaknesses), but that you like to do or you want to cultivate (passion). Example: I'd list graphic design here. I'm rubbish at it, but I would love the opportunity to learn some digital design skills.
bottom, right-hand side quadrant: a list of things that you're not good at (weaknesses), and that you dislike doing or have no interest in cultivating (apathy). Example: I'd put contract writing here. The legalese gives me a headache and I just can't muster the enthusiasm to improve my proficiency.
You can complete this exercise without any tarot cards at all and still get a lot of rich information about what area to drive your career. However, if you want to bring a little something extra to this thought experiment, I recommend that you pull a card for each quadrant listed above. If you are having a hard time getting started with your lists, then pull your cards at the very beginning to help you answer the question of each quadrant, "what am I good at and enjoy doing?", etc. Or, if you make your lists and you still have no idea how to apply this to your work, draw cards at the end and ask "what is an action step I can take with regards to these skills?"
This spread is especially helpful if you are contemplating a change in your career to a new field or department within your current workplace. It can be hard to keep a holistic picture of all your talents and passions when your job requires that you spend time cultivating only a handful of them.
2. Witch's Ladder Spread
How about those times when you know exactly where you want to be, but you don't have a clear idea of exactly how you are going to make it happen? Whether it's that book deal, your own team, or early retirement, sometimes your heart is very clear in what it wants, but your mind has yet to supply a road map to achieve that dream. This spread will help you create a plan to turn resources, mentorship, and growth into the career you want.
A value to keep close at heart on your career path
A resource you currently have to help you get started
A mentor to help guide you and offer wisdom on your journey
An important area for growth
A concrete action to take to start your journey
Arrange the cards in an ascending step-ladder shape. You can complete this spread multiple times, or draw multiple cards for each position to get a larger and more nuanced picture of how to get started.
3.Should I go back to school? Spread
I get this question a lot, and I mean a lot. No matter the education level being considered, it seems like the decision to pursue higher education is fraught for most of the individuals I work with, who tend to be from the United States. I imagine this question would not be quite so troublesome in places where college education is more affordable, but I have not field tested that theory. This is a hard question to answer, as it requires insight in so many different areas of your life from finances, to health and well-being, to family responsibilities, and of course the murky waters of career development. I find that most querents asking about school have difficulty envisioning what impact more education will have on their career options, so I've designed a spread to explore what is unknown and unseen to you as you ponder higher ed.
What is my motivation for going back to school?
What am I not seeing about this situation that I should be aware of?
What skill/talent/knowledge do I want to develop by seeking more education?
What is the worst outcome that could result from pursuing more education?
What is the best outcome that could result from pursuing more education?
What are some other options available to me to achieve my goals?
You can pull multiple cards in the 6th position, if you'd like to explore a few different options that might help you achieve a similar affect to more schooling. This might also be a good spread to do in conjunction with the Above the line/Below the line Spread above if your primary motivation for going back to school is because you feel that you don't have a clear career path in front of you.
There are dozens of ways that tarot can help guide your own career development, and hopefully one of these three spreads will spark some energy or creativity in your journey. Leave a comment below if you try one of these spreads, or if you incorporate tarot in your career planning in others ways.
Alex is the founder and primary spiritual navigator for Dead Reckoning Tarot. She has been working with tarot cards since she was an anxious and overeager teen, and now as an anxious and overeager adult enjoys finding ways to infuse the every day world with magic. You can book a tarot reading with Alex here.