Reviewed by Garry Phillipson
Using Astrology to Create a Vocational Profile – Finding the Right Career Direction
by Faye Cossar
Flare Publications in conjunction with the London School of Astrology, ISBN 978-1-903353-20-2, 262 pages.
This book presents the approach to astrologically-informed career counselling that Faye has developed over more than ten years. It was influenced at the outset by her work alongside career counsellors, and she has subsequently developed it through her work with clients. The central thread of the book is the vocational profile (VP), also known as a personal career profile (PCP). The PCP is a document which an individual creates for themselves, with input from a counsellor or astrologer. It is aimed at answering three questions:
‘Who am I?
What can I do?
What do I want?’ (p.11)
Faye refers specifically to a self-help book by Gerald Sturman, If You Knew Who You Were, You Could Be Who You Are, as a source for the PCP (p.11). While we’re wading through acronyms, Faye also touches on a form of personality profiling popular in business, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which it can be useful for an astrologer working in this area to know about. This is partly – Faye writes – because an MBTI profile can serve as a starting point for discussion with a client, and partly because the MBTI’s roots in astrology ‘gives astrology a little more “street-cred”.’ (p.92)
The book describes a way of working with career issues that brings together the power of astrology and contemporary counselling protocols. This is a potent fusion and it makes this volume a must-have for anyone involved with career work. So far as astrologers are concerned, it is a commonplace that the search for fulfilling and meaningful work will be the first or second most pressing concern of most every client. The approach that Faye presents here has two specific advantages: it equips the astrologer to address career issues with a style that dovetails into contemporary expectations and practice (as she says, ‘we need to market our services better’ – p.25); and, it presents a way for the astrologer to work which involves the client doing a good share of the work, and which should therefore be vivifying and affirming for them.
The last point is worth dwelling on. Faye repeatedly asserts that ‘ASTROLOGERS DO TOO MUCH WORK FOR THEIR CLIENTS!’ (p.10; cf p.25, p.27). In her approach, ‘the client does all the writing, note-taking, research and anything else required’ (p.10). Also, wherever possible, the client kicks things off by writing an autobiographical sketch which the astrologer can evaluate before the first session. One such from Faye’s client ‘Jackie’, who serves as a sample case throughout the book, can be found at pp.28 – 32, along with her CV (pp. 33-5). I think Faye is absolutely right that it is in the interests of all concerned for astrological clients to do more work than is often the case. The least productive astrological sessions, in my experience, are those where the client comes in with a poker face, intent on seeing how much the astrologer can figure out unaided; whilst the most useful are those where it becomes a co-operative venture between astrologer and client.
The style of astrology that Faye uses is modern, with the principal influences being Sue Tompkins (who writes the Foreword), Bruno and Louise Huber, and Liz Greene. As a rough and ready indicator of its modernity, there is more discussion of Ceres than of planetary dignity, for instance. I found many points of astrological interpretation in the book where my astrological background would have seen me look at different factors. I didn’t find this to be a problem, though. Faye makes the point repeatedly (e.g. pp.35, 45, 52) that she isn’t insisting on her technical approach to horoscopy as the one and only, and that any set of astrological techniques can be used with the career work that is the book’s primary focus. Faye shows that she is aware of and has evaluated a range of approaches, and uses what she has found to work for her – for instance she acknowledges that many astrologers do not use out-of-sign aspects, but says that in her experience they are ‘extremely accurate and useful’ (p.64). I think this pragmatic evaluation of what works and what does not in one’s own experience is as much as we can ask of any astrologer, and Faye’s lack of dogmatism regarding technique is refreshing.
It is an interesting feature of the book that the entire chart is considered as indicative of the ideal career path. The basis for this is set out in Sue Tompkins’ Foreword: ‘whatever the individual does with him- or herself all day – even if it’s unpaid or not traditionally called a job – it should connect as many aspects of the individual’s psyche as possible’ (p.8). Transits and progressions are mentioned as potentially relevant but of secondary importance (p.13) – the focus of the book being to uncover the client’s fundamental vocation, or calling, through the natal chart. As might be expected given the focus on modern astrology, the potential for horary work on career issues is not discussed.
There is a strongly idealistic orientation to Faye’s approach, in the sense that a person’s mental orientation is taken to define the world they live in. This being the case, ‘Work should be enjoyable’ (p.113), and to question whether something one enjoys can provide an adequate income is one of several excuses with which we can sabotage our prospects of fulfilment (p.141). Further, ‘if we truly love something, we will be good at it’ (p.113). To my mind, these perspectives can be extremely valuable, but they form part of the true picture, not its entirety. Thus for example I would have liked to see more discussion of the plight of someone trapped in work they dislike by the need to support their family. Again, I would argue that loving something does not guarantee skill at that thing – and would cite the vocal skills on display in any number of X-Factor auditions to support my case. I should however add two caveats here. The first is that my chart features a strong Venus-Saturn contact, and Faye’s description of that combo includes a possible attitude of ‘work is work, it’s not supposed to be fun’. So she could reasonably argue that my attitude actually vindicates both her astrology and her philosophical approach. The second, more important, caveat is that it surely has to be right for both client and astrologer to aspire to find a career that can be loved. If negotiation with harsh reality is needed, that in no way invalidates the aspiration towards the best job in the best of all possible worlds that is the focus in Faye’s book.
Although readers of the book will feel as if they have got to know ‘Jackie’ – who features as Faye’s case-study – quite well, we hear little of what happens to her beyond the fact that she quit her job in TV production (p.227). Faye has heard more from Jackie since the book went to press and (with the permission of both) I would like to share some of her feedback – partly because it will be of interest to every reader of the book, and also because it illustrates the book’s emphasis on finding work that is enjoyable:
…recently I’ve been thinking about how much our sessions influenced the way life is today, and for the good!
As you know, I left UPC in Sep 2011. I applied to many different ‘dream’ jobs, things that sparked my interest in fields new to me but all were full-time jobs working in offices. I didn’t have any luck in that arena but now I see it was for the best.
I’ve been doing acting gigs, improv acting for corporations and high schools, teaching improv workshops, stand-up comedy, hosting travellers via AirBnB, holiday cover for my friend’s touring company, babysitting, oh, and I’ve just picked up a 1-day-a-week, work-at-home gig with UPC NL!
I’m not rolling in dough but I am super happy with my days. I’ve got my fingers in different pots to satisfy my varied interests, there’s a lot of movement, I don’t feel stuck to any one thing. I realized I don’t want an office job ever again. I probably knew that already but this year has given me the proof I can actually do it. I’m much more upfront and outspoken…
In conclusion, I recommend this book to any astrologer whose clients have career problems – in other words, every working astrologer. Even if we leave aside the insights into career issues here (they are substantial and we should not), Faye Cossar provides a most useful insight into the ways in which a counselling approach can be dovetailed with astrology. The style is lively, thoughtful and undogmatic, and Faye’s use of contemporary figures (e.g. Julian Assange, pp.53-4) helps to emphasise the book’s relevance to contemporary life. Definitely recommended.