Correlations Between Career Development Theories
and Principles of Vocational Astrology
by Janice Ladnier
Of the many existing career development theories, no one of them alone can explain all of the factors that contribute to a person’s career decision-making process. Similarly, in vocational astrology no one part of a birth chart alone can explain why a person would be happier and more successful in one career than in another. A more eclectic approach, which combines the most useful parts of several theories, is usually most effective in both cases.
Psychological and Astrological Terminology
Vocational counselors and vocational astrologers work with the same concepts and theories, but they use very different vocabularies. To astrologers, a person’s Sun sign indicates their aptitudes, abilities and self-concept; the Ascendant, their outer persona; the Moon, their emotional needs; Mercury, their communication style and intellectual interests; Venus and the Second House, their values and their ability to attract what they value; Mars, their initiative, competitive spirit and drive; Jupiter, their sense of confidence and reward; Saturn, their need for advancement and security; the Sixth House, their need to serve others; and the Midheaven and the Tenth House (both ruled by Saturn) indicates their vocation, or true calling, which determines their role in society. In considering the significance of houses (such as the Second, Sixth and Tenth Houses as described above), astrologers examine the following: any planets in that house, the sign on the house cusp, the planet in the chart which rules that sign, as well as the house and sign in which that ruling planet is located. All of these factors contribute something unique to a comprehensive understanding of the client’s career orientation (Abergel, 1999; Binder, 1988; Clement, 1999; Tyl, 1998).
Despite the difference in terminology, astrologers also have their own developmental theories. Astrologer Noel Tyl (1998) summarizes some of the developmental issues, which are associated with the Midheaven in a person’s chart throughout the life cycle:
[W]hat do my parents expect of me when I grow up; what appeals to me on television and in my books; what do I like to imitate, play act, pretend to be; who is my role model; what emerges in my imagination as I see myself and get to know who I am; where am I fitting in best at school; what parts of me seem to be successful with others; what do my teachers think I should be; … what do I really want to do with myself; where should I try first; … how do I like what I’m doing; did I make a mistake; how can I get on the right track; what do I want out of life anyway; how can I pay my bills; what will I be able to do to help my child grow up better than I did; is all of this going to hold me back? (pp. 475-476)
The terms “aptitudes,” “needs,” “values,” “security” and “role in society,” regularly appear in discussions regarding current career development theories. The concept of exploring career choices first through childhood play or through imitation of role models is also a major component of several theories, including those of L.S. Gottfredson and Donald Super. “Fitting in best at school” and “what parts of me seem to be successful with others” are questions connected with the social cognitive career theory and its expectation of positive outcome, as well as Krumboltz’s learning theory. “What do I really want to do with myself” is a question reminiscent of both Gottfredson’s and Super’s theories of how the career must allow expression of a person’s self-concept (as cited in Sharf, 1997). Whether they know it or not, vocational astrologers and occupational counselors are using different terminology to describe the same stages of development and the same factors to be considered when making career choices.
Correlations Between Existing Theories and Vocational Astrology
In addition to the general connections described above, there are many correlations between specific career development theories and the principles of vocational astrology. Following is a brief analysis of several of these theories and their correlation with traditional guidelines for vocational astrology:
Trait and Factor Theory
For the first half of the twentieth century, Frank Parsons’ trait-and-factor theory was the most prominent approach used in vocational psychology. Parsons’ methods sought to match people with their best career by examining the fit between a person’s abilities and the demands of the job. Parson’s theory was criticized because it did not account for such things as the client’s interests, values, and personality characteristics (as cited in Patton & McMahon, 1999). In vocational astrology, Parsons’ trait-and-factor approach would be similar to finding your best career using only your Sun sign (representing aptitudes and capabilities). This approach can produce superficial results at best, and misleading results at worst. Astrologer Rupert Sewell (1985) compared it to taking a personality test in a popular magazine instead of having individual testing done by psychologists.
Many astrologers who have studied vocational astrology (Binder, 1988; Clement, 1999; Gauquelin, 1973, 1980; Gauquelin, 1982; Tyl, 1998) agree with Holland’s (1973) theory that the “choice of a vocation is an expression of personality” (p. 6). The first psychologists to reach this conclusion using birth charts in statistical research were Michel and Francoise Gauquelin. The Gauquelins first discovered in their research in Paris in the early 1950s that Saturn and Mars appeared more often in certain key areas of the charts of doctors and scientists, namely, the Ascendant and Twelfth House and the Midheaven and Ninth House. Jupiter frequented these key areas in the charts of extraverted actors, musicians and artists, where Saturn was conspicuously absent. Mars was often found in these areas in the charts of sports champions, but not in the charts of ordinary sportsmen (Gauquelin 1973). After decades of research, Michel Gauquelin (1980) concluded that: “The position of Mars gives us a clue not so much to a person’s profession but rather to their personality. The planet is related to profession only because the profession you succeed at reflects your personality” (p. 19). They found strong correlations between certain personality traits (and therefore certain careers) and the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Gauquelin, 1973, 1980; Gauquelin, 1982). Although skeptics in the scientific community vigorously attacked their research, the Gauquelins’ findings on correlations between planets and personality traits remain the most convincing from a statistical perspective (Ertel & Irving, 1996).
Holland’s theory of personality types (1973) can be compared to the standard astrological method of analyzing the four elements in a person’s chart. His six types include: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. In traditional astrology, the following meanings are assigned: Earth signs (realistic and conventional types) are practical, down to earth and common-sensed; Air signs are intellectually driven (investigative type); Fire signs are driven by enthusiasm, desire and faith (artistic and enterprising types); and Water signs are emotional, sensitive and emotionally driven (social type) (Binder, 1986; see also Clement, 1999). This elemental system is also applicable to Jung’s personality types, in which air, water, fire and earth have been associated with thinking, feeling, intuitive and sensing types, respectively (Jung, 1974). The Myers-Briggs Test, which is based upon these Jungian classifications, has also been used in career counseling (as cited in Sharf, 1997).
Dawis & Lofquist’s theory of work adjustment outlines four basic psychological concepts which share many commonalities with principles of vocational astrology: (1) ability (indicated by Sun and Mars); (2) reinforcement value (Jupiter’s sense of reward); (3) satisfaction, or an individual’s pleasure with the environment (indicated by Moon and Venus); and (4) person-environment correspondence, which leads to stability and tenure (Saturn’s sense of recognition and accomplishment) (as cited in Patton & McMahon, 1999). The Minnesota Importance Questionnaire was based upon the work adjustment theory and includes such values as: achievement (Jupiter), comfort (self-expression, as indicated by the Sun), status (Saturn), altruism (Venus), safety (Moon) and autonomy (Mars) (as cited in Sharf, 1997).
The systems theory framework (STF) of career development set forth by Patton and McMahon (1999) emphasizes two important components of career theory: content and process. Content focuses on variables applicable to the individual and his or her context; process examines the interaction between the individual and the contextual system, and it includes changes made over time. The STF approach recognizes that human development and growth is a very complex process, and it also utilizes other career theories when they seem appropriate. In this way, emphasis is placed on the individual rather than on any particular theory. The STF theory of career development is very analogous to the approach used by vocational astrologers. “Content” can be compared to a person’s birth chart, and the personality traits and aptitudes it describes. “Process” is similar to using planetary transits and progressions to track cyclical patterns in a person’s career, including interactions with the contextual system and discontinuous changes experienced throughout the life cycle. Like systems theorists, vocational astrologers emphasize that no part of the chart (or the system) exists in isolation. Astrology is a recursive system, because every part of the chart influences and facilitates change in every other part.
Advantages of Vocational Astrology
There are many advantages of integrating traditional occupational counseling with vocational astrology. Several of these advantages are described more fully below:
and Personality Testing
In one of his books, astrologer Rupert Sewell described several incidents in which clients took exhaustive psychological tests just before or after he had interpreted their birth charts with an emphasis on vocational astrology. He was not surprised to find that the test results confirmed everything he had seen in the clients’ charts. He also pointed out that the barrage of psychological tests took two days to complete, while the chart interpretation took only an hour (Sewell, 1985). Another advantage of using birth charts to determine a client’s personality type, career aptitudes, needs and values is that there is no need to rely on the client’s subjective answers to a questionnaire as absolute fact. After describing his four personality types, Jung commented that assessment tests taken by the client were very unreliable because he believed it is impossible for a person to be subjective about himself or herself (Jung, 1974). Using a client’s birth chart allows the counselor to obtain a more objective assessment of their personality type and other factors that contribute to making a successful career choice and achieving job satisfaction.
of Client’s Reality
Birth charts reveal at least some amount of contradictory energies within each person. By acknowledging and accepting the existence of this inner conflict, the counselor can help to validate the client’s feelings and reassure them that it is normal for them, according to their chart. This can give the client permission to be who they are, and to be feeling what they are feeling at the time. Many people have remarked to me during astrological consultations: “Wow! You mean I’m not crazy? I’m right where I’m supposed to be?” It seems to help clients to suspend judgment against themselves and to avoid feeling guilty that they haven’t already “gotten their lives together.” Also, it can be very liberating for the client to discover that their birth chart indicates they have a natural talent and passion for their dream vocation. This can be especially true if they have not received the support they needed from their family to feel safe enough to pursue their dream. Vocational astrology can also focus on improving the client’s weakest areas, such as poor communication skills (indicated by Mercury).
Occupational counselors and astrologers both recognize that career development is an ongoing process that changes throughout the life span. Astrologers follow the cycles indicated by planetary transits and progressions to identify times of stress as well as opportunity in a person’s career (Clement, 1999; Rodden, 1994; Townley, 1997; Tyl, 1998). By following these cycles, a vocational astrologer can help the client to focus on “windows of opportunity” and to time the mailing of resumes and the scheduling of interviews accordingly. The client learns that there are some times when it will be easier than others to make a good impression and get the job he or she wants. By monitoring the astrological cycles of growth and integration, clients can get the best results possible by timing their actions to coincide with their own personal cycles. Instead of judging themselves harshly during the more difficult times in their career cycle, they can use the time to prepare for upcoming times of opportunity. Once again, this removes the heavy burden of guilt when they find they are unable to get a job right away and are asking themselves “what’s wrong with me?” After a long, fruitless struggle, it can also be helpful for the client to learn that his or her chances are about to improve. Developing an awareness of these cycles can help the client understand and take advantage of lessons being offered through the difficulties they are experiencing.
Although psychology and astrology use different terminology to describe similar concepts, they can be harmoniously combined to take advantage of the best both has to offer the client. Although no single psychological or astrological theory can explain all aspects of career development, an eclectic approach that draws upon many theories can be extremely effective. Using a systems theory approach to career development offers the greatest promise for drawing upon the most useful parts of existing career theories, including vocational astrology.
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