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For down-to-earth career guidance, get out the cards!

As a career consultant, I meet people who feel they are standing at a fork in the road, seeking guidance on whether to turn right or left. Accept this job offer? Resign from a frustrating job? Return to school?

"I know the answer is within me," they say, "but how do I gain access to my inner wisdom?" Besides journaling and meditating, I often turn to tarot cards, using a simple, single-card method. As you shuffle a deck, ask your question. Avoid yes/no questions, encouraging phrases like, "What will happen if I . . ." Or just, "Give me an impression of outcome X."

"Tarot" by Miki Nilan


by Miki Nilan

Pull a single card. Often the image will speak to you immediately. You'll have a sense that your intuition has been personified in this single card. For instance, Marie had just completed interviews with two companies. She was also considering a return to graduate school for a new career altogether. Marie drew "Death" for both of her corporate options. She realizes that this card can signify a rebirth. However, as soon as Marie saw those cards, she felt her intuition was confirmed: "I sensed rejection all through the interview."

For her third option, a new career, Marie drew the Five of Cups. Typically the Five of Cups means "regret." Marie was confused - would she regret the decision to return to school? However, I suggested, this card might signify regret from not choosing this option. It could mean that she needed time to mourn her corporate career. Alternatively, it could mean that she would regret the decision initially, but would feel differently later.

I urged Marie to live with the decision and the card a little longer, gather more information, and use meditation and journaling to enhance her intuition. And, I suggested, she could draw another card later. In my own life, I have found that a two-card sequence corresponds loosely to a temporal sequence. Alas, the cards do not yield information about length of each sequence, but you know there's hope ahead.

Another client, Mike, was not familiar with tarot cards, which he associated with storefront crystal balls. Mike had been laid off from a lucrative managerial position, with a generous severance package. Mike drew the Three of Cups from a Rider-Waite deck. I encouraged him to study the image first, before turning to published interpretations. Mike spoke of three women who seemed to be proposing a toast. They appeared very focused on the cups and on each other. Mike felt drawn to the symbols of autumn and harvest: pumpkin, grapes, fruits, orange, and yellow colors.

Perhaps, Mike thought, he needed to harvest the fruits of his previous career. He could celebrate what he had stored up and use the fruits of the harvest for a new life. Mike had little interest in studying traditional meanings of this card because his own answer felt right to him.

Besides this method, I advocate the card-a-day method to track progress of a life transition. Keep a tarot card intuition journal. Write down the question, then draw and record your card. Later, you can track the effectiveness of tarot cards for your own life. You may learn new meanings: "I thought this card meant departure, but it really meant I was supposed to be waiting."

My Rider-Waite deck has become one of the most powerful tools in my career coaching. I encourage you to use your own cards to gather intuitive wisdom and enhance intuition as you enjoy career and life change.


Bio: Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, career coach, and speaker, who helps mid-career professionals move to career freedom. She has authored a book about relocation as a life transition (Making the Big Move, New Harbinger, 1999), as well as several e-books and articles that are available on her website. For her free monthly Career Freedom e-zine, send email to Her website is and email

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