Many millennials and Gen Z were already turning to spiritual practices for guidance, reassurance and to help them make sense of the world before the pandemic. Now, thanks to COVID-19 uncertainty and the “unprecedented” (sorry) economic, social and political upheaval we’ve seen over the last year, the decade-long boom in astrology and other spiritual practices shows no sign of waning.
As we approach the first anniversary of the pandemic, spiritual business is booming. Google searches for “astrology” and “birth chart” both hit a five-year high in 2020, and many professional astrologers have reported a spike in interest in their services. For astrologers, tarot card readers, crystal business owners, healers and more, it couldn’t be a more fulfilling (and lucrative) time to be professionally spiritual.
Given that those of us who are not key workers or on the front line of the coronavirus crisis have had enforced time to reflect on our careers since last March, and many more have lost their jobs altogether, it’s not farfetched to assume that more women may take the leap into spiritual jobs.
According to those who already work in the industry, being able to align your career with your own spiritual practices and offer others support, connection and self-knowledge – while ignoring the inevitable sceptics and naysayers along the way – is a surefire route to career fulfilment. There’s also the autonomy that comes with being self-employed, which research shows correlates strongly with wellbeing and job satisfaction.
“Many astrologers will tell you that ‘astrology chose them’ and there’s something in that,” says astrologer Francesca Oddie, 36. Previously a business development manager at a pet insurance company, Francesca made the switch to full-time astrology gradually between 2017 and 2019 when she started feeling “disillusioned” by the professional world.
“The meetings I used to attend for work were farcical – no one had a clue, there was more ego than ideas in most rooms,” she reflects. Francesca, meanwhile, wanted to be enthralled by her job. “I believed all the inspirational quotes. I knew life could be enriched with a career that’s interesting, full of fascinating people, travel, joy, values and with the ability to give back – in the end I created it for myself.”
Francesca’s career fulfilment as a self-employed astrologer is now, she says, “incomparable” to her previous job. “It feeds my mind, soul, gives me purpose, earns me money and makes me buzz with excitement.” It helps that the last year has been particularly lucrative for her industry.
“I once heard an astrologer joke that astrology is recession-proof! People want to know when it’s going to get better.” During lockdown, “people are self-reflecting, wondering what they’re doing with their lives and no longer spending money on nights out but still keen to spend on experiences and enrich their lives,” Francesca believes.
I wasn’t always interested in spirituality but I’d been questioning my purpose, direction and sense of belonging for a very long time.
Olivia Iasonos, HUMAN DESIGN READER
Semra Haksever, 43, an “eclectic psycho spiritual witch” in London, was a fashion stylist and editor for 11 years before she surrendered to her spiritual calling. “I’ve always been a very spiritual person,” she says, remembering how she’d incorporate magic into her styling work by slipping artists crystals before they went on stage or by making them essential oil spells for self-confidence or heartache.
At a crossroads in her life after quitting styling, Semra “asked the universe for signs and was gifted with a vision that I should follow a magical path and make candles with magic spells in them,” she says. She now sells candles (£30), potions (£15) and more, and sees people one-to-one for spell sessions at her east London shop. “I get to be creative and do something that empowers people and brings magic to the world. I took a risk and believed in myself and am being rewarded.”
For Giselle La Pompe-Moore, 31, a spiritual guide and meditation teacher in east London, a career in spirituality was a calling to help others, rather than a conscious choice. A former magazine beauty coordinator, Giselle says she had her first clairvoyant experiences as a child and has been manifesting for 15 years. “Spirituality has always been a part of my life and helped me to navigate my career, love life and everything in between. But when I reached burnout and felt down about the direction my life was headed in, I knew there had to be another way.”
When a reiki course she took for fun led to a month of insomnia, “intense visions and dreams with a shouty message that this is what [she] was supposed to do with [her] life,” Giselle listened. She was in debt and “had about £20” in her bank account at the beginning; nowadays she holds one-to-one sessions, talks and workshops with clients all over the world.
It isn’t all love and light, however. “The responsibility to take care of others on an emotional, mental and spiritual level is real,” says Giselle. Plus, being self-employed, there’s all the admin, bookkeeping, training and management stuff to keep on top of, as well as the inner work and self-care that’s non-negotiable when showing up to support others. “But I do it on my terms, in a schedule that feels good to me and through work that makes me feel joy and purpose. Going to bed every night and knowing I did my best to listen to people and support them through their life experiences and changes means everything to me,” she adds.
For some, it is actually major life events that steer them towards a spiritual path. Olivia Iasonos, 32, was a lawyer until 2019 when the end of a toxic relationship spurred her on to quit her job and travel to Australia, New Zealand and Thailand for six months with money she’d saved while working. On her travels, she was introduced to Buddhism, meditation and astrology, and her interest in spirituality began.
Now a human design reader and certified coach in St Albans, Olivia says she is “120% fulfilled” in her career compared to the 20% she felt as a lawyer. “I wasn’t always interested in spirituality but I’d been questioning my purpose, direction and sense of belonging for a very long time,” she recalls.
Last year was busy for Olivia, too. “We were finally given time to slow down and question the status quo, to step off the treadmill for a moment and to check in with ourselves.” Many people reached out “who were questioning whether they were actually happy in their roles at work, wanting to get to know themselves better and what they could do to feel more fulfilled in their life.” Just like Olivia herself was doing a few years ago.
Often it’s not enough that the roles from which women flee to switch to spiritual careers are well paid, high status and/or socially respected. Jane Wood, 42, an intuitive energy coach from Nottingham, was a primary school teacher for 15 years before quitting last October.
“In many ways it was a ‘perfect’ job – I was successful, it was a lovely school with amazing children and only a few miles from my house. I had a stable income, career progression and a pension,” she admits. “But I couldn’t ignore my soul anymore.” Having worked part-time in the spiritual arena for five years, Jane made the leap to do it full-time and within a month of leaving the school, was making the same income in her new self-employed role.
Nowadays, work “doesn’t feel like a job” and Jane says she’s experienced an uptick in interest in her services because of the pandemic. “So many people have been forced to look within, to really sit with who they are. People are waking up and taking action on how they really want to live.”
Similarly, Sushma Sagar, author of Find Your Flow and founder of healing clinic The Calmery, quit a well-paid career as a marketing director at Kate Spade New York in 2017. Two year prior, she’d started thinking about her legacy. “I knew there was more to me than handbags.” With a lifelong passion for energy healing and a background in brands, Sushma realised she could help others. “I decided my mission would be introducing healing to the mainstream, rebranding it and making it less ‘weird’.”
I was on This Morning once and Phillip Schofield didn’t take [my work] seriously. But generally people are very open. It’s not my job to convince anyone.
Semra Haksever, eclectic psycho spiritual witch
Despite the difficulties that come with working alone (the lack of structure and need for self-discpline, in particular), Sushma says: “Knowing I’m transforming people’s lives is more fulfilling than anything I’ve ever done and it makes up for any difficulties I’ve faced. I have never felt happier or more ‘me’ than I do now.”
For Jill Urwin, 38, a fashion buyer for 10 years, the process of “finding meaning and a higher purpose” happened in 2013 when she switched careers. Today, she is the creative director and founder of She’s Lost Control, a “conscious lifestyle store for modern soul seekers” and crystal business in east London.
“I’d always been fascinated by crystals but felt like I didn’t fit in with the New Age world,” Jill says. Yet the more she adopted alternative wellness practices to destress from her demanding fashion career, the more she realised she wanted to create a “modern and accessible” space and community for other burned out Londoners.
Like the others, the last year has been busy for the business as people have “paused and looked inward,” Jill says. “The best part of my current career is feeling like there’s a higher purpose to my work. We focus on transforming lives, minds and industries, from the miners who mine our crystals and the farmers who harvest our herbs, through to the incredible community of followers who attend our wellness events and visit our spaces.” These days, Jill says she’s “able to adopt a more mindful approach” during times of work stress.
As with starting any business or launching into any new industry, there’s financial risk involved in switching to a spiritual career. Often, it’s only possible if you have savings or another financial security net to fall back on, or are willing to take on personal debt.
Semra says she “lived hand to mouth”, selling stuff online and at car boot sales, working a part-time receptionist job and moving in with her mum to support herself in the beginning. Meanwhile Giselle and Jill both had to continue working on a freelance basis – as a writer and fashion consultant, respectively – to get by.
To others contemplating a spiritual career, Sushma, who had savings from her previous well-paid job before she made the leap, advises: “Make sure you have four to six months’ worth of savings in place while you get your business going. Things will take longer than you think and be more expensive than you think. If you’re panicking about how to pay bills every night, it will kill your creativity and enthusiasm for your business.”
A spiritual career may have many perks but you also need to learn to deal with the sceptics and naysayers. Semra’s strategy? “I ask them to give me a strand of their hair! That usually shuts them up,” she laughs. “I was on This Morning once and Phillip Schofield didn’t take [my work] seriously. But generally people are very open. It’s not my job to convince anyone.”
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