One Door Closes, Another One Opens

How Career Pathways Adapt to Skill Change

Published on Aug 9, 2022

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Tim Hatton, Bledi Taska, Layla O'Kane & Julia Nitschke

Though a certain job title may stay the same, its required skills might be changing little by little over time—and those small changes make a big difference in how workers advance through their careers. 

According to Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce, a research report from Lightcast, The Burning Glass Institute, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the skills requested in the average US job have changed 37% since 2016, and one in five of these skills were entirely new to the occupation. 

Through use of a new analysis tool, the Skill Disruption Index, the report lists 680 standardized job titles, and measures how much each has changed over the past five years.

As the skills required for particular jobs change, so do the career pathways that define how workers advance and gain experience and seniority. Some career transitions that used to be natural fits might not be as easy anymore, because the skills needed for the two jobs are no longer aligned. 

But when shifting demand eliminates a natural progression from one job to another, it also opens up a new progression to a new job. One door might close, but another will open.

Here’s how that looks for a few selected occupations.

For Market Research Analysts, our data show that the skills of Marketing, Direct Marketing, Sales Goals, and Direct Mail are no longer among the top skills required. That leads to less overlap with the occupation of Marketing Manager, marking that transition as a closing pathway. On the other hand, new skills required for Market Research Analysts include Salesforce, Tableau, Google Analytics, and Microsoft Power BI, creating a new pathway because those skills are used by Business Intelligence Analysts. 

A Recruiter is less likely to need the skills of Technical Recruiting, Sales, Cold Calling, or Customer Contact, closing the pathway leading to the occupation of Sales Specialist. Recruiters have, however, added a career pathway to become a Social Media Strategist/Specialist, because both roles require Social Media, LinkedIn, and using Applicant Tracking Systems. 

Likewise, our analysis shows that a Marketing Specialist is less likely to need the skills of Sales, Brand Awareness Generation, or Event Planning. This closes the pathway to Event Planner, but opens up opportunities for Marketing Specialists to become Search Engine Optimization Specialists.

Finally, the pathway from Financial Quantitative Analyst to Computer Scientist is closing because the skills of UNIX, MATLAB, Stochastic Processes, and C++ are no longer required for the average Financial Quantitative Analyst job. However, since the role now requires Python, Machine Learning, SQL, Data Science, and Tableau, a pathway has opened up to become a Data Scientist.

What does this mean for workers and hiring? 

The implication is the same for both employers and candidates: if you’re looking for a job but not finding anything, rethink the next step in your career. Your skills might line up better with a different kind of job, increasing your odds of career advancement. 

Or if you’re not finding any workers for a position, you need to look beyond the talent pools you’ve used in the past and look instead at recruiting workers from an adjacent, similar position who are more likely to have the skills you need. 

In either case, skill change creates an opportunity and a competitive advantage for those who understand its potential. Knowing which occupations line up best with which skills is a competitive advantage for both employers and workers, and is itself a valuable tool to stay ahead of the curve in a dynamic labor market.

To learn more about the speed and impact of skill change, and to see a full list of all 680 jobs and their level of skill disruption, download a free copy of the Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce report below, and you can also learn more about the Lightcast data here.

Download the Shifting Skills report: