How AI can help choose your next career and stay ahead of automation

The typical Australian will change careers five to seven times during their professional lifetime, by some estimates. And this is likely to increase as new technologies automate labor, production is moved abroad, and economic crises unfold.

Jobs disappearing is not a new phenomenon – have you seen an elevator operator recently? – but the pace of change is picking up, threatening to leave large numbers of workers unemployed and unemployable.

New technologies also create new jobs, but the skills they require do not always match the old jobs. Successfully moving between jobs requires making the most of your current skills and acquiring new ones, but these transitions can falter if the gap between old and new skills is too large.

We have built a system to recommend career transitions, using machine learning to analyze more than 8 million online job ads to see what moves are likely to be successful. The details are published in PLOS ONE.

Our system starts by measuring similarities between the skills required by each occupation. For example, an accountant could become a financial analyst because the required skills are similar, but a speech therapist might find it harder to become a financial analyst as the skill sets are quite different.

Next, we looked at a large set of real-world career transitions to see which way around these transitions usually go: accountants are more likely to become financial analysts than vice versa.

Finally, our system can recommend a career change that’s likely to succeed – and tell you what skills you may need to make it work.

Measure the similarity of occupations

Our system uses a measure economists call “revealed comparative advantage” (RCA) to identify how important an individual skill is to a job, using online job ads from 2018. The map below visualizes the similarity of the top 500 skills. Each marker represents an individual skill, colored according to one of 13 clusters of highly similar skills.