Guide to Career Pathways for Employers

Guide to Career Pathways for Employers 700 367 Morris County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

Guide to Career Pathways for Employers


Given today’s dynamic business landscape and labor market, few workers stay with the same company for their entire careers or move up traditional corporate ladders. In fact, research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average U.S. adult holds 12 jobs in their lifetime. At the same time, business priorities and in-demand skills continue to shift, presenting challenges with how organizations, schools, and communities source talent and connect workers with jobs.

Rather than focusing exclusively on conventional career paths and promotions, career pathways can help employers expand talent pipelines and empower workers to unlock new advancement opportunities.

What is a Career Pathway?

career pathway is a plan or roadmap that uses skills data to enable employers to find talent, develop their existing workforce, and connect employees with the right jobs. Relevant skills data shows employers how workers can successfully advance to new roles.

Some career pathways are traditional, or linear, such as a human resources specialist being promoted into a management role and eventually building the right skills and gaining experience to grow into a chief human resources officer (CHRO) position.

Effective career pathways also take a broader view of the job market to identify adjacent or overlapping skills across industries and occupations. LinkedIn research from 2023 found that 80% of people who started a new job in the prior 12 months were from a different occupation, many of whom came from entirely different departments or functions. As an example, an event planner may possess organizational, budgeting, and communication skills that align well with a marketing assistant or project manager role.

A few notable people who have had non-traditional career paths include:

  • Ina Garten: The renowned cooking show host and cookbook author started her career as a government aide and was eventually promoted into a nuclear energy policy budget analyst. At the age of 30, Garten bought the Barefoot Contessa grocery store, which she ran for 18 years before selling it to try her hand at cookbook writing. She became a best-selling author at 51 and her book sales led to a show on Food Network.
  • Anjali Sud: The CEO of streaming platform Tubi, Sud had a unique career path before being named to her first CEO position at Vimeo when she was 33. She initially wanted to be an investment banker and was rejected by every major firm. She later went on to hold roles as a toy buyer and selling diapers online before joining the marketing team at Vimeo, where she would eventually become CEO.
  • Mark Cuban: Billionaire business mogul Mark Cuban had an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age and started selling garbage bags at the age of 12 to save money for a pair of sneakers. After college, he briefly worked at a bank in his hometown of Pittsburgh before moving to Dallas to found his first company, MicroSolutions, which he eventually sold for $6 million. He later founded, which he sold to Yahoo for stock, officially making Cuban a billionaire. He’s continued his successful business career over the years and is also a part owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a host of the TV show Shark Tank.

Research from the World Economic Forum found that technological change will disrupt two-fifths of workers’ core skills by 2027 and half of workers’ core skills will need to be updated every five years. By leveraging skills data to develop career pathways, employers can also identify training, career development, and additional resources to close skills gaps and help workers successfully transition to new roles.

Benefits of Career Pathways for Employers

Embracing career pathways that go beyond traditional corporate ladders helps businesses create more agile workforces and support workers in reaching their full potential.

The benefits include:

  • Access to Broader Talent Pools – By using career pathways, you can expand your talent pool to include workers with adjacent skills, rather than only considering those with a job history or educational background that directly aligns with each role. Your expanded talent pool can include both external candidates, as well as existing employees at your company who have the right skills but would otherwise be overlooked because they’re in a different role or department.
  • Strengthened Employer Branding – By supporting professional growth and development opportunities and promoting your skills-based hiring and quality career pathways, you can strengthen your employer brand. This can help you attract motivated job seekers who are eager to reach the next level in their careers.
  • Increased Employee Productivity and Retention – Matching talent with the right roles based on their skills and providing opportunities for career development and upskilling demonstrates your organization’s commitment to employee growth. This fosters a culture of learning and development, leading to increased employee productivity and retention. According to a survey from Deloitte, skills-based organizations are 107% more likely to place talent effectively and 98% more likely to retain high performers.
  • Improved Workforce Agility – A proactive, skills-based approach to finding and developing talent considers emerging skills and workforce trends across industries. Organizations that continually identify the most important skills to support individual roles and strategic business objectives, and evolve as in-demand skills shift, are more likely to remain agile amid times of disruption. The Deloitte survey cited above also found that skills-based organizations are 57% more likely to anticipate and respond to change.  

Career Pathways in Higher Education

Higher education institutions strive to prepare students and alumni for successful careers. Designing academic programs to align with the latest job market trends and in-demand skills is critical to driving value for today’s learners.

About half of college graduates have jobs that don’t use their degrees. By understanding career pathways, higher education institutions can take in-demand skills into consideration to more effectively design curricula, launch new degrees and courses, and guide students to select majors or courses that prepare them for growing industries and occupations.

Higher education institutions can also analyze alumni career pathways and outcomes based on college, department, major, and other factors to identify ways to drive improved career outcomes for graduates. As a result, this can help increase enrollment and retention by sharing alumni career success stories.

Career Pathways in Community Development

Community workforce development leaders can embrace career pathways to find workers with the right skills for open jobs in the region and identify the best jobs, training, and development opportunities for workers in their region. For example, if a manufacturing plant in your region closes and dozens of local workers lose their jobs, you can use career pathways and skills data to find displaced workers jobs that require adjacent skills. You can also identify any education or training programs that may be necessary to help workers in your region succeed in new roles with adjacent skills.

From a talent acquisition perspective, you can also use career pathways to target your recruitment efforts for open roles in your region to workers with relevant skills who you may not have previously considered.

Article courtesy of Lightcast.