Charting Your Next Career Move With Data From LinkedIn

December 8, 2014

LinkedIn members often list multiple positions in the experience section of their profile, and in some cases, their current position is in a different career or industry than the one previously held. Last month, we had 60+ Influencers chime in on pivotal moments in their lives that transformed their career paths. What became clear was the likelihood of change and transition that occurs during a person’s career as they continue down their professional path.

Making a career change can be one of the more difficult professional challenges we face. In many cases, our networks help us make these decisions. We often seek the help of friends, colleagues, and mentors to provide guidance (and often times give us a boost in confidence) in our careers. Our networks can also help provide insight on potential career paths and put us in touch with the relevant knowledge to decide which career path to take or when to make a career transition. For instance, if I’m currently focused on a career in data analytics, is there a path for me to work in software development?

To help those of you looking to make a career transition, we mined the data found in millions of LinkedIn member profiles, isolated instances where members made career jumps, and put together an interactive graph that shows the most common transitions that occur between careers. With this information, you can see what transitions are possible for your career, and perhaps find the right person to talk to in your network to get some advice.

The result is a snapshot of today’s professional ecosystem, which can be found here: Each dot represents a career, and the lines connecting the dots represent career transitions. You can select a career from the dropdown menu to see the most common transitions that members in that industry have made.


Admittedly, there is a lot going on, so I’ll take a moment to provide an explanation. First, careers that experience a high degree of overlap in their transitions are grouped together and assigned the same color. This is often, but not always, related to a particular business function (e.g. sales, marketing, finance, etc.). Second, the size of the dot represents the number of distinct careers that transition into it. (More on this later...) Finally, the thickness of the lines represent the number of members who have made that particular transition. The thinnest lines indicate transitions of only a few hundred members, while the thickest lines indicate tens of thousands of members.

That being said, a few trends come to light:

  • Sales is the most common career transition. Because nearly every business requires a sales function, there are many instances of members transitioning into sales from a wide variety of careers. As such, ‘salesperson’ is the largest dot on our graph. The same is true for careers like project managers and marketing specialists.
  • Be all that you can be. Members who were in the ‘soldier / military officer’ career category experienced the most distinct career transitions, becoming police officers, business owners, corporate strategists, and more. Other careers that offer a lot of transition opportunities include ‘community outreach coordinator’ and ‘program analyst.’
  • The specialist’s dilemma. What do web developers, paralegals, and physicians have in common? All of them transition to only one career on our graph (software engineers, lawyers, and university professors, respectively). This is a classic sign of specialization. But that’s not to say careers in tech, law, and medicine aren’t valuable. After all, they are generally in demand.

As we continue to develop the Economic Graph, a digital representation of the global economy, we’ll be able to build a global map of supply and demand for every skill on LinkedIn, and in the process, help members find opportunities, whether jobs or new clients for their business.

If you're interested in exploring the top three most common job transitions by job function, check out the Wall Street Journal article, Oh, the Places You'll Go! (Or Not.).

Methodological details: The results of this analysis represent the world seen through the lens of LinkedIn data. As such, it is influenced by how members choose to use the site, which can vary based on professional, social, and regional culture, as well as overall site availability and accessibility. These variances were not accounted for in the analysis.

We grouped the millions of unique, user-defined job titles found in the experience section of LinkedIn member profiles (including non-English profiles) into roughly 300 career categories. For example, the “flight crew” career includes titles like “flight instructor” and “airline pilot.”

From there, we looked for instances where a member’s current career category is different than the career category in the position immediately preceding it. Members who hold multiple current careers or indicated multiple career transitions were excluded from our analysis. Finally, the most common transitions for each career were isolated and displayed in the graph above. A clustering algorithm was utilized to color and position the career dots, based on their degree of overlapping transitions.

Interactive graph created by Skye Riley.