Will AI Trip Up Career Shifts?

One in four people wants to switch careers by the end of year. Why ChatGPT may stand in their way.

At first, Jim wasn’t too concerned about being laid off from his engineering job at a major tech firm. He’d been thinking about leaving the industry anyway, and figured engineers were in demand at lots of other companies. What he quickly discovered, however, was that his skills weren’t as in demand as he thought—thanks to ChatGPT. 

Only two years ago, amid the pandemic, people were switching careers at a record pace, with companies paying handsome premiums to scoop up talent with needed skills. Now, however, as companies ramp up their use of generative AI, people—even tech workers—may find it much more difficult to change careers. In the banking industry, for instance, the war for tech talent has cooled off significantly, in part because AI can handle many of the software development and coding tasks engineers were being hired to do. Bradford Frank, a senior client partner in the Global Technology practice at Korn Ferry, says AI’s ability to reduce demand for certain skills could “limit talent mobility across industries.” 

While much of the conversation around AI centers on whether it will enhance or replace jobs, the impact on talent mobility could end up being an even bigger concern for leaders. Moving laterally between industries, or horizontally to a different function within the same industry, has benefits for both employees and employers, say experts. For employees, lateral moves can help open new career paths and provide advancement opportunities. For employers, career switchers bring valued and needed skills as well as an outside perspective. 

That dynamic was never more evident than during the pandemic, when roughly 20% of workers switched careers. But David Ellis, vice president of global TA transformation at Korn Ferry, says AI has made companies less bullish about hiring from outside the industry and that they are “tightening up requirements again.” That means that the one in four workers planning to switch careers by the end of this year is likely to face a higher bar than their colleagues formerly did, say experts. 

Still, experts believe AI will ultimately lead to more mobility for talent—not less—as companies sort through how to marry humans with the technology. “While AI will alleviate some pressure, the need for transferrable skills remains highly relevant,” says Tanyth Lloyd, global vice president for technology and transformation in the Recruitment Process Outsourcing practice at Korn Ferry. Those include hard skills like coding as well as soft skills like risk management, decision-making, agility, and adaptability. 

Frank also notes that AI-powered platforms, combined with remote work, can enable professionals to connect with job opportunities by breaking down geographical barriers and expanding mobility. Moreover, Ellis says AI can improve opportunities for talent to reskill, upskill, and forge new career paths internally. “Talent will have some doors to mobility closed because of AI,” he says, “but other doors with new opportunities will open as well.”


Learn more about Korn Ferry’s Workforce Transformation capabilities.