The tide is turning in the job market. The historic levels of job-hopping and quitting we saw during the “Great Reshuffle” have subsided as more professionals stay put in their roles for longer in a moment many are now dubbing “the Big Stay.”
LinkedIn’s own data shows the rate of people staying in roles for less than a year has sharply declined, down nearly 30% compared to last year as of this spring. And our latest hiring numbers in the U.S. show roughly one job opening for every two applicants.
Today, when I talk to students looking to enter the workforce or professionals considering career progression, there is a growing sense of stagnation.
And when I talk to companies, they also feel their hands are tied. It’s hard to encourage more internal mobility when there simply aren’t as many internal job vacancies.
But a cooler hiring environment doesn’t need to be a time when your career stalls. One of Sun Tzu’s primary principles in the Art of the War is, "Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.” It’s now when the job-hopping frenzy has slowed down that you can take a moment to clarify your career goals, learn new skills you need to land your future dream job, and explore ways to make meaningful career moves without moving jobs.
Start with aligning your career goals with your aspirations
I recently had a mentoring conversation with a young Asian-American woman, let’s call her Jo. Jo is a super smart, Harvard Ph.D. Psychology undergrad. She’s frustrated that there aren’t many career paths for Psychology majors, or at least none that inspire her.
Instead of going down the list of conventional jobs for her background such as consulting, human resources analyst roles, and so on, we spoke a lot more about what kind of person she wants to be (helping others develop healthy relationships), what type of work environment and lifestyle she would like to have (fast-paced, dynamic, inclusive), and which skills she is most interested in learning (design thinking, A.I., digital marketing). Starting at this higher level of “who do you want to be” led her down a vastly different path than if we had jumped into job titles.
For most employees, making a career transformation a reality at their current company requires having this type of open and honest relationship with your manager, and finding other advocates internally who can help you spot opportunities for learning and growth based on your aspirations.
Many well-intentioned career planning conversations can easily go off course because both employees and managers confuse ambition with aspiration. They center the conversation primarily around “How do I get promoted?"
Ambition is defined by tangible outcomes that could be accomplished in the short-to-medium term such as title, job level, or salary. Aspirations are about who you see yourself becoming and how it allows you to have a gratifying career over a long period of time.
Having the right type of aspirational career conversation and defining your career goals upfront can help you and your manager figure out ways to build toward your ideal outcome. This exercise can also help create a north star that guides what skills you choose to invest in and what new projects you take on. We know that learners who set clear career goals are more likely to stay the course when it comes to their skill-building. At LinkedIn, we found that learners who set career intent goals are more deeply engaged with skill-building on our learning platform.
Focus on the core skills you need for the next phase of your career
Growing up in China, both my parents were strict about investing in continuous learning, especially my dad who had to leave high school at 16 and work in a restaurant to support his siblings. “Learning is just like sailing against the current; if you don't advance, you will be driven back,” they often said.
Today, the skills you need to do your job are changing on you even if you’re not changing jobs. LinkedIn data shows skillsets for jobs on average have changed by 25% since 2015. If you find yourself eyeing a career change but aren’t in a position to make a jump just yet, taking stock of the skills you have today and the skills you’ll need for your dream job tomorrow can set you up for success in the long run.
The most in-demand skills across all job posts today include things like management and leadership skills, communication skills, and project management skills. These are highly transferable skills that you can take with you from job to job. There’s also always continued demand and interest in new and emerging tech skills. For instance, the share of job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT or ChatGPT has increased by 21X since November 2022, as all employers increasingly expect teams to have a basic understanding of generative A.I. tools.
Don’t overlook the opportunities hiding in plain sight at your company
Opportunities are often hiding in plain sight. Many people I’ve mentored, especially those new to the workforce, ignore opportunities that are right in front of them at their current company. LinkedIn research has shown that when employees want to switch things up in their careers, they are more likely to consider leaving their company than to look for an internal move.
If the right internal role pops up, it can be the best of both worlds–you already have deep relationships at the company and an understanding of the business priorities, but are able to flex new skills and explore a different side of the company to broaden your experience. We’re increasingly seeing employers on LinkedIn explore new ways to find and hire great internal talent, especially given findings that show companies that excel at internal mobility have stronger retention of existing talent.
LinkedIn’s CEO Ryan Roslansky has talked about this, noting how “your next best hire could be your existing employee.” We know his message is resonating with a lot of hirers on our platform because they are increasingly investing in internal talent pipelines.
But what if your organization isn’t actively hiring or doesn’t have clear openings that are a fit? There are other ways to explore new career paths internally. For example, at LinkedIn, we recently launched a three-month job-shadowing program where employees get matched to a host within the company based on their career goals. These types of programs are becoming more popular as employers experiment with new ways to keep their teams engaged, and can be a great way to get a feel for a new career without making a risky jump. If something like this doesn't exist yet at your company, now is a good time to raise your hand and ask.
There are so many ways to move up in your career, even without changing companies. Transformation in your current job is possible–if you know where to look.
Linda Jingfang Cai is the VP of talent development at LinkedIn.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.
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