Six Degrees of Occupation

Project Name: Six Degrees of Occupation
Grantee: Eric A. Knudsen
Discipline: Psychology
Funding Cycle: 2014-2015
Project Status: In progress

About the Project

In recent years, talk of a “skills gap” in the United States’ workforce has become a point of contentious debate with many disputed explanations. One less frequently considered possibility is misplaced skill: cases in which people possess skills that go underutilized because they lack the knowledge of novel opportunities for application of those skills. Additionally, the working landscape is growing increasingly protean, with employees more likely than ever before to “job hop” throughout their career. Both the “skills gap” and “job hopping” have become fixtures of the employment experience, especially in the face of recently high levels of unemployment.

Six Degrees of Occupation is a digital tool which aims to equip prospective employees and job-changers with knowledge about a variety of potential occupations in which they can apply their skills with minimal additional preparation. The tool aims to facilitate the optimal placement of skilled people in jobs by exposing these groups to occupations they might not otherwise have considered but nonetheless possess the skills for. Utilizing elements of network theory and analysis, Six Degrees of Occupation uses occupational data (provided by O*NET Online) on the relatedness of various occupations’ skills and experience requiremen ts to generate network maps of user-queried occupations and their links to similar occupations. These maps are intended to serve as guides to exploring occupations that share similar skills, but do not necessarily share an industry or discipline, and thus may fall outside of an individual’s awareness during career exploration. Through this more visual approach, these occupational networks can serve to educate populations in the search for new work opportunities. Six Degrees of Occupation also enables users to access information about each occupation from within the tool itself, further assisting in the informational process of career exploration. Lastly, the tool may prove useful to academics, who can use it to qualitatively (and in future iterations, quantitatively) explore network links and relationships between occupations. The study of these occupational networks will hopefully inspire novel research questions about skill transfer and occupational transition.

At its core, Six Degrees of Occupation is a tool intended to unveil surprising insights about skill transfer between occupations, and in doing so help individuals consider novel occupational contexts in which they can thrive given their extant skillset. It is through the innovative visual presentation of these data that this tool has the potential to assist unemployed individuals, prospective job-changers, and researchers in the organizational sciences alike.

knudsen_picEric A. Knudsen is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Psychology (Industrial-Organizational Psychology) at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His interests include work motivation, goal setting, and work-related technology. Eric is also interested in digital projects that enable individuals and organizations to operate more effectively, of which Six Degrees of Occupation is one.