May 15, 20249:29 am

AI Generated Pathways: Real or Fiction

Author: Rich Portelance

There is a rash of AI generated career finding tools on the market today. The questions on my mind are — are they any good? Can AI really help me find my path to a successful career quicker, or at least with less indecision? And can AI replace the individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping others find fulfilling careers? 

Let me begin by stating that it’s been my feeling for some time that the process of career or pathway development is extremely flawed. Back when I knew little about the career-finding space (2014) I founded a company called CareerPath to help students and dislocated workers find their path to success. I was as one might say, green, and perhaps overly optimistic about what we could achieve and what the landscape looked like at that time. What we did do well was engage students via our mobile application, and proved through numerous case studies that by connecting with them on their devices first (low friction/high yield) they were more likely to participate during in-person events at the career centers we worked with.

A Logical Evolution

Career exploration has always been part science, part interpersonal connectedness. What I mean by this is there are plenty of structural pathways and tools created that will get a person part or most of the way to understanding the possibilities, but there most often is another human helping guide the way, be it advisor, mentor, counselor, teacher, parent, coach, or friend. As humans, we respond to other humans, it’s part of our DNA. The problem is twofold. First, many are not trained to advise others on career planning and pathways, and second, quite often the professionals who are trained (advisors, guidance counselors, etc.) are overloaded with so many students, they are often overwhelmed and cannot provide the level of service they would like to. 

The rise of new AI driven career pathways technology makes perfect sense, but like with any gold-rush, in the haste to reap rewards, it seems many new solution providers are slapping some lipstick on the pig and proclaiming victory. AI is indeed powerful, and will benefit the process in myriad ways. With Journeys Map, we have been utilizing Machine Learning and AI for a number of years now to improve the alignment process of skills to CTE standards. This discrete application is yielding significant benefit, as the speed in which we are able to create pathways to any career opportunity has increased significantly.

Outcomes Matter

Before taking the leap with a new piece of AI driven software, ask yourself a few questions. Does the solution solely rely on AI to produce results? Has the company been in business long enough to really understand the career services space? Does the technology enable the people doing the work, or attempt to replace them? Is the app relying on existing paradigms, like personal interest assessments, to produce ‘fast’ pathway options? All of these situations may have some merit, but applied in a vacuum may simply pander to peoples curiosities rather than truly solve a problem. 

Ultimately aiding people, young or old, in finding a career path means understanding what they have interest and aptitude in, applying their skill set and seeing how it matches up to the careers of interest, and learning enough about their past activities to assemble suggestions of meaning. AI has its place, but so do the individuals who have made it their career mission to help others in need. Perhaps the most important question to ask is, can technology truly replace empathetic human interactions?