Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

I’m just 1 person who has trouble answering this question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? A typical job interview question, I’ve always viewed it as unfair. If I’m interviewing for a job, that means I’m facing a potential, significant change in my life. If I get the job for which I’m interviewing, the next five years ahead of me might look much different from what they would look like if I didn’t get the job. My location, time commitments, financial stability, professional skills, and more might be completely different. 

Moreover, I’m in the technology field, which evolves so quickly it’s hard to know what next year will look like, let alone five years. How am I to know what technological advancements I would like to be working with in five years when they haven’t even been launched yet? 

The hardest part about answering this question, for me, is that it relies on ambition. As a Hufflepuff, I score the lowest on ambition. That’s what’s making the job search difficult for me. Motivation and hard work are easy for me to come by… but searching out and choosing the next big adventure, the next big step… that’s much more difficult. 

So what are employers looking for when they ask this question? They want to see your enthusiasm for a career in the field for which you are interviewing, to know you intend to stay there and make it a central part of your life. They want to see if your overall career goals align with the job their offering. They want to see your commitment to their company and a plan to be there long-term. They want to see ambition, drive, and sincere interest. 

There are many ways to answer this question, and I personally struggle with all of them for the reasons stated above. But here are a few tips:

  • Are you a planner? Show that you have a plan for your career then show how this job fits into that greater plan as a whole.
  • Think about the highest job rank you might like to achieve in life (where you see yourself when you’re ready to retire) and what skills and experience you will need to get there. How would this job contribute to that and how far along toward that ultimate goal would you be, reasonably, in five years?
  • What skills and interests do you already possess that this job would help you strengthen and grow (and how)?
  • Is there a skill related to the job that you’re interested in and have never had a chance to investigate?
  • Consider any awards or certifications that might be aligned with the job that you could pursue. These are usually achievable in 1-3 years, so naming one is a great way to show you know what measures of success exist for your field. This also shows you want to stand out in a field and are interested in putting in extra effort to make your work excellent.
  • How would this new position allow you to grow from the positions you’ve had in the past? What would you expect to be able to do after having this job a while that you can’t do now? 
  • Consider management, mentorship, and professional collaboration roles that would be available to you in this new position.
  • What outside interests or passions do you have that you might be able to bring to the job and the company that will have an impact over the years? 

The first time I was asked this question, it caught me off guard. I’d never heard it before, and I hadn’t prepared an answer for it. I paused for just a moment then laughed as I replied, “Well, I’d like to be working here still!” It was an honest, knee-jerk sot of reaction, and we all laughed. I elaborated a bit to discuss how I had family in the area and was looking for a job in this field that I could be passionate about and dive deeply into. It didn’t touch on much of what’s mentioned above, but I spoke from the heart and showed enthusiasm about taking on the position and sticking with it. I landed the job, ultimately, so they couldn’t have hated my answer.

I think there’s something to be said for rehearsing typical questions you might be asked during a job interview. And certainly it’s a good idea to know what you want from life and have a plan for yourself. But I think there’s also a case to be made for those of us who can’t see into the distant future just speaking honestly. Don’t tell an interviewer what you think they want to hear just because a job website suggests it’s the right way to answer this question.

You wouldn’t be interviewing for a job if you didn’t want it, so your interest is understood. But I think it’s also okay to let them know explicitly that the job is something you can see yourself doing and enjoying. Rehearse as much as you want, but make sure that your answer is honest, reflects the sort of person you are, and shows what you really want. 

So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash 

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