So, where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Have you seen the meme about how anyone who answered this question in 2015 definitely got it wrong? Well, that’s fair.
This interview question comes up—a lot. For a candidate just looking to progress to the very next step of their career, this can be a frustrating question. How are you supposed to know where you’ll be in five years when you can’t see clearly into next week?
Every candidate has a different career trajectory—and you should keep that in mind when applying to certain organizations. Whatever your career goals may be, we have guidelines you can follow to help you communicate your enthusiasm for the role and the company.
HOW TO ANSWER “WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?”
Hiring managers are asking this question in order to gauge how you’d fit into the organization. They also might use the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” as a way to further gauge how experienced you are—and if you fit the role and the responsibilities that come along with it.
When answering this question, you can really envision your own goals for your career—and take it a step further by placing yourself within this role (and maybe in future roles, as well!).
1. Do your research
This can be a tricky question, but you can prepare for it in advance by doing a little reconnaissance. Before going into the interview setting, research those in roles like yours at the organization. Does the organization seem to hold on to the same employees for years and years—or is the turnover fairly quick? Does the company appear to promote from within? If so, are you interested in climbing the ladder within the organization?
You can find rough answers to these questions by looking through current employees’ profiles on LinkedIn. From here, you can construct your answer by utilizing your knowledge about the company, its work, and its employees.
Example: I am really interested in working on projects as you did with [OTHER ORGANIZATION]. I’d love to use this role to enhance my project management skills and work with clients in [INDUSTRY].
2. Explain your ideal future (but keep things somewhat broad)
Don’t feel the need to be too specific, but ask yourself a few questions to fill out this answer. What does your ideal growth look like? Do you see yourself learning and growing within the position for which you are interviewing? Does the organization have a culture of growth from within?
Take what you learn and answer with that in mind. This question can bring up a little bit of a Goldilocks conundrum. You don’t want to sound too ambitious, but you want to sound ambitious enough to show that you’re serious about your career. If you’re worried about sharing exact plans, focus instead on the skills you’d like to grow within the role—as well as the types of projects you’d be keen to work on.
Example: My goal over the next five years is to enhance and grow my leadership skills. Since [ORGANIZATION] has a long track record of promoting from within, I’d love to learn from my managers and hopefully grow into leadership in the future.
3. (Optional) Frame yourself within the company
When envisioning your next five or ten years, maybe you do ideally see yourself thriving in this organization. If so, say so! Tell the interviewer about how you foresee your role, working within your team, and how you could advance within the organization.
Example: I’d love to work alongside [PERSON], [PERSON], and [PERSON] in order to learn [SKILLS] in this industry. I’d love to be a part of initiatives like [PAST WORK] where I can lend my expertise in [SKILL].
OTHER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS YOU CAN APPLY THIS METHOD TO
Here are a few related questions you might be asked. You can apply the same method to answer these versions of essentially the same question.
- What are your long-term career goals?
- Why do you want this job at this stage of your career?
- What does success look like to you?
- What are the most important elements of your ideal career?
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