There’s a question that seems to pop up all the time, and you can count on hearing it from inquiring bosses, curious colleagues, friends and family members, and perhaps most often—and most importantly—on job interviews. It’s ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?” How you answer this can say plenty about you. Want to learn how to best handle this question if you’re ever confronted with it and there’s a lot depending on your answer, like possibly getting a new job?
Typically, this question arises on interviews in an effort to gauge your long-term career aspirations, as well as your ability to be self-reflective and think quickly on your feet. If you were faced with this question, would you be able to competently answer it in a way that would reflect positively on you? You certainly should be, because your answer may reveal a lot about you to the hiring personnel who are evaluating you as a potential candidate.
If you’re starting to get anxious about whether or not your ability to answer this question effectively passes muster, don’t be—there are several strategies you can take advantage of in order to handle it well and improve your position during interviews. The Balance published an article that covers some helpful strategies for letting the world know where you see yourself in 5 years. Make the most of the advice presented here to knock this question out of the park when it comes your way.
The first thing to do when confronted with this question is to take a deep breath and relax. Why? Because it’s not a trick question and it’s not designed to be. You shouldn’t feel pressured into making up a fantastical answer that demonstrates a desire to be on some unrealistic career trajectory. At its core, of your answer should reflect an honest but carefully considered and logical look at how you’d like to see your professional goals expand and evolve over time. It’s ok to reflect a level of ambition; in fact, your answer should show a desire for growth—noone fully respects a stagnant mindset. Just make sure that your answer shows a deep understanding of the industry you’re pursuing, reflects a level of growth that someone can reasonably hope to achieve in 5 years (going from the mailroom to the CEO’s desk may not be the best response, even if it’s what you’re aiming for), and includes a plan for making it all happen if pressed to elaborate.
Don’t hop over the position in front of you
Yes, you want your answer to this question to highlight the fact that your ambitious and hope to achieve professional growth over the next 5 years, but you don’t want your answer to make it seem as if the current job in front of you is merely a brief stepping stone that you hope to leapfrog past quickly. Make sure your answer doesn’t come across that way.
Mind your body language
Always be sure that your delivery is just as strong as the content of your answer, because your audience will certainly be paying attention. Be sure to answer confidently and succinctly with impeccable body language and focus, and you’ll be doing you and your well-thought-out answer a real service.
Highlight your gifts
Whenever there’s a good opportunity to highlight your skill set and abilities on a job interview you should take it—it really doesn’t hurt to remind an interviewer what makes you a great candidate who potentially stands out from the crowd of applicants. So make sure that you back up your 5-year plan with reasons how and why your talents will help make it all possible.
A few good answers
Uptowork published an article that highlights several well-crafted answers to the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Consider adapting these sample responses to fit your situation and goals.
- “In five years, I want to complete the internal training program for my position. I’ve read about it on your website, and I think it’s a fabulous program. Not only would I get all the training for my role, but I would be on the fast track to becoming a project manager. That’s my top career goal. Plus, my ideal path would include working abroad for a couple of years. I understand that it’s of value to you to find people prepared to do so.”
- “One of the reasons I want to work for P&G is because I find your personalized approach to training attractive. I’m excited about the opportunity to work with a mentor and immerse myself in learning new skills. I’m also the type of employee that likes to hit the ground running and jump into projects as soon as possible. So, over the next five years, I see myself taking on as many complex assignments as the position would allow. By the end of that period, I want to say that I’ve built lasting client relationships. I want to say that I’m one of the best Salespeople on the team. I wouldn’t mind becoming someone who could train and mentor others when the time comes as well.”
- “As a marketing professional, I want to develop my skill set. At the end of the next five years, I want to know how to use software like Photoshop or InDesign. I want to have a better understanding of social media and video marketing. Plus I’d like to get into project management. I would like to learn on the job. Regardless, I want to look into online or evening courses. My hope is that I can apply my new skills to my job with you.”
There's no need to get nervous at the thought of having to tackle the (almost inevitable) question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” on interviews and other high-stakes situations. Use the strategies and advice presented here to put your best foot forward when answering this classic question. Good luck!
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