Picture this: you’re in an interview, you’ve answered questions about your job experience, responsibilities for the role, and maybe even a few situational questions. Now, the hiring committee wants to get to know you on a deeper level.
“Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”
This classic interview question might seem daunting, but it gives the hiring committee a better sense of how the role you’re applying to fits into your overall career goals. Not sure how to respond to this question?
Although this might seem like a question you can answer off the cuff, you want to walk into your interview as prepared as possible. Don’t let this common interview question get in the way of you and your dream job! Read on as Style Nine to Five walks you through the best ways to answer this question.
Consulting Your Career Goals
Put your career goals to use. Depending on your goals, you might want to review more than just your five year goals, like your shorter term goals or longer term dream job goals. Start by looking at your absolute dream job. Does it align with the job you’re interviewing for? If yes, you’re going to want to include that in your response, regardless of whether you’ll reach it within the next five years.
If your dream job goal doesn’t align with the job you’re interviewing for, do not worry! Think about your shorter term career goals, including where you’d like to be in the next five years. If your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely you’ll be able to identify exactly what skills and experiences you’ll need to help you reach those goals.
The key here is all about how you articulate your goals in relation to the job you’re interviewing for. That brings us to our next step.
Articulating Your Career Goals
This is a necessary step to successfully answering the next five years question. Nobody wants to walk into this question and reveal their five year goal which seemingly has nothing to do with the job you’re applying to. That would be a huge faux pas.
Let’s take the two scenarios from above. In the first scenario, your dream job aligns with the job you’re applying to. Although it might be a far off dream, if it’s appropriate then you should definitely include it in your response. That said, you’ll want to acknowledge that it might not be attainable within the next five years.
For example, if you’d like to be the CEO of a creative marketing firm one day, but you’re interviewing for a lower level copywriting position, you might not think that you can be CEO in five years. Here’s how you can acknowledge that and use your forward thinking to your advantage.
“My absolute dream job is to the CEO of a marketing firm one day. I realize that’s likely more than five years away, but during the next five years I would like to get myself as close as I can to reaching that goal…”
Following that you would explain how working at this company can help you do just that.
In the second scenario, the job you are applying to doesn’t necessarily relate to your five year goals, so you needed to take a different approach. You selected a SMART career goal along with the exact skills and experiences you need to help you reach that goal. In order to make this goal relevant when responding to the five year question in an interview, you’ll want to highlight the elements that are most applicable to the position you’re interviewing for.
For example, if your goal is to become the manager of a luxury fashion boutique, but you’re applying to work as a server at a restaurant, highlight the elements of your goal that align with the job you’re applying to.
“Within the next five years, my goal is to become a manager. To get there, I know I need to develop my customer service and problem solving skills.”
It’s okay to be a little more vague in this situation. After all, you’re talking about five years from now and you’re not a fortune teller!
Which brings us to the next part of your response.
Highlighting How This Role Will Help You Reach Your Goals
If you’ve been preparing for this interview, it’s likely you can articulate why you’d like this specific position and why you’d like to work for this particular company. When answering this question (where do you see yourself in the next five years?) you’ll want to go a little bit deeper into the specifics of why you want the job.
You can do this by taking a look at the roles and responsibilities listed in the job posting. Is there a responsibility listed that you don’t have experience in, but that you’re keen to take on? Is this position at a company that’s larger than those you’ve worked for before? This part of your response is all about the potential for growth that you can see in the role.
Let’s take one of our responses from above and add in why this position is a necessary stepping stone in your career.
“My absolute dream job is to be the CEO of a marketing firm one day. I realize that it’s likely more than five years away, but during the next five years I would like to get myself as close as I can to reaching that goal. One aspect of this position that really excites me is the opportunity to continue developing my influencer marketing skills on a much larger scale. I believe there’s a lot of potential in that area of marketing and that I can help your organization grow in this area. I’m also really interested in the opportunity for growth and mentorship that you mention in the job description because that aligns with my overall career goals to move into more managerial positions over the next five years. Ultimately, in the next five years I hope to be working for a company like yours where I can make a positive impact while also continuing to grow in my career.”
By looking at these more specific details about why you’d like a certain job, you’re demonstrating that you’ve done your research and understand the role on a deeper level, including how it aligns with you and your personal brand.
Remember, most people want to help you on your journey. So as long as you’re keeping your response appropriate and relevant, don’t hold back when sharing your vision for the future – yours or the company’s. These people might end up being key stakeholders to help you reach your career goals. If you land this job, they might be able to curate some of your responsibilities to help you reach your goals like job shadowing, extra projects, and more.
Looking for additional support when preparing for an interview? Try an Interview Prep where Style Nine to Five’s Founder, Christie Lohr will guide you through all the tough questions and make sure you’re prepared for your next interview.
By: Catherine Gautreau – Catherine is a communications and fundraising professional in Vancouver, BC with a passion for storytelling, the arts, and giving back to the community.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock