Where do you see yourself in five years?
What are your long term career goals?
Your vision for your career path is not only a common interview question for which you should always have an answer prepared, but a beneficial exercise you can use to help make the big decisions of what you really want from your job and how you can reach that. Approaching the topic of career growth in an interview can require some finesse, so get started thinking about it early.
Prepare Your Ideas
It’s a good idea going into any interview to have an idea of how you would answer this question in its many forms. Take some time to consider your career path and what you want your life to look like. You could approach this from different angles, whatever works best for you: talking to a therapist, or career counsellor, or mentor, and also potentially soul searching with journalling, meditating, or doing some research online—or maybe a combination of these.
Here are some prompts you can use to tease out what you are searching for:
• How much money would I like to earn?
• What career aligns with the lifestyle I want to live?
• What kind of work-life balance is important to me?
• What skills do I need to develop for my chosen career path?
Once you ask some questions of your own and gain clarity on where you would like to be in five or ten years it will be easier for you to communicate that information to someone else, like a hiring manager in an interview.
Remember Who You’re Talking To
Remember who you’re talking to. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s step back and think about why a hiring manager might be asking this question. You are interviewing for a specific role right now, so why does your interviewer care what you’ll be doing in five or ten plus years?
If your interviewer asks this question, it’s because they are trying to discern whether this current role aligns with your greater vision. Hiring is expensive for companies. If a company is investing in bringing a new person on board they want to make sure the new hire is going to be invested in the role as well as sticking with the company long term. They don’t want to hire you only for you to leave in three months when a better role with the company you really want to work for becomes available.
If the company you’re interviewing with is not necessarily your dream company, use delicate language that doesn’t imply you will jump ship the minute a better opportunity comes up.
More specific to the question of who you’re talking to—who is your interviewer and what role do they have? For example, if you’re interviewing as an editor for a fashion magazine, maybe avoid saying “I’d really love to be the Editor-in-Chief of this magazine” to the person who currently holds that role. How awkward would you feel if someone walked into your workplace and told you they wanted your job?
A more prudent way to answer this could be, “My dream has always been to work for [insert magazine name] and I’m really excited about the opportunity to be an editor. Ideally over the next few years, I would love to hone my skills as a fashion editor, and in that time see where I might best fit in next within the organization as we grow together.”
This answer shows a loyalty to the company while remaining open to grow within that organization, without stating that you are gunning for someone else’s job.
Tell a Story
Bring your interviewer in on the larger story of your career and show them how this current role, or the organization fits into that. You can draw on your past experience, as well as the points above that you thought about, which eventually brought you to your vision of your future.
This approach not only helps you to create space for yourself in the interview to show why you’re a great fit for this role, but can also be an opportunity to show off your personality and thoughtfulness to your hiring manager.
While there is no exact formula for how you might tell this story, here is an example for someone interviewing for a Marketing Coordinator role with Holt Renfrew:
“Growing up in Canada with a love of designer fashion, Holt Renfrew has always been my dream company to work for. It is important for me to find myself in a role where I can be creative, curious and forward-looking, which is why I’ve pursued a career in marketing. As a Marketing Coordinator with Holt Renfrew I know that I will have the opportunity to wear many hats and I’m excited about trying each of those on. I hope that this role will help me find out which of those hats fits best and when it feels right to take the next step in my career, I would love to step into another creative role with Holts.”
While you piece together your story and find your footing in regards to how best to tell it, keep your mind open. Remember, you may take on a role that doesn’t fit as well as you thought it might. Maybe you thought you would love to be a social media manager, but in that role, end up realizing what you actually love about managing a social media account is the video editing aspect and decide to pursue that more closely. There is always room to change your mind and with that your career. A five year plan is not written in stone, so take some time to ponder your possibilities and write a script that leaves room for opportunity and change!
Are you preparing for an interview and need someone to run this answer by? Book an Interview Prep session with Style Nine to Five Founder Christie Lohr who can help you finesse an answer that will dazzle any hiring manager.
Sheila O’Neill is a creative, innovative and inspiring storyteller with a background in fashion.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock