Where Do You See Yourself 5 Years From Now?

How to Answer Interview Questions About The Future

Business executive discussing with his client
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When you are interviewing for a new job, it can be hard to articulate where you would like to be in your career next year let alone five years down the road. Even when you do know, it's important to be careful how you respond because you'll need to tailor your answer to the job for which you are interviewing.

This popular interview questions helps interviewers and hiring managers get a sense of how your career goals align with the company's and whether you are likely to have a long tenure there or leave after just a few months or a year.


Tips for Answering Questions About Your Future Plans

Questions about future plans can be tricky to answer - you need to be honest in your response, but also keep it relevant to the job and industry. (Don't share your five-year goal to publish a novel if you're interviewing for an accountant position, for instance.) Responding poorly or being vague in your response could make interviewers believe that you're not invested in your career, aren't a good fit for the company, or are covering something up. 

Here are tips for responding to questions about the next stage of your career, while affirming your interest in the role you are being interviewed for.

Where Do You See Yourself 5 Years From Now?

Outline a Career Path

In order to prepare well for this question, research a reasonable career path which will flow from the position for which you are applying. How long does one ordinarily spend in that job?

What are the next steps within five years?

Some employers will clearly outline pathways in the career section of their website. However, you may need to approach professionals in the field through alumni, family, friends, or professional associations to gain an accurate picture.

Start With Your Interest in This Job

It is often advantageous to emphasize your interest in thoroughly mastering the initial position before moving on. If it seems like you are rushing past that first job, employers might question how motivated you are to carry out those duties.

After all, the hiring manager will probably want someone who will be happy and competent in that role for at least a year or two. Integrating a clear rationale into your answer regarding how your interests and skills equip you to do the job you are being considered for can help to alleviate any concerns about how long you will want to stay at the job.

When There is No Clear Career Path

Not all jobs are stepping stones to higher positions. For positions like counseling, sales, event planning, teaching, and computer programming, for example, it will be perfectly appropriate to emphasize mastery of that job as your five-year goal. Think about components of the job in which you can excel. For example for a sales job: "Within five years I would like to be recognized as an expert in terms of product knowledge, have developed very close relationships with clients, have significantly expanded the client base in my region, and perhaps have been assigned some major national clients."

Goals = Results

Stating your goals in terms of results which you would like to produce is another angle for responding. So, for example, a prospective teacher for a district which is trying to upgrade performance on standardized tests might say "I would like to significantly increase the percentage of students reading at or above grade level through creative instructional methods." Of course, you would need to be able to share some examples of how you would achieve this.

Moving Up the Career Ladder

There are a few jobs where you are expected to move on after a couple of years, including some analyst positions in investment banking and consulting, as well as legal assistants and scientific research assistants (for new college grads). In those cases, you will have more leeway in your answers, but you will still want to establish how the job at hand makes sense given the skills and interests you would bring to the employer.

More Interview Questions About the Future

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