Now that you have completed college, it is time for interviews. Whether you are interested in pursuing further studies or joining a job, interviews will play a major role in your future career path. In the past, your performance and aptitude may have been measured on the basis of written exams, with a fixed syllabus and private time to complete the task. In an interview, while there are certain questions that are almost guaranteed to come, your confidence and style of speaking also affect the final outcome.
Common questions asked in an interview include, ‘describe yourself’, ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ and of course, ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’. You would probably find it easy (albeit time-consuming) to practice your description of yourself and identify your strengths and weakness.
The question of ‘where you see yourself in the next 5 years’ is more difficult, especially for those who haven’t entirely mapped out their careers, which covers a majority of people. The youth of today lives by the YOLO philosophy, or ‘You Only Live Once’, and with the emergence of alternative careers and the lure of entrepreneurship, giving a concrete answer of where you want to be in 5 years is difficult.
Let’s face it, we can’t predict the future, and neither do the interviewers expect us to. So, what do they actually want?
Expectation of Interviewers
The entire selection process of candidates, whether it’s for a postgraduate course or a job, is time intensive and requires considerable effort on the part of the selection team. During an interview, the goal is to select a candidate that is suitable for the position and course, and also consider their dedication for the field. By asking where the candidate sees himself/herself in 5 years, interviewers attempt to garner whether the candidate is serious about continuing in the same field. The question also helps interviewers in identifying how realistic and ambitious you are.
A postgraduate interviewer would ask this question to understand how you would put your degree to use. They would consider whether you are interested in pursuing the field of your study in the long-term and whether you are likely to abruptly change fields or stop working in the near future. An ideal answer would involve you expressing interest in the field of study, and explaining how it will help you in your career 5 years down the line.
In an office situation, the company aims to hire people that are committed to the field and are interested in working with the company long term. Every hiring costs the company time and money, and if you leave the company in a short period of time, they will have to spend more time and money to hire and train your replacement.
A question about where you see yourself in 5 years helps companies identify your dedication to the field and the company, helping them decide whether they want to invest in training you. A model answer would have you expressing your interest in the role, the field and the company and outlining practical goals for 5 years later while working with the same company.
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How to Answer ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’
The best way to succeed at anything is through preparation and practice, and the same methodology will help you achieve success in interviews. The answers for questions on your strengths, weaknesses and overall description of yourself can be reused for the various interview you attempt, but the answer for ‘where you see yourself in 5 years’ should ideally be adjusted based on the specific interview.
In most questions, the best answer is one that is specific, but regarding the question of your status 5 years later, the answer is best kept vague. Remember, never give the flashy response that you imagine yourself in the position of your interviewer, as this comes across as tacky and unprofessional.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while preparing the best answer for “where you see yourself in 5 years”:
1. Research Thoroughly on the Role/Course
Thoroughly research the role or course you are applying for and the company or institute. With research, you can offer concrete insights into your possible position in the company/institute.
If you are preparing for the question for a postgraduate course interview, research on the topics that are studied in the course and what possible career options would be available for you after you complete studies. You can also mention any special features of the institute, such as special training programmes or famous lecturers, and how you would benefit. You can also elaborate on how the specific course would help you in your future career path.
When preparing for the question for a job interview, research the company thoroughly. Examine the role you are applying for and any training programmes they offer. Also, analyze the general career progression in your field by researching LinkedIn and websites such as PayScale to get an idea of what the promotion timeline is for your field. Study current and previous employees of the firm on LinkedIn and note down generally when/how employees in similar positions have grown in 5 years.
Make sure that you have concrete details to offer the interviewer. For example, if you are applying for a sales position, you can predict that you would like to be a senior sales associate or sales assistant manager.
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2. Limit Your Honesty
Honesty may be the best policy, but not if you are appearing for an interview. When you form your answers, make sure to mix a healthy amount of honesty along with answers that the interviewer wants. While you may want to pursue further studies, research, work with a big brand, or launch your own startup in 5 years, don’t mention that to the interviewer, as it would display your candidature in a bad light.
A company is looking for employees that will work for them long-term, so frame your answers around that. No company can force you to stay with them long-term and you can change your plans later as well, but the current task is to secure the position.
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3. Highlight Yourself
An interview is essentially a sales pitch, where you promote yourself in an attempt for the company to ‘purchase’ your services and offer you a job. Your answer to the question “where you see yourself in 5 years” should work to make your candidature more appealing by incorporating realistic highlights of yourself and your talents.
You can mention your past work which has prepared yourself for the role, and also how your past has prepared you for the speed of growth you are projecting for the next 5 years. Outline the steps you plan to take over the next 5 years to succeed in the job at that specific company.
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What If You Don’t Have An Answer For ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’
If you are suddenly presented with the question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ and have not had a chance to prepare, don’t worry. First of all, while you can admit honestly that you have not planned that far, do not leave the answer at that.
Bring to mind the reasons why you have chosen your career path along with the reasons why you chose this particular company or institute. While you may not have an ideal answer, since the answer will be realistic, you might still emerge a winner.
And if thinking 5 years ahead into the future, makes you draw a blank, it may be time to evaluate more carefully why it is happening. Is it that you don’t have a clear picture of your career, but are taking up the current course/job because it is the only option available? In such a case, you may want to talk to someone who can help you get greater clarity about what you want and where you are going with your career. Speaking to a career counsellor can help.
The purpose of the question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ is to examine your seriousness for a particular role. Remember to answer confidently in a manner that suits your goals and will also help you secure the concerned position. If you are having doubts about your career trajectory, it would be helpful to consult a career counsellor who can help you identify your career goals.
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