Newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication, San Francisco Chapter
Recently, I've participated in a couple rounds of interviews at my company.
Although there are some obvious questions that get asked (and answered), there was one "usual suspect" question that I began to re-consider: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
You often read advice on how to answer questions you know will be asked in interviews. (I'm sure you've all considered how your weakness can be stated as a strength.) But, until recently, I didn't consider what interviewers want to hear, how I could really answer that question, and, most importantly, what the actual truth is for me.
From an interviewer's perspective, like most questions asked, it becomes another way to find out if your goals and vision align with the company, team and role you are interviewing for.
Reading up on the question*, it seems that there is a consensus that you want to answer the question somewhere between generally and specifically. In the "just right" porridge temperature, if you will. On one hand, the interview stalls if the answer is a non starter, by which I mean the answer reveals nothing about the interviewee or what they could offer to the company. On the other hand, revealing a desire for a job totally outside of what they are applying for (or for the position of those doing the interviewing) raises eyebrows or red flags.
So, the "perfect" answer requires a couple elements: truth and knowledge. Truth about yourself and what you are really looking for and knowledge about the career and the industry you've chosen. Together, they create an answer that is more enlightening than interview-time filler.
I think that my five year plan seems to change every year. Early on in my career, I really just wanted a job--I wasn't too sure on the specifics. Then, it became more about contributing to the team and offering up my talents to the company for an indefinite length of time. Now, a few years into my career, it has become more about leading a team and moving into a role that would direct me to management.
And, I'm sure next year, if you asked me again, it will have changed. Or, maybe the better word is developed.
That's why I think it's good to think of your five year plan more often than the few seconds after an interviewer asks it of you. It forces you to think about where you have come and where you want to go. And by doing that, you naturally think what you can do to get there. It's often too easy to go into auto drive and let momentum take over, never really thinking where you should be heading or when to lean on the pedal.
So, start asking the question yourself. Maybe in five years you will be able to really accomplish something, like being able to answer "so, where do you see yourself in ten years?"
* Here are some of the websites I found:
See you at the next meeting,