During a job interview, a question about career goals is sure to come up. Whether they ask you directly or use the always popular “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, there will be an opportunity to express your career goals to your prospective employer.
What’s the perfect way to convey your plans and dreams to your (hopefully) future boss? There is no foolproof way, of course, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
The most important thing to be aware of is why the employer is asking this basic question in the first place. He or she wants to know how aware you are of your own ideas and goals. Also, the employer wants to know whether or not you are able make a plan and stick to it, and if your goals are similar to those of the company.
Prepare ahead of time and have an answer to both versions of the question – your overall career goals and the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” version – ready to go before the interview starts. Have a short, medium, and long-term component to your answer, and break the long-term answer up into sections.
Your answers don’t need to suggest that you plan stay at this current company for the rest of your working life, but you also don’t want to imply that you’re using them as a stepping stone to something else. As the website Big Interview points out, it is expensive and difficult to train people under the best of circumstances, and employers don’t want to think that their time and resources are going to be wasted.
For this reason, your answer should be “employer-centered” and related to how you can help the company. An employer is looking for a good planner, problem solver, and thinker. Be sure that your answer reflects all of that.
One last thing to remember is that you should resist the urge to be specific when describing big career goals during an interview. While you want to avoid speaking in generalities when answering most interview questions, this one can be a little tricky. You certainly don’t want to be dishonest, but if you are considering multiple career paths you probably don’t want to advertise it. Because you don’t yet know enough about the company to decide if their way of doing things fits your career path, keeping things general will make you less likely to run into trouble.
You should have no problems if you treat this question (whichever version is asked) with care and thoughtfulness. Imagine what the interviewer wants to hear and get close to that, while also being truthful about what you want out of the job. Good luck!