If you’re offered an interview for a job, you’ll undoubtedly be aware that you’ll need to prepare for it! One of the best things to do is practice common interview questions, such as what your strengths and weaknesses are, and why you want to work for the company. These questions come up all the time, so you should plan your answers beforehand. A slightly less common question (though nonetheless popular) is where you see yourself in five or ten years time. 

This can be surprisingly hard to answer. Unless you’ve created a personalised career development plan, you may not have given your career journey much thought. So how should you go about responding to this question? We’ve explored it in a little more detail below!

Think About the Bigger Picture

As with any interview question, you have to keep in mind that you can’t just answer the question in a straightforward way, especially not with a simple yes or no! You’re trying to get across your interest in the business in your answer, along with how suitable you’d be for the role - essentially, you need to do all you can to impress the interviewer, while staying on topic! Sounds complicated? Don’t panic, there are plenty of ways to prepare for the interview, so that it comes more naturally!

Before the interview, it can be helpful to not only do research on the company who could potentially hire you, but also consider your own career path. Some questions you might ask yourself include: 

  • Where are you currently in your career journey, and where did you start?
  • What things are most important to you regarding your job? E.g. salary, benefits, commute time, flexibility
  • When it comes to your career path, do you have a final destination in mind? 
  • What steps can you take to get there?
  • How will the role you’re applying for help you achieve your goals and reach this destination?

If you’re just starting out in your career, you may find these questions difficult to answer. But just try to relate your responses to the job you’re applying for as much as possible. 

woman thinking about her career progression

What are Your Career Goals?

If you’re looking for a new job, chances are you’re looking to progress in your career, or develop certain skills. So consider what your long and short term goals are, and write a list. Make them as realistic as possible, but don’t sell yourself short! 

Once you’ve got a list together, read it aloud several times, until you’re confident that you know exactly what you’re working towards. That way, when asked about your career goals during an interview, it will sound completely natural, and not too rehearsed! 

Mention Opportunities in the Business

While you don't want to come across as sycophantic, you mustn’t forget to reference the company and role you’re applying for. It’s important to demonstrate that your own goals align with those of the business, and that you’re keen to get started. 

Mention ways in which the company can help your professional development, such as through training courses or mentor programmes. You may even wish to mention specific people you’d like to learn from, if they’re an expert in their industry. This is where LinkedIn can be useful - you can look up members of staff that work for the company, and see if there is anyone who would be a good role model.  

Show Some Enthusiasm! 

Throughout the interview, you should aim to be enthusiastic, but it’s particularly important when you’re discussing your work and development opportunities. If you don’t show some level of enthusiasm when talking about your future career, you’ll come across as disinterested in the role, and probably won’t be considered for the position. 

And if you’re not passionate about your job, or similar roles in your field, it may be time to consider switching careers. It’s never too late to move into a new industry, though you may need to get a few qualifications in between! You spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so it should be doing something you enjoy.

Key Things to Avoid

There are a few things you should try to steer clear of when discussing your future career. We’ve listed the top three things to avoid talking about below:

  1. Try not to get bogged down in the nitty gritty, and focus on your broader career aspirations. It’s best not to mention things like your dream salary or job role either 
  2. Don’t focus solely on yourself when answering the question. Aim to link your response back to the business - how they can help your development, and then you in turn can contribute towards the growth of the company 
  3. Don’t worry if your answer isn’t about one specific goal! It’s common to have a few different avenues you’d like to explore, and you won’t be expected to know exactly where you’ll end up after five years

Overall, it’s important to be enthusiastic about your career journey and development, and help the interviewer see that this passion will make you a good fit for the company!

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