Among the silliest questions you get in a job interview, is the one that won’t die: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
If you’ve written a business plan, you know your five-year forecast is the least reliable outcome you “predict.” Same thing when you ponder your investment portfolio, the height of your infant, or the state of your love life.
There are days when I cannot make a good guess about what’s going to happen five minutes from now. Clearly the question about where you’re going to be in five years is ridiculous. Well, sort of ridiculous.
The five year question is meant to show you have some personal insight, that you spent time reflecting on your goals, and you have a sense that the job you’re interviewing for fits into your overall life plan. A great answer doesn’t guarantee a bus won’t hit you as you leave the interview, which of course might change everything.
However, a great answer to “where do you see yourself in five years” is a chance for you to shine, in the here and now.
This week I coached an 83-year-old woman on this question. Lauraine recently had her hours changed at the hospital where she’s worked for more than two decades, as a patient advocate. Administration moved her start time from early morning to late afternoon. So, she’s about to go on a job hunt. Her goal is to find a place where her being wide awake and cheery at 7 AM is to everyone’s advantage.
Lauraine reached out to me because this is the toughest question she fears she might encounter in a job interview. My uncle is a few years older than she is, and recently started working in the pro shop at a country club. So, like almost all tough questions: I have already helped answer this one successfully. Here’s what I recommended Lauraine say.
Thank you for asking! My plan is to continue working in a customer service position. I like listening with empathy to people, helping solve their problems and putting a smile on their faces.
If you are a bit younger, or quite a bit younger, with the desire to have greater responsibility in some capacity – then your answer will focus on a longer term career path. Show how you see the position you’re interviewing for, will enrich your future value to the organization. Your answer might be:
My plan is to continue to be in administration, enlarging my skill set so I can effectively administer increasingly complex projects. I see myself developing people and leading a strong team, and becoming a person that this organization can count on – and be proud of.
Do you have a tough question that you cannot ask anyone for help with? Is there something that is holding you back from aggressively pursuing your job hunt? Is there a question you fear being asked in a job interview? Ask me. I will help you work it out, for free.