Where do you see yourself in five years? There it is, one of the most dreaded interview questions. Do you know how to answer it? If not, know you’re not alone. Graduating and entering the professional world is big enough of a change. How are you supposed to know what’s happening the next five months, let alone the next five years?
Rest assured, no one is expecting your answer to be recent grad to CEO (yet). This question is your opportunity to showcase your motivation to succeed, interest in your chosen industry, and your ability to think about your future in a positive and professional way. Use these tips to get in the right mindset as you brainstorm your professional future (and ideal answer):
Before you start thinking about either jobs or graduate school, ask yourself one question. How do you define success? Everybody’s answer is different. Do you want to climb the corporate ladder? Does your success have a dollar amount? Do you value your job’s potential social impact above all else? Make a list of everything that comes to mind and incorporate it into your own definition to guide you through the next five years and beyond. Need some inspiration? Check out what some of the world’s most powerful people have to say about success.
View every job as a building block
If you recently graduated, you’re probably not interviewing for your dream job quite yet. Instead of being discouraged by the prospect of the next five years, view every opportunity as an essential building block to your success. School gave you the baseline educational knowledge you need, now is the time to add professional skills to your repertoire. What skills and industry knowledge do you want to learn from each job? Where will that get you in the next five years? Visualizing your professional growth will put your future into perspective and shed some light on where you might want to end up next.
Consider graduate school
You may have just finished school, but it’s never too early to start thinking about graduate school and where it might fit into your five year plan. The right program can put you on the fast track in pursuing a career that aligns with your ambitions and skills. Keep a running list of programs and schools that interest you as you consider the next few years. View each job opportunity as a chance to try out your chosen industry and assess if you want to pursue a graduate degree to further your growth.
Keep it real
As you contemplate your possible career and educational path, follow one tip above all others. Know that things change. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of mapping out your future. Creating a path doesn’t mean you can’t stray from it or add some additional stops along the way. You never know what you’re going to learn about yourself the first few years out of college and that’s part of what makes post-graduate life so exciting. Your plan for now might not necessarily be your plan in three years, and that’s okay. It just gives you guiding principles to jump-start your professional growth.
Stick to the highlight reel
The hard part is over. You’ve thought about your future and have a general idea of where you might want to go next. Now comes the time to answer under job interview pressure. Where do you see yourself in five years? Resist the urge to monologue and instead show the interviewer that you’ve thought about your future professional growth and how that plays into your success. Tell the interviewer your current plan for where you want to go and how the job you’re interviewing for will help you get there. It’s as simple as that.