“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is right up there with “Tell me about yourself.” in the realm of interview questions you’re likely to be asked in a job interview. Taking the time to really craft your answer for questions like this will really pay off when you’re in the hot seat during an interview. So how do we prepare to deliver a great response? I recommend reverse engineering the question. The end goal of the interviewer is to determine if the candidate is a solid fit for the position. So, let’s begin our reverse engineering exercise by asking ourselves what the interviewer is trying to learn by asking the question:
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” These three things come to mind right away:
1. Does this candidate set personal and professional goals?
2. Does this candidate have confidence in their abilities, and do they demonstrate continued self-improvement?
3. Would it make sense to hire this candidate, considering the company’s needs? Is the position a match for this candidate’s aspirations?
Okay, I confess…deep down, I may have some regret lingering about not jumping on the chance to work in Italy for two years when I graduated from college. That was a long time ago, but with big decisions like that, it’s always funny to think about how different my career path would have been if I’d have accepted that job and taken a gap year (or two). What made me say no? I worried about not being as relevant as my peers in the industry when I came back. I thought my experience wouldn’t be viewed as significant as those who got their foot in the door here first.
My decision back then wasn’t really about taking a “gap year” per se, but it was a big decision with some of the same potential ramifications. There’s quite a few people within my professional network who’ve made the decision to take time off and step away from their chosen career for a “gap year”. Sometimes it’s to find themselves or re-invent themselves professionally, while other times it may be related to their growing family. Regardless of the reason for doing it, taking time away is not something to rush into. Here are a few general things to consider if you’re thinking about stepping away for a bit:
If you’ve done any amount of investigation around how to interview well, you’ve likely run across advice to ensure you come to interviews prepared with a few specific questions to ask the interviewer. This advice is very logical, yet so many interview without taking the time to prepare for this essential step. In order to really determine if the job is the right fit for you, it’s very helpful to be prepared to “interview” the employer too.
Sometimes the best way to prepare involves a little soul searching, and we’re going to assume that the obvious things like commute, overall responsibilities, and pay are already in line with your expectations. To land a job you actually enjoy, it’s important to really know yourself and what you prefer in a work environment. Let’s take a look at a few important questions to ask yourself, so you can frame relevant questions for the interviewer as you consider a potential career move.
One of the nuggets of wisdom my dad shared with me often as a child had to do with controlling your attitude. He would tell me about a job he had committed to when he was a younger man, that involved a construction project out in the middle of the desert. Now he was a steamfitter, so he spent a lot of time welding pipe, and you can imagine how fun that was in the desert. He got to a point where he just hated the project. He was miserable in the heat, and he dreaded going to work each day with a crew that wasn’t motivated. It was obvious they didn’t want to be there any more than he did, and they put as little effort into the work as possible. But my dad was not a quitter, so when he committed to go to work on that project, he was bound to see it through. So one day, he just made up his mind that he was going to make the best of his situation. You see, when you drudge through a job (or life in general) being sour and bitter, the one that is hurt and suffers most is YOU.
Early on in my career, I accepted a position managing a dealer network for a reputable horse trailer manufacturer. The work was fast-paced and dynamic, with a focus on relationships…all things I thrive on. However, just as I was starting to really settle in and hit stride in my role, I started noticing little things that signaled all was not as it seemed. What had appeared to be a thriving business, was really a once-solid business that had started to slowly crumble from within. It wasn’t long before I realized the business foundation wasn’t built strongly enough to handle growth. If things start to go awry in that situation, the domino effect can be devastating. However, there are cases where strong change management can recover from adversity and build a stronger company. When you are in the middle of a situation like that, how long do you stay with your struggling employer? In my mind, part of the answer to that question lies in your confidence in the leadership and your level of adversity to risk.
We’ve all been there…you’ve made it through the interview phase, and this job opportunity is just perfect for you. You can already see yourself in the role. You feel like you did well in the interview, and you’re holding your breath for that call. Then you get THE LETTER: “We appreciate your interest in our position, however, after careful consideration we are not able to offer you a position at this time.”
Ugh. But before you get too discouraged about the rejections, there are a few positive things that can come out of getting that rejection letter.
One closed door opens another.
Sometimes it is amazing how your career path twists and turns. I remember early on in my career, I wanted to break into the pharmaceutical sales arena. It is a tough world to “switch” to if you don’t have specific product sales experience. People have even written books on how to navigate a transition to pharmaceutical sales (I know, because I bought one). My background and networking were enough to get me into the interview round, but I ended up getting beat out by experience several times. Had I landed one of those first few attempts, I wouldn’t have embarked on the journey that led me to the great career I have now!