"Where do you see yourself in five years?" Many hiring managers will ask this in a job interview, but the question is annoying and insipid because many of us can't envision our lives any more than five months into the future, let alone five years. After all, life changes, our priorities change, and what makes you tick today could make you sick in a few years.
What the hiring manager really wants to know is what lies behind the question: Could I count on this person to stay with this company long term? For example: You're interviewing for a sales position and reply with: "In five years, I'd like to be teaching math."
Bad answer! You just eliminated yourself from consideration.
Employers would love to keep good employees around for five years—or longer. That saves them the aggravation, time, and cost of having to fill and refill positions and train each new person they hire. At the same time, some job seekers like the stability of staying in one place for several years.
But we don't live in an ideal world where everyone gets to work where they want for as long as they want. Business conditions, companies, and industries change; so do personal career goals and circumstances.
That's why it's important to keep your options open and always be prepared to look for the next job.
The best way to be prepared? Here are three tips:
- Always keep an up-to-date resume. Add a new accomplishment or skill as soon as you achieve it rather than waiting until later, after it escapes your mind.
- Always look at job postings. Even if you want to stay in your current job, you should stay aware of what skills and background employers are seeking in your current and potential future roles.
- Always manage your online presence. Make sure you have an online profile on at least one social networking site and update it as you would your resume. If the site hosts any discussion groups, join some that match your skills and career goals, and take part in discussion threads to boost your credibility.
Have you ever been asked the "five years" question in a job interview? What do you believe is the best way to answer it? Share your thoughts in a comment below.
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