How to Answer the Most Important Interview Question You’ll be Asked

Have you ever found yourself sitting in complete silence when asked the dreaded interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Why do potential employers ask this anyhow? 5 years is a long time from now…who knows where I’ll end up? Any number of things could happen to me between now and then right? Wrong. I have heard…

Have you ever found yourself sitting in complete silence when asked the dreaded interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Why do potential employers ask this anyhow? 5 years is a long time from now…who knows where I’ll end up? Any number of things could happen to me between now and then right?

Wrong.

I have heard this feedback from clients after interviews over and over.

“They aren’t clear on where they want to go, what drives them and what they want from their next place of employment. How are we supposed to help them grow and watch them drive their own success in our business if they don’t know what they want for themselves?”

We all know how busy life can get between day to day business activities, deadlines, families, kids and trying to maintain some sliver of a social life. It seems sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day and each day flies by living each moment looking forward to how we’re going to get through the next. Before we know it a week has passed, a month has gone, and then a year has disappeared right before our eyes! What just happened? What did I accomplish? Where am I going? Am I truly happy?

Sound familiar?

Do yourself a favour and STOP.

Just STOP and give yourself 5 minutes…

Believe it or not there is some fantastic reasoning and self-discovery to be had behind the dreaded interview question of “where do you see yourself in 5 years”

5 years seems like a ‘pretty far off in the distance’ time period of time so let’s break it down first. Take a moment to really dig into your inner psyche and figure out what the answers to the below questions are for you; pen them down to help solidify them if you like!

  • Which activities at work (or part of your current profession) really make you truly happy and fulfilled — why?
  • Which activities at work (or part of your current profession) are the parts you most dislike – why?
  • What are 4 things in your life that you most highly value and couldn’t live without (ie. family, health, financial freedom, physical things, challenge, furthered education, adventure, balance etc.)

Okay good. Now, let’s take those four things (values) you have just listed and start defining in each of those categories what kinds of things you would like to achieve in each category.

Example of Values:

Family/Friends – more time with the kids after work hours – turn off the phone at 7pm. Make an effort to keep in touch with friends – have a bbq once a month as a group.

Financial Freedom – start to focus on career progression- volunteer for more responsibility and focus on the job I’m doing right now – am I doing it to the best of my ability? What could I improve so I am continually growing? Define a savings or investment plan to build my personal wealth.

Health – Start going to the gym 2x a week. Invest in a yoga class once a week to lower stress levels

Furthered Education — I know learning new things invigorates me. I want to continue my education through a Masters program that would suit my lifestyle and allow me to maintain balance in my family and work life.

Now do a quick review. Are these things really, truly the things you want from the 4 most important categories in your life? Are these 4 values you’ve listed truly the things you see as the most important pieces of your life; things that drive you, invigorate you, make you the happiest?

Excellent. These things you’ve come up with in those few minutes of self-reflection are the core components of what drives you, make you happy and are ideally where you want to focus your attention over the next 5 years.

We’re not done yet though.

Now, take a moment and think about the year ahead. Where are you now, as measured up against your values; the 4 categories you listed above? Room for improvement?

Take a moment and start to break down your next 12 months whether it is by month or quarter – put some detail and structure around where you want to go; within each time period for each category so that you see yourself checking these boxes 12 months from now.

Make so you are listing elements that are very specific, and can be measured clearly so you know exactly when you’ve achieved them! Also, make sure to give yourself a date or period of time in which to achieve these things so it’s not all being piled on your plate in the 11th month; for us procrastinators.

Right. So that’s 12 months taken care of. What about the following 12 and the 12 after that?

Of course these goals are going to be much more broad and loosely termed as we move further and further out from the present moment but it’s important to think about these aspirations now. What are some lofty, long-term (might sound crazy now) aspirations you have for yourself?

Suddenly it will be 5 years from today and you will wish you had spent some time mapping out your plans so you had achieved something amazing in your life right?

Take the time NOW.

Ultimately, everyone struggles with taking the time to explore the key things that make them tick and truly figure out what they want out of life. It can be an overwhelming task but if you:

  1. Be realistic!
  2. Break it down,
  3. Work from your values
  4. Figure out what your end point is, and work backwards
  5. Really put the pressure on yourself to stick to your goals (we’re our own worst enemies sometimes!)

…then you’re sure to have lived a full, driven, passionate and fulfilled life.

So… here’s hoping the next interview you attend you’re begging for them to ask you the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ question so you can ultimately answer with confidence and then ask THEM the right questions to figure out whether they are the right company for YOU and if they’ll help you get to where you want to go!

To Your Life-Long Success!

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