How to: Answer the ‘career goals’ question!

Career Goals

‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’
‘What are your future plans?’
‘Tell me your career goals’

It doesn’t matter how it’s worded, this is a very, very tricky question and you, as a candidate, should be just as suspicious of the question as an employer should be of your answer. Ultimately this something that can be prepared very easily before you even step foot in the building but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Simple CV facts

An employer is likely to have a good idea of your career goals based on your CV. It sounds harsh but depending on how much you’ve progressed over a set amount of years will determine many things. Consider this when you think about your own goals and use it to your advantage!

Think about the job you are applying for

If you’re at the start of your career then the world is your oyster and any employer will know this. Graduates are ambitious and have a lot to learn in the world of employment, if you have an interview for a job that isn’t in your desired industry there’s no need to make the employer aware of this. Keep your personal goals to yourself but use those plans as a base if an employer asks what your career goals are.

If you’re applying for a managerial position and it would be a natural progression from your previous job, an employer will see that you’re obviously looking to move onward and upwards. ‘I’m committed to seeing where a managerial position will take me, I enjoy responsibility and supporting my colleagues and I’d like to explore the opportunity to take this role further.’ This answer demonstrates that you are eager to move on from your current role, but it doesn’t sound as though you’ll be moving on from a new job too quickly – employers like commitment!

Consider what the employer is expecting from you

This has enormous relevance when answering the ‘future plans’ question. Study the job specification you received before the interview and determine where the Company is expecting your career to lead within the business. Occasionally Companies will offer ‘the opportunity to progress’ or ‘the opportunity of promotion within a year’, they may even advertise ‘training on the job’ – if a Company is willing to spend the resources on training a new employee, they are clearly looking for someone willing stick around for a while – bear that in mind with the ‘five year plan’.

Keep everything personal to yourself

Employers aren’t allowed to ask personal questions in an interview and in order to protect those rights, we would suggest to never mention your personal life in a ‘future plans’ question; ‘I plan on going travelling’, ‘I’m recently married, so children are in my future.’ – These are all exciting and wonderful plans that you have every right to have but in an interview these answers can definitely affect your prospects, on the other hand, they aren’t any of an employer’s business. The truth is if you do plan to go travelling for a year, you shouldn’t be applying for permanent employment within a Company that is clearly looking to invest in your career and the same goes for a job that will require long hours and the commitment of someone who isn’t compromised by the obviously important lifestyle of a person with a family. The best thing to do in these circumstances is keep all personal information out of the interview room and remain focused on your career plans!

Keep it positive and open minded.

Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re up to this weekend, let alone in five years’ time, and that’s ok! Chances are, if you don’t have big career plans, you won’t be applying for any jobs that will require any knowledge about your future aspirations so you can breathe easy, but we’d recommend the old ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’ tactic and think about a quick and easy answer just in case!

Definitely do not say, under any circumstances:

‘Well I’m looking to be in your seat by the end of the year, *wink wink*’

‘I don’t really have any future plans, I just need something to keep me going until my trust fund comes in.’

‘I’d like to learn as much as I can because one day I’d like to run my own business.’

‘Well I’m saving up to move to America so that’s why I need a job.’

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