Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

I’m certain most of us get asked this quite often. It is in fact one of the most prominent interview questions! Where do you see yourself in five years? This has always been a challenging question for me because quite frankly I don’t know. I have come to realize that this question is mostly used to determine one of two things:

1. Your ambition. People assume that a great response to this question would be one that indicates an individual’s vision for the future. The more specific and well thought through it is the more ambitious someone is said to be. So, this is basically a metric for people’s ambitions.

2. Recruiters use it to determine whether your goals compliment their business. They wish to know where you see yourself in the future in order to evaluate how your goals would add value to their business.

I have had my fair share of interviews and encounters with people curiously seeking my long term goals. In every one of these instances, I found it difficult to explain how I envision my future. I know there are quite a number of people who are in a similar predicament. This is partially because we’re caught between what society expects long term goals to look like and what we actually envision for ourselves. However, I’ve come to realize that because we are wired differently, then it is no surprise that our views on goals are also different.

I have come across different kinds of people in my life. This has made me appreciate how diverse our views are on life — oh how refreshing it has been! From characters whose ambition I thought was “over the moon-with a glimpse of mars” to free souls sailing the wind in a “Que Sera, Sera” fashion. It is such encounters that have framed my understanding of the different kinds of goal-setters. I’m going to talk about two major ones here — let’s see where you fall!

1. Flexible on details but stubborn on vision

These individuals are great at setting out long term goals. They have a clear vision of what they intend to accomplish in the future. Once they have set out a vision, they come up with a game plan or milestones to achieve it. They design well articulated short term goals which aim to bring their vision to life. These short term goals always compliment their vision. They are a part of the bigger picture. What I find fascinating about such people is their consistency in trying to achieve their vision. No matter how much their plans to achieve their long term goals might change, their vision will remain fixed. This is why I think such people are stubborn on vision but flexible on details. If you have designed a vision for yourself and are constantly coming up with different means to achieve this, then you belong to this group of goal setters. If you are one of these brilliant individuals, then you have a great response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” — Pablo Picasso

2. Flexible on vision but stubborn on details

Short term goals are a major concern for these individuals. They function by setting out specific goals they wish to achieve in the near future. All their effort is then invested in accomplishing them. What I find interesting about this bunch is their ability to switch up long term goals. Their vision for the future is constantly changing, however their short term goals are always fixed. This is where I fall. I am great at setting out what I wish to accomplish short term. My vision for the future, however, is constantly changing.

My theory about this group of goal setters is that their interests are constantly changing. I believe goals reflect a person’s interests and aspirations. Therefore, a change of interests results to a change of goals.

My interests are constantly changing, in fact if you told me five years ago that I would be pursuing my current career path, I would have never believed it. A recent chat with my career coach made me realize that I fit under this group of goal setters. As we were discussing my goals for the year she said, “Coachee, I noticed that you have set out quite aggressive goals for the year, it would be great if you left room for a little flexibility.” So, as I re-structured my goals, I realized that the reason my goals seem a little off the roof sometimes is because I primarily function on short term goals. Once I set out to achieve these goals, I don’t leave out any room for change. This is why I think I’m stubborn on details but flexible on vision.

So, my response to “Where do you see yourself in five years” is quite frankly, I don’t know. I am certain my interests will keep changing and my goals will change along with them. However, if you ask me where I see myself in a year, well that’s a completely different conversation. One I would gladly indulge in, over a glass of wine.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis

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