There are two different kinds of people (actually, there are several different kinds of people, but for the sake of this post we’re going to focus on two types). There are the people that have always known, not only what they want to be when they grow up, (another question for the ages, asked both by career beginners and boomers) but at what stage of their lives they want to be there.
Then there are the people who don’t have a fixed path or objective. They’re people who sometimes happen across their careers serendipitously by exposing themselves to different courses in college and different jobs in the “real world”.
For the first group, the dreaded question of “where do you want to be in five years?” is easier to answer. They have a plan and a goal. They can answer the question and frame it so the answer dovetails with the goals of the organization with whom they’re interviewing.
Now, for the second group, that’s a much more difficult question to answer. I’ve had clients who are very envious of the first group, the ones that know exactly what direction they want to take. Members of the second group will often say to me, “If I knew what I wanted to do, it would be so much easier, I could just go for it.” And they could better answer the “where do you want to be in five years question?”
So for those of you out there who don’t know where you want to be in five years, a good answer would be to focus on the organization you’re attempting to join and how its mission fits with your own skills, attributes and passions. In other words, the answer could be along the lines of ” I want to be with a dynamic and growing company, where I can use my ability at doing X, Y and Z to help contribute to the company’s success.”
The bottom line when answering the question is to be authentic, highlight the skills that you bring to the table and demonstrate how your own personal growth will contribute to that of the company’s.