It’s hard to talk about the future. The endeavor gets even more difficult when the discussion has a significant impact on your present. That’s why it gets tough to answer the interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?”

A lot can happen in five years. That’s how long Breaking Bad lasted. The entire First World War was fought in less time. In your own life, you went from an 8th grader to a high-school graduate in five years.

And, statistically, you probably won’t even have the same job. The Labor Department reports that the average worker changes jobs every 4.2 years. The turnover is even faster for young workers. If you’re between 25 and 34, the median tenure comes in at 2.8 years.

In other words, you might be on your third gig before that fifth year comes to an end.

So how do you encapsulate all this uncertainty in a short interview answer? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you describe where you see yourself in five years:

Recognize the Purpose of the Question

This isn’t a career-planning session for you. It’s a job interview, meant to help the employer find the right worker for them. Take that into account when you answer the question.

Here are a couple of examples of what the information the company might really want to learn:

  • How likely is it that you’ll be with the company in a few years?
  • Do your ambitions match with the company goals and corporate culture?

Realize what’s really being asked here and frame your answer accordingly. Make sure you answer the underlying questions, rather than the surface one.

Don’t Say Something Too General

Yes, everyone wants to make more money. Everyone wants to gain experience. And, sure, it’s a universal desire to find engaging and exciting work. Listing these vanilla dreams doesn’t separate you from the pack.

You don’t get much time to make your case in an interview. Don’t waste opportunities by giving run-of-the-mill responses. If your five-year plan is so general and common that it instantly drifts out of the interviewers’ memory, you haven’t done yourself any favors.

That’s not to say that you should purposely pick something bizarre. Craft an answer more specific to you as a person.

Reveal Something Personal

In giving a more specific response to the question, you achieve another goal as well. You are communicating something about yourself. Tailor the response to your background and work history. This will let you engage with your skills and your long-term ambitions.

Focus on Goals that Play into the Current Job

Keep your eyes on the prize. Your goal with any interview question is to help you land the position available. With that in mind, steer the conversation back to how well you can perform the current role.

Explain how the job plays into your larger plan. Also, detail the steps that brought you to this point and how it presents an extension of your longer-term goals. This context will let you answer the question while simultaneously bragging about your abilities.

It’s tough to balance long-term career development with the need to land the best possible job now. Working with a top recruiting agency, like SmartTalent, can help. They can provide the guidance you need to reach your goals.

Contact SmartTalent today to find the perfect fit for you.

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