Thursday, 10 July 2008

What would you like to be doing 5 years from now?

The question above is an old interview favourite.

There is often debate as to how revealing the answers to this question are but most interviewers and interviewees agree it's a tough one to answer.

For me it's a tough question because there are so many issues affecting the answer. This is complicated further because these issues can be rooted in any aspect of our work and lives.

The best answers I have heard to this question are easy to understand. They are also as individual as the person who delivers them. What also appears to be true is that the simplicity of these answers often hides the care and preparation behind them. The best answers aren't learned word-for-word in advance either. The best answers are guided by a clear sense of direction and an assured calm that says, even when there are obstacles, I can continue with steady, gradual steps.

The individuals who answer this question well are aware of the direction that they would like their career to proceed in. They are also aware of how this needs to be tested and supported by opinion and evidence. In the context of work/life fusion, these individuals are pursuing personal success through a clear understanding of their values, talents and goals.

Try answering this question and see what you find!

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Learn how your answer to this question can evolve over time at


  1. You know Paul, I read this when you wrote it and I have found myself thinking about it and trying to answer it in my head.

    From an employer's perspective, I think this question is becoming more and more irrelevant. The *new* workforce do not want to be in the same company in 5 years time. Trends are showing that people are more likely to move on in 2 years rather than 5 years. Their wants is that by the end of 2 years, they want to be well positioned in terms of skills/knowledge to move on. The challenge for employers is to maximise the time they have their employees rather than trying to "keep" them.

    Then from my own personal point of view, I wonder where *I* want to be in 5 years time. And I realise that where I want to be in 5 years time is the same as where I want to be *now*. Not the same job, but I want to be challenged and excited about my job. I want to wake up in the morning and not resent having to go in to work. I want to be in a cycle of constant learning and have the opportunity to meet people with different ideas.

    In 5 years time, I want what I have now - the details would be different but the essence would still be the same. In a way, its very much the stuff that you wrote in your personal success post.

  2. Thanks for your comment Eilleen. I think that you are spot on when you talk about the changing relationship between employers and employees but for the working majority the bulk of these changes still have to take place. The old way (including interview questions like this one) is hanging on for the bitter end!

    Your comments on your personal situation are very insightful indeed. To prove how far you have come (and how much you have accomplished) imagine for a moment how you would have answered the same question 5 years ago.

    My guess is that unlike your old answer, the things that are important to you today will not fade as easily. They will of course evolve but their relevance will never diminish completely because they are the proofs of your empirical testing.

    Thanks again for a great and thought-provoking comment!

    All the best,