If you’re just starting out in your career or you only have a couple of years' experience under your belt, you might not know what you want to do in a couple of years’ time, let alone five or 10 years.

So when the common interview question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", pops up during an interview you may be wondering how to answer without sounding like you have no idea what the answer is. While you shouldn’t be dishonest, it’s important to use the question as an opportunity to show your enthusiasm and forward-thinking approach.

Here are key points to consider when planning your interview answer in advance.

Demonstrate your eagerness to grow within the company

You won’t do yourself any favours by saying you have no plans for the future, but equally, you don’t want to give the impression that this job you’re applying for is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things elsewhere. At the end of the day, businesses place importance on staff retention.

With this in mind, make a point of mentioning the ways in which the role you’re interviewing for and the organisation would help you achieve your career goals, and why you’re excited about the prospect of working there.

Example answer: "My current goal is to take on a position where I can challenge myself, refine my skill set, and prepare myself for the next step in my career. I’m excited about the prospect of growing my career at X company and working with forward-thinking industry leaders."

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Make it clear you’re willing to learn

Regardless of the role you’re applying for, one thing interviewers want to see in junior-level candidates is that you’re willing and eager to take on training opportunities and show initiative in tackling challenges head-on. 

Whether you have a clear five-year plan or you’re still deciding what you want to do further down the track, demonstrate you’re keen to learn and grow your skill set.

Example answer: "I’m driven and pride myself in delivering good outcomes, no matter the project. I hope to put my hand up for new responsibilities and training opportunities to broaden my skill set, which will help me determine the next step or direction of my career.”

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Highlight your commitment to the company 

Potential employers want to know that the person they’re interviewing would provide the company with long-term value and remain committed, rather than learning new skills and then taking them elsewhere, such as the competition. Emphasis your dedication to the business and show that their company objectives are tied to your personal goals.

Example answer: "Ultimately, I want to grow within the business to be able to contribute more materially to its success."

Keep it general

Few people know exactly where they want to be in five years, but even if you’re very driven and have a dream role in mind, being too specific with your goals can make you seem inflexible. There may also not be room to move in that particular direction – your next move could be sideways or in a completely different team, though, still counts as career progress.

The market is constantly changing so keep your answer general, while also showing that you’re thinking long-term.

Example answer: "I hope to take on more managerial or team leader responsibilities, and contribute even more to the business' overall vision and strategy."

Be honest

Although you don’t want to flat out say that you have no idea where you want to be in five years, it’s okay to admit you’re not entirely sure what’s around the corner for you. In fact, not knowing exactly what’s next can show that you’re adaptable. So you need to frame your response towards being open to new challenges as they present themselves. 

Example answer: “Admittedly I’m not 100% sure of where I’ll be in five years’ time, but I know I’d like to take on more responsibility and challenges as my skill set grows. I see myself continuing to contribute materially through my work and outcomes. The employment landscape is constantly evolving, so I’m keeping an open mind about the future.”

Ready to take the next step in your career? Talk to a Page Personnel recruitment specialist about employment opportunities in your field.

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