What are your career goals?

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Interview questions like "What are your career goals?" or "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?" are often open-ended, tricky, and throw most candidates off balance. Interviewers ask these questions to gain insight into your self-awareness, presence of mind, and communication skills.

Different people will have different approach to answer this question; the idea is to be well prepared on the spot- if you are a calm and organized person, then answering this question should be fairly easy for you. But if you are a casual sort of person who takes life as it comes, you will probably not have a ready answer without some forethought. Having said that, it is not bad to be casual; it is just that it is not a good idea to face the interview board wearing a casual attitude.

Even if you are not appearing for an interview, you should ask yourself this question as it will help you not only to analyse yourself but also to evolve as a professional. You can scale your ambition and career path accordingly. Only when you are well prepared personally, you can face the interview board. So, de-clutter your mind, seclude yourself for some time, and think about what you really want. Remember that the important success factor is the ability to set and achieve goals.
Here are some examples from different fields that will give you an idea:
Example 1

I understand that as a college graduate, I need to have the right attitude and start building a strong presence in the industry. I want to work for a company I respect and do my job well. As I scale up the corporate ladder, my long term goal will be to achieve a higher position in the company and be an asset to the company.

Example 2

My goal is to travel that extra mile to become a good programmer and slowly yet steadily become a pro in my field. I am open to learning new things and taking up more challenging roles in future. Given that I love interacting with people, I want to be a people’s manager.

Example 3

My current goal is to develop and utilize my marketing and communications skills in a job similar to this one. But, I eventually want to grow into a position that allows me to continue to use these skills while also managing a team. I plan to prepare myself for this goal by taking on leadership positions in team projects, and by attending leadership conferences to gain industry insights.

Example 4

As an entry level professional, my long-term career goals involve growing with a company where I can continue to learn, take on additional responsibilities and challenging roles. With this, I hope to contribute as much value as I can. I love the fact that your company values both professional and personal development of an individual. I think I would be proud to be associated with such a company.

Example 5

I see myself as a top-performing employee in a well-established organization, like this one. In order to achieve this, I plan to enhance my knowledge and skills sets in related professional associations. I know it’s a long way but success is all about hard work and perseverance.

Example 6

I hope to start my career as a sales representative with a company like this - one with a mission based on stellar customer service and care. This will prepare me to handle leadership challenges in future, besides helping me to emerge strong and well-equipped to face the demands of my job on a day to day basis.

Example 7

For me, learning is a continuous process. Hence, I want to continue learning emerging techniques that will make me a better technician. I want to remain abreast with the current trends by reading online, attending relevant seminars or workshops, and seeking my mentor’s help as well. Additionally, I want to be a people’s manager who pushes the employees to challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zone and excel in their endeavours.

Example 8

I am seeking to complete my certification course in two months’ time and submit my thesis. This would prepare me to take on additional roles and responsibilities in the future, as and when they are available.

Example 9

My long term career goal is to be the best animation developer and be a valuable asset to a reputed organization. I want to keep on learning as much as I can about the role. I would like to become a subject matter expert in my area and mentor the right candidates in order to help them excel in their respective roles.

Example 10

My career goal right now is to find a position in a company with a great work culture, where I can grow and take on new challenges eventually. Then, I would like to assume more management responsibilities and get involved in product management strategy and customer facing roles. Most importantly, I want to work for a company where I can build a career, love my job, and not do mechanical work.

Example 11

I am driven to work somewhere where I will have plenty of opportunities to develop my skill sets, take on interesting projects, and work with enthusiastic people whom I can really learn from. Some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry work in this company and that’s a big motivation for me – the reason why I would love to build a career here.

Mistakes to avoid while attempting to answer the question

There are a few dos and don’ts that a candidate should keep in mind while facing the interview board to answer questions on career goals. Here is a list: 

  • Do not mention goals about going back to school, on a vacation or starting/expanding a family. This may make it seem like you are not serious about your professional commitments.
  • Be careful not to start bragging about your accomplishments.
  • Do not beat about the bush. Be straightforward and clear.
  • DO not go on and on with your answer. Know where to stop.
  • Be very confident in your approach. Your answer should show the hiring manager how eager you are to work for the company.

Remember to keep your answer positive, concise and in line with what the company does. This will not only showcase your professionalism but will also show the interviewer your willingness to work for the company.