By: Chantele Pereira
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” (or some variation) is a favorite question of potential employers, current managers, teachers, or even relatives. I was asked the question as recently as a few years ago during an annual performance discussion. As an interviewer and hiring manager, I have seen a list of proposed questions that include this ominous question.
If you dreaded the question and still do, you are not alone. I marvel at people who have crisp, forthright, sharp responses like “I see myself in so-and-so CEO’s position” or “I want to be the general manager of the department.” I admire their focus and clarity of vision and admit I am even slightly intimidated.
When I look back, I want to believe that the question is an important one, well-intentioned and to gauge if I was thinking about my future, my career aspirations, or at least to prod me in that direction or perhaps even assessing how ambitious I was (or was not).
Over the years, I have come across helpful posts and blogs that provide exactly the responses I was looking for fifteen years ago (i.e., when I didn’t think I could answer the question without having a position or role I aspired to).
To those who have a singular focus and know exactly where you want to be or what you want to do in five years, you are amazing and do not let obstacles dissuade you from getting there! I am still a little intimidated, but much less so.
I have accepted that my career is not linear, and I see myself having multiple careers only because I am interested in more than one area or subject and I think I would be doing myself a disservice if I did not at least try to explore some of them.
I also think of the opportunities or experiences I would have missed if I had focused all my attention on that singular goal and did not trust my instinct to pursue an opportunity that presented itself when I least expected.
To the people who draw conclusions based on seemingly “less precise or focused” responses, I urge you to look to an individual’s drive, adaptability, willingness to learn, and ability to receive and implement feedback as some examples of better indicators of how a candidate may perform. After all, an interview can only tell you so much.
I have learned, however, that it is imperative to have goals and to work (even if small steps) towards achieving them. With help from friends, coaches, and Ellevate Squad members, I have a roadmap for the next five years with near-term, medium-, and longer-term focus and I will keep continue to refine them and refocus as needed.
As a lifelong learner with restless curiosity, when next asked, I will confidently answer the question as, “I see myself pursuing my purpose and doing work where I can learn, grow, and make a difference. I see myself taking on roles that challenge me as a professional and a leader and allow me the opportunity to give back.”
Chantele Pereira is a strategic and driven leader who is passionate about leading people and an advocate for mentoring. She is an accomplished audit, assurance, and forensic professional.