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Q: During an interview what’s an appropriate answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

A: Companies are interested in longevity, but the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” question isn’t about you promise to stay with the company for the next 15 years.  It’s more about getting a sense that the investment they’d be making in hiring you is one that will yield a return, and you see a connection between what the role and organization has to offer, and what you bring to the table.

In fact, being too rigid in your goals can actually cut you out of the running, if it’s not in line with what they envision for the position.  Instead, focus your answer around your interest in that particular company and position, and how you see both fitting in with your overall career plan and goals.

“I don’t have an exact plan, but I do know that I want to continue to grow in this field, and in my level of responsibility and skill.  This position interests me because I feel it’s moving me in that direction.”

And if you want to get more specific, approach it backward – if it were 5 years from now, what have you learned when you look back at where you started in the role, and where you are “now”?  What challenges did you overcome, what new skills did you obtain, what new responsibility did you step up and take on, what specializations were you able to explore – where did you grow professionally, and what did that growth look like and mean for you?