“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Eight simple words capable of sending chills down the spine of any job seeker in an interview with a potential future employer. Eight words carefully selected to show the interviewer exactly what your career goals are – and how your employment in this particular position would help your master plan take shape. How you answer this question says a lot about you as a potential employee. Your response will immediately indicate whether you will be a long-term, motivated member of the company; or if your employment would merely serve as a short-term stepping stone towards your ideal career. This rings especially true for those in the field of marketing looking to move up the corporate ladder, as well as those contemplating launching a marketing career of their own.
How should you answer? You need to start by thinking of the question and the entire job interview as a marketing challenge.
Step 1: Define your vision – for yourself
Most interviewers will ask about your short and long-term professional plans and goals, not only to understand what your intentions are regarding their company but also to gain insight on your cognitive processes and problem-solving techniques. Before stepping into the interview room, you need to prepare yourself for this question. It may present itself as a “five-year plan” query, but can also be voiced in a number of other formats, all with identical intent. If you don’t know who you want to be or what you want to be doing in the next five years, how can you possibly convince the interviewer that you are a good fit for the company? Without a vision, how are you to know that this is the right place for you to work? Figuring out what you want is the first step towards achieving it. Drawing on your experiences as a marketing manager (or desire to become one) and using them to further your goals is of utmost importance.
Step 2: Determine how you intend to meet your goals
Now that you know what your ideal career plan looks like, you can start piecing together a step-by-step plan of action to reach your goals. For example, if you want to be a VP of marketing, you may start as an intern at a marketing firm, taking supplementary courses on the side, and learn everything you can from your superior mentors, while working your way up the marketing hierarchy. Or, if you want to be the head a large PR firm, you may decide to spend shorter periods of time working for different kinds of communications companies, sharpening your skills and expertise in various marketing fields.
Step 3: Market yourself
You have a vision. You know how to work to meet your goals. You are now ready to enter the interview room and answer the tough questions, tailoring your answers according to how the position fits into your grand career plan. Be careful and selective when sharing this vision. Only reveal the aspects of your path that will benefit you during the interview. Be truthful, emphasizing the skills and abilities you possess that make you an asset to the company, things that they will not want to overlook. If necessary, avoid lending details that indicate you intend to use the position as a temporary stepping stone to future endeavors. You never know what could happen in this particular position, there could be huge potential growth opportunities, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by making it obvious that you don’t plan on staying for the long haul.
Remember: you are your own best advocate. The best marketing plan you will ever create is the marketing plan for your career and your future.