“What’s your five-year plan?” a question we’ve all been asked in the past. But for what reason? The majority of people these days have a much more fluid approach to career planning and progression. Gone are the days of working your way ‘up the ladder’. Instead, younger people are more interested in the freedom and creativity a role can offer them.
That being said, this question still crops up in interviews time and time again. So, if we know it’s coming, why do we find it so difficult to answer? The problem is that the ‘right answer’ is one of the hardest to decipher. Trying to figure out a five-year plan is a very thought-provoking exercise and can be a very daunting process.
Planning is the key to a successful interview and I’d always encourage candidates to think carefully about answers to typical interview questions such as this one to avoid coming across flustered and unprepared.
Employers will not expect you to have the next five years of your life precisely mapped out but illustrating you have an idea of where you want to be – how you plan to progress your career, what your aspirations are and how you’re planning on getting there – this will really work in your favour.
An employer doesn’t want someone who is happy doing a mediocre job, only doing what is absolutely needed, they want someone who is motivated, driven and committed to going over and above their role and breaking the mould.
So, if you’re preparing for an interview and wondering how to answer this question, there are a few components you should be thinking about.
When someone asks you “what’s your five-year plan?” what they’re really asking is “how do you plan on building your career with us?”. With this in mind, you should be thinking about what your plan is for that role and what progression the role offers. Think about what the expanse of the role is and how you can illustrate your added value.
Understand, improve and master
One way to answer this question is to follow the equation above. Progression is a long process, it doesn’t just happen overnight. You want to show your interviewer that if successful, during your time within the business, you want to;
Completely understand the role – this takes a long time as you begin to familiarise yourself with every facet of the role. It’s really important you take the time to really understand each aspect and understand their importance and purpose for generating success.
Improve the role – now you’re familiar with the role, you’ve been doing the role for a while and you’re completely confident with your ability, it’s time to improve it. You should always be striving to better yourself professionally by learning every step of the way and using these experiences to improve efficiency, add value to the business, increase responsibility and streamline success.
Finally, it’s time to master your role. By using every experience to your advantage and learning from your mistakes you are closer to becoming an expert in your field. From here, you have the chance to share these with others on the team.
Providing this kind of structured example in an interview will show that you’ve done your research, you’ve thought about your answer and you’re looking towards the future. Think about the key drivers that will enable you to be better in your role and share them – a business owner wants to know how you are going to transform their business and why your particular skillset is absolutely vital for future growth.
I’ve had some great answers to this in the past. Perhaps most memorably someone who told me outright ‘I want your job’. This simple faux pas is a risk, but luckily I like risk takers, if you’re brave enough this could illustrate great drive and determination. Also, don’t be afraid to include some personal goals in there too, if you’ve always wanted to run a marathon or climb a mountain, tell me, it shows you’re driven and motivated in your personal life too.
Ultimately, your answer to this question is your opportunity to sell yourself on every level. Tell them exactly why you want, and deserve, to progress in the role and demonstrate that you’re someone who is ambitious and ready to take on a challenge.
SOURCE: James Caan CBE