There are several standard questions in the interview process but perhaps none more expected than this tried-and-true classic: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“I don't think there is a standard answer to this question. I think it's one that actually deserves a lot of thought,” says Beth Dunham, who works with prospective employees in the tech industry in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dunham says she feels that way because employers aren't necessarily expecting the applicants to give them answers that pertain only to their company. “If someone asked you that question 15 years ago, your answer would only relate to the job or field you were in,” she says. “Today, you have some more flexibility when answering. You can talk about plans that may have a dotted-line relationship to your current situation.”
Although Dunham says employers still value loyalty, the new crop of managers isn’t as married to the idea of company lifers as those before them. While she isn't advocating for interviewees to immediately mention plans to move beyond a job they haven't even been offered, she says that questions about long-term plans can be answered fairly honestly. “Companies have long-term plans that even their current employees are unaware of,” she says. “You may be telling your potential boss something that pertains to the company’s future even if you don't know it yet.
All options open
That's the scenario Ryan Tamczak found himself in a few years ago when he was interviewing for a position with a data storage provider in San Francisco. “When they asked me about what I saw myself doing in 10 years, I told them that I envisioned myself traveling the country selling software. Doesn't seem that extravagant but the job I was interviewing for was strictly in-house and very hardware-related,” Tamczak says.
After putting three years in the office, Tamczak was called to the office of his old manager, who was now the vice president of development. “He mentioned the interview we had a few years back and wondered if I was still interested in selling software,” Tamczak says. “The company was about to purchase a small database company that we had used in-house and was wondering if I felt comfortable rolling it out to other companies. So that's exactly what I did.”
The long game
Dunham says Tamczak’s Experience highlight two points. First, she says, you should be fairly honest when interviewing for a position, especially when those questions relate to your future. “There's no reason to try to mask what you want to do even if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job,” she says. “If you tell them you want to be CEO of a company one day and they’re hiring you to work in the mailroom, they know you’re applying for the mailroom, not the job of CEO.”
The second thing to remember is that everything you say during an interview is important. “There are no throwaway questions. All of the answers you give require thought and preparation because you never know when someone’s going to remember those answers and, when possible, act upon them,” Dunham says.
Tell me more
With long-term goals in mind, we have compiled three potential strategies to answer the 10-year question:
- Put yourself at the center of the next big trend. Do your homework to find out what's on the horizon. “If you're being hired to promote or sell shared office space, your job is going to evolve,” says Lauren Wyck, a career coach based in Miami and a former HR specialist for Procter & Gamble. “Will people require more privacy in the future? Will co-working spaces still be viable as millennials get older? With people tie in their living arrangements with their working arrangements?” asks Wyck. “When you see the trends, you find a way to wrap those trends around your future work.”
- Think globally. Even if your potential company only has a domestic footprint, it’s a good idea to let them know that you’re thinking about their unlimited potential. “If you go to a company that does $10 million a year in domestic sales and tell them that you see yourself as the person who will help them make $20 million in international sales, they might think you’re a little cocky and a little naive,” says Dunham. “But they’ll also know that you won’t be content with your job, that you'll want more. And that's a good thing.”
- Show you’re a team player. While the notion of answering the 10-year question with a variation on “I’ll be doing your job” may seem brash, it’s also a cliche. Instead, tell your potential boss that you see yourself in a position that will further enable him or her to do quality work. And don’t worry – you’re just letting your boss know you not going to cut and run for the first new job opportunity. “Never forget why you're being hired in the first place – to make your boss look good,” Dunham says. “Find a way to tell your future manager that you will still be working together, but only at a higher level.”
By Marco Buscaglia, Tribune Content Agency
Published in the Chicago Tribune on March 13, 2022