The job interviewer leans forward and asks, “So, where do you see yourself in five years?” If the interviewer has even a hint of self-awareness, he or she will probably deliver that question with a self-aware smile, fully cognizant of the impossibility of knowing where any of us will be five years from now, much less tomorrow. Nonetheless, it’s a question that pops up quite a bit in interviews, and (for many job candidates) it’s an equally reliable stumper. Inappropriate answers include, “I’ll have your job by that point.” If your true long-term dream is to race cars, paint pictures, become a professional pilot, or pretty much any job other than the one you’re interviewing for, it’s also probably best not to mention that in your answer. Companies prefer employees to stick around; if you give the impression that the potential job is just a short-term stepping-stone to something completely different, chances are pretty good you won’t be hired. Instead, focus on your personal growth. If you’re interviewing for a job as an entry-level programmer, mention that in five years you could see yourself managing projects. If you’re a mid-level manager, talk about how you want to increase your knowledge and skill sets of various technologies, and manage larger teams. The goal here is to show how your development over the longer term aligns with the company’s objectives.

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