Where do you want to be in 5 years (yes, THAT interview question)

Mar 09, 2021
Where do you want to be in 5 years

by Nia Lloyd, Career Voice


Interview coaching with hiring managers is something I love having the opportunity to do! Finding out how people gather their information, learning about different companies and really helping organisations find talent! One question continually comes up when doing a role play with a manager, and it always makes me shudder inside “where do you want to be in 5 years?” This question is a go-to for interviewers but a question which has never really sat well with me.

Who can really define where they want to be in this period? There are so many changes happening in the world of work and everywhere else, and 5 years can seem like forever – or pass in the blink of an eye! 

Perhaps the question people should be asking instead is: “Is where you are now actually where you wanted to be 5 years ago”. It is much more interesting to talk to someone about how they got to their current situation. It opens up so many areas to find out about their influences, interests, old and new goals.

There are so many twists and turns that impact out decisions and shape our life and career. Finding out about these tells so much about a person. Asking ourselves this question is also helpful. It will give us the insight to make smarter decisions, set more relevant, achievable goals and give ourselves the time to really think about where we genuinely want to be.

Ladies Finance Club | Where do you want to be in 5 years (yes, THAT interview question)










When I finished university, my dream was to travel – I wanted to work with people as well and so fell into Human Resources and Recruitment within hospitality and tourism. Personally, I made some great decisions, and some not so great.

Looking back the not so great also helped me form my career identity and I learnt a lot about myself! I think though, nobody tells you that your priorities are ever changing, and you know what – your career decisions are as well! Taking stock, checking in and realigning is essential! 

As my priorities changed I settled down with my partner, moved to Australia and was able to position myself solidly in a role where I could build teams and find exceptional talent – all whilst still getting my travel fix by having working across many regional locations in Australia! Five years ago, another shift in priorities and circumstances and my career was put on the back burner whilst I had my son.

However, I knew I wanted to keep learning so when I was ready, I could get back into my passion of helping people on their career journey. Something I never thought happened – I went back to university! Fast forward five years and I am realising my goals and working as a qualified career development practitioner. Many alternative obstacles and opportunities have come up along the way but by regularly checking in on my goals and adjusting them I know I am on the right path! 

To stay focused, here is a great 3-minute exercise you should do every year to check in with yourself and the career path you are on! Grab a pen and paper and split your page into three columns

1. In the first column, list all information about where you were five years ago.
What location were you in? Where were your working? What position? How did you feel about your career? Did your boss drive you up the wall? Did you love having those Friday afterwork drinks, or those water cooler conversations? Did you wish you had more flexibility?

2. Five years ago, where did you think you would be now?

In the second column, write where you thought you would be now. Did you have plans for a new career, thoughts of studying or aspirations to travel the world? Did you imagine having your own business or leading a high performing team? Did you want to have accomplished a certain task?

3. In the final column write where you are now

Where are you working and in what role? Where are you living and what does your personal life look like? How do you feel about your current role and where you are?

4. Now, lets look at the differences. On a scale of 1-10 how big is the gap from where you thought you would be to where you are? 

Where this number falls is honestly irrelevant as we need to take into consideration so many influences in your life – personal influence, environmental factors, societal influences – not to mention those random chance opportunities! But it gets us thinking and re-assessing! The most important question at this stage is this: 

5. How satisfied on a scale of 1-10 are you currently?

This last number is the one to look at. If it is 10/10 then amazing! Where you are in life now may be different than what you thought, but you are satisfied! In this circumstance, take some time to look at your column 2 list. Are any of these aspirations still relevant and ones you can set goals around for your next 5 years? 

If your satisfaction is low, it’s time to re-group, re assess and get your career back on track! Look back at column two and start thinking if this is still relevant. Give yourself time and space to think about your career, re-focus and realise what is important to you!

Three quick tips to practice every week to stay positive on your career journey:

  • Keep track of your wins at work – and celebrate these!  
  • Speak to a co-worker or colleague about what they do and what they love about their role – You might learn something and maybe build a lasting relationship!
  • Find your strengths and use them every day! – this might be attention to detail or communication. But if you are working to your strengths you will be more productive and more motivated!

Nia Lloyd is a qualified career development practitioner with over 12 years’ experience in HR and Recruitment both in Australia and overseas. Passionate about helping people, offering practical guidance and assistance to realise where you would like to be and strategies in getting there. If you need some clarity on your career, get in touch for a free 15-minute discovery call! 


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