If you're just starting out in your career or you only have a couple of years' experience under your belt, it's common not to have a clear picture of your long-term career goals yet.

So when the common question "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" pops up during an interview, you might be wondering how to answer without sounding like you have no idea what the answer is. While you shouldn't be dishonest in an interview, it's important to use the question as an opportunity to show your enthusiasm and forward-thinking approach.

Here are some key points to consider when planning your answer in advance.

Show your enthusiasm for the role and the company 

You won't do yourself any favours by talking about how much you want to be in a specific position five years down the track if the company you’re interviewing with has nothing to do with that position. Instead, make a point of mentioning the ways in which the role you’re interviewing with and the organisation would help you achieve your career goals, and why you’re excited about the prospect of working there.

Example answer: "My current goal is to take on a position where I can challenge myself, refine my skillset, and prepare myself for the next step in my career. I'm excited about the prospect of building a career at X company and working with forward-thinking industry leaders."

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Highlight your skills 

There’s virtually never a bad moment in an interview to tactfully champion yourself and talk about what would make you a valuable candidate. Use this question to talk about any recent achievements you’ve made or skills you possess, and tie them back to your long-term plans.

Example answer: "My aim is to deepen my skills in X and Y by taking on new challenges and projects. I recently acquired a Z certification to open up further opportunities for myself in the future, and I plan on continuing my education to put myself on the right path to progression."

Demonstrate your willingness to learn 

Regardless of the role you’re applying for, one thing interviewers want to see in junior-level candidates is that you’re be willing and eager to take on training opportunities and show initiative in tackling challenges head-on. Whether you have a clear 5-year plan or you’re still deciding what you want to do further down the track, you should mention that you’re keen to learn and grow.

Example answer: "I'm driven to be the best at anything I do, and I hope to take new projects and training opportunities to ensure I'm well-placed to take the next step in my career."

RELATED: The three best interview preparation tips

Show you have an interest in sticking with the company 

Potential employers want to know that the person they’re interviewing would be able to provide the company with long-term value and would remain committed, rather than learning new skills and then taking them elsewhere. Note your dedication to the business and show that company objectives are tied into your personal goals.

Example answer: "Ultimately, I want to grow within the business to be able to contribute more materially to its success."

Keep it general 

Few people know exactly where they want to be in five years, but even if you know what you’re striving for right down to the position, being too specific with your goals can make you seem inflexible. The market is constantly changing, so keep your answer general, while also showing that you’re thinking long-term.

Example answer: "I hope to take on more managerial responsibilities and contribute further to the business' overall vision and strategy."

Looking for more interview tips? Take a look at Page Personnel’s career advice blog.

Summary

When answering the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, consider these key points:

  • Show you’re enthusiastic about the role and working for the company
  • Tie your goals back to your skills and achievements
  • Show that you’re eager to learn
  • Make sure your vision involves growing within the company
  • Keep your answer fairly general – you don’t want to seem inflexible by being too specific
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