Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

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Dear Readers,

I’m pretty sure it’s not a big secret in the tech industry that sometimes we take interviews or accept calls from recruiters just to see what happens. Sometimes I just want to know, what does that company think I’m worth? How is the interview process these days? Could it be better there compared to where I am today? Of course, the grass is always greener so you have to be careful with that question.

Anyway, the point is, I was interviewing for a position. It was the very first interview where the recruiter asks some simple questions to see where you are in your career, make sure you are applying to the right thing, and that you’re not a complete weirdo. This recruiter, though, asked me: “Where do you see yourself in five years?

Mitch Hedburg would have responded, “Celebrating the fifth anniversary of you asking me this question.”

I’m pretty sure I could respond with that and get away with it because the interview process is optional for me since I have a job that I’m reasonably satisfied with but it has been a very long time since I’ve been asked that question.

My five year plan? I can’t envision where I’ll be in five years. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in the last five. I’m mostly just living my life putting one foot in front of the other, getting on from day to day… my five year plan? I don’t recall what I actually responded with. Probably something about how I have no desire to be in a management role and that ideally, in five years, I would just be doing the same kind of work albeit with new technology and new problems.

Writing this now, I wonder if perhaps the right response should have been: “Well, Mr. Person I’m Talking to Right Now, where do you think the world will be in five years?”

I know we’re supposed to have plans and I do. I want to continue learning guitar, music, and art. I want to learn another language. I want to spend the latter half of my life doing everything I can to enjoy the time I have. The years of striving to give everything to my company, plotting out every move to try to advance my career… well, I think those are behind me.

As I continued to think about that question over the following days, which I absolutely did, I started to think about how incredibly personal that question can be. So why ask it to begin with? For previous generations, perhaps it made more sense since you could honestly expect to work your entire career within a single company. But in the tech industry? Staying in the same place has often been seen as a negative. If you spend too much time in one place, it’s bad. (Not spending enough time in one place is equally bad. You have to spend just the right amount of time which seems to be somewhere between two and three years.)

And there’s the answer – it’s a personal question because my career objectives likely don’t involve staying in the same role or company for very long. In five years, I’ll most likely be in a new job. If I’m really lucky, it’ll be one that I’m passionate about and love. Otherwise, it’ll be another job like this one Dear Recruiter – one that pays the bills, keeps my family fed, and hopefully keeps me interested long enough to stick around for a couple years.

My question to that company should be: where do you see me in five years? It’s a question they can’t honestly answer so why should I?



P.S. I know I don’t have many followers but should you be a repeat reader of this blog (thanks so much!), you might wonder: “Hey, where’s the tie-in to music or arts?” There isn’t one, really.

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