I’ve been asked this question several times by friends, colleagues and in interviews.
Irrespective of who asks the question or when it has been posed, I’ve always struggled to give an answer.
If it’s been in an interview I’ve been aware of the angle behind the question and have usually given an an answer that I thought the prospective employer was looking for. In essence what the interviewer is really asking me in this situation is where the role they’re trying to fill fits in with my overall career plan. What they really want to know in all likelihood is how this job will be a stepping stone to reach a desired destination – to put this even more simply… will it help me get to where I want to be?
If the answer I provide gives them confidence of this, they’re more likely to think I will be dedicated and stick around for a while. If I can’t make them feel confident that the role fits in with a longer term plan, they’ll be concerned I will get bored and take the next best offer when it comes along.
When a friend or family member asks me where I see myself in five years time, providing an answer is even harder as it’s unlikely they will have an agenda attached to the question.
The simple truth is I have no idea where I will be in five years time. It’s almost impossible to be certain what life will bring in a few months let alone five years.
As children we’re often asked what we want to be when we grow up. It’s extremely rare to find someone who actually manages to end up doing what they dreamed of as a child. They say that people plan and god laughs.
So many questions about the future are based around an assumption that we have 100% control of the factors at play when trying to reach our destination. While we can certainly try pave the way for an outcome we desire, there are always variable factors that can change the game in an instant.
What factors you ask? – All the big ones..family, health, love, career etc. It’s hard enough to face one’s own unknown future – it’s even harder when a loved one is going through an uncertain period, be it their health, financial hardships or just everyday horrible things that life can throw at you.
That’s why I have incredible difficulty answering where I will be in five years with any conviction. I think most of us know where we’d like to be but cannot be entirely certain that’s where we will be.
So perhaps a better way of phrasing the question would be – What does happiness look like for you?