“So, where do you want to be in 5 years?” This is a question interviewers love to ask job applicants. Are you prepared to answer it?
Responding to this question takes a lot of thought because it applies not only to the specific position you are applying for, but even more to the very essence of your career path. Do you need a job, or are you pursuing a career? An immediate job may be your short-term goal, while a career often requires further education and training. If you have mapped out a career direction, then you can more easily answer the question since you will have a long term goal to grow professionally and contribute to your employer.
O.K., once you know where you want to go, how do you get there?
I like to think of it as a strategic plan.
Understand where your starting point is, and set realistic goals. Focus on the position you have, and use it as a growth opportunity. Recently I had a conversation with a woman who was upset and puzzled over her sporadic work history. In each of her last several jobs she was terminated after only a few months. As we explored this further, she realized that she had been so focused on the higher, supervisory level jobs she had not landed, that she neglected the positions she was hired for. While she felt confident, unfortunately she did not have the skills and qualifications for these higher level jobs. When applying for a job, it’s good to believe in yourself, but even if you feel you are qualified, employers want proof of your experience. You need to demonstrate your skills and establish a track record.
Prepare and Strategize. Become very good at what you do, and don’t settle for that alone. Go above and beyond. Know the ins and outs of the company, the culture, and the trends in the industry. Keep up to date with your skills and any necessary certifications, licensure, and trainings.
Show enthusiasm and commitment. Pursuing this strategy will show you are invested in your career and the company. Hopefully you are also passionate about what you do. This will fuel the energy and the will to go that extra mile. You want to become not only a valuable employee, but an exceptional one who exudes a drive to learn the maximum and take on additional responsibilities when they present themselves. Bottom line: love what you do.
Step up. Once you have excelled in your position and have demonstrated that you are ready to advance, you need to consider the company’s needs. Have you researched the company’s anticipated direction? Are you a good match? Now is the time to connect the dots by taking initiative within the parameters of your position. Express to your employer your interest in taking on new projects. Assess whether your employer would be receptive to your suggesting ideas about enhancing the company’s operation. Make yourself the obvious choice.
Climbing any ladder can be challenging. As you work to advance in your career, keep focused on your goal, no matter how sky high. But remember to be realistic: know where you are on the ladder, and make sure you have what it takes to make the climb!
By Tova Jaffee, Supervisor, Career Services, Jewish Community Services
JCS offers a full range of career services. To learn more about these and other ways JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles, visit http://www.jcsbaltimore.org, or call 410-466-9200. Jewish Community Services is an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.