Imagine its 2015. You’re at a cocktail party. The neophyte in you is trawling around, looking for someone interesting to talk to. And that’s when you bump into this old nosy relative who’s more concerned about your future than his own.
A few minutes into a conversation with him, and he asks you one of the most dreaded questions of all time: “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”
What do you say? What do you say?
You take a deep breath and then spit out lie after lie. All this only to convince him that you have it all figured out.
“I’ll be a fruitful part of my organization and a pioneer of my field,” you say, throwing in jargon after jargon. But little do you know that 2020 has different plans for you. Let alone being a pioneer. You might not even have a job in 2020.
Now excuse me for being so pessimistic. But that’s just the way things work. Five years is a long-long time.
Now I’m not implying that we’re destined to be doomed in the next five years. What I’m saying is that the world is changing (rapidly). Nothing is predictable. And so, we should stop taking pride in knowing what “we think” we’ll be in the next five years.
I sound like an unambitious snob, don’t I? Well, to avoid sounding like me, refer to the guide below to understand how you can answer the perennial question:
Generalize instead of specifying.
Now I know that some of us are treading a concrete path. I also know that some of us are sure about the particular job title we seek. But trust me, that, too, will change with time.
So instead of figuring out every new milestone on your career roadmap, think of what you’ll do each day to make progress.
For instance, let’s say an online publication is interviewing you, and they ask you the same question. Instead of preaching about becoming the most viewed writer in the next five years, talk about how you intend to work on a day-to-day basis. Or, think in terms of the learning experiences you seek.
The glossy job title could potentially be an output of your daily input. But it isn’t precisely under your control. On the other hand, the work you put in each day is all on you. Always has been.
Be Introspective and Retrospective.
The skewed ideas of raises, promotions, and linear progressions hover on our heads like little cuckoo birds. We’re so lost looking up at the next level that we forget which level we’re on. All the levels we’ve crossed, even more so.
So, for once, look down. That’s where you’ll find most of your answers.
Look back at the past five years of your life and think about all the progress you’ve made, both professionally and personally. That gives you a very accurate picture of where you could be in the next five years.
A retrospective perspective allows you to learn from your past mistakes, introspect your present perception towards them, and then progress towards a better future.
Put simply, it doesn’t matter where you’ll be after five years. What matters is where you were five years ago.
Don’t be believable, be realistic.
In a world where almost everyone’s trying to compete with you, it’s not easy to be realistic about your future. But see it this way…
When someone asks you where you see yourself after five years, don’t respond to impress, convince, or compete. Respond for yourself. See it as an opportunity to review your goals, your aspirations, and your dreams.
By doing that, you’ll not only sound more confident, but you’ll also be reminded of your own reality.
Let’s conclude this piece with one of my favorite movie quotes:
You’re not your job, you’re not how much money you have in bank, you’re not the car you drive, you’re not the contents of your wallet, you’re not your f**king khakis, you’re all-signing all-dancing crap of the world.
- Tyler Durden, Fight Club