"What are your long-term career goals?" is a common question employers ask in job interviews, and it’s important to have a well-prepared answer to this question.
In this post, we'll explore what employers are looking for when they ask for your long-term career goals, the distinction between short-term and long-term goals, how to be specific and realistic, how to rehearse your answer, and what are some examples of long-term career goals.
Why do employers ask candidates for their long-term career goals anyways? It’s because employers are looking for candidates with clear and attainable long term career goals that also align with the company’s mission. If your goals are vastly different from theirs (for example: “I want to work in product management ASAP” if you’re interviewing for an engineering role), chances are, you won’t be the right fit for the role.
Keeping this information in mind, that’s why it’s THROUGHOUT the interview process to share how your goals align with your employers. Weave in talking points throughout your interview to show employers that you’ve thought about your long-term career goals and how they match up with the company. Some ways to do this include:
-Talking about how you plan on advancing within the company. What positions do you hope to move into, and which would make sense? Who do you admire?
- Discussing your plans for continued education and professional development. How will you make sure that you are keeping up with the latest trends in your field? Are there certain courses or certifications you want to earn over the long term?
- Sharing your ideas for how you can contribute to the growth of the company or industry. What innovative ideas do you have that could help us to achieve our goals?
Remember - people who take their careers seriously tend to be top performers. Businesses want to know that you are planning on staying with their company for the foreseeable future and that you have a plan for your career growth.
It's important to understand the difference between short-term and long-term career goals when answering the long-term career goals question. Short-term goals are typically more immediate and focused on the next 1-2 years (or less). They might include things like improving your skills, gaining new experience, or taking on incremental responsibilities in your current role.
Long-term goals, on the other hand, are more focused on the next 5-10 years or more. They might include things like advancing to a higher level position, moving into a new function, or becoming a respected leader.
While short-term goals are important, it's the long-term goals that employers are most interested in. Make sure you’ve outlined both your short and long term goals in preparing for this question, so you don’t share an underwhelming answer. For example - completing a Cloud computing certification that takes you three months is great. But this isn’t a great answer to a long-term goals question, and an employer may wonder what you have planned beyond those three months.
When answering the question about your long-term career goals, it's important to be clear. Vague or general answers like "I want to be successful" or "I want to be the best" are unlikely to impress. Instead, be clear about what you want to achieve in the long-run. For example, you might say "I hope to become a project manager in the tech industry within the next 3 years and eventually move into a leadership role within 5 years."
It's also important to be realistic about what you can achieve. If you're currently a junior level employee, it may not be realistic to aim for a C-suite role in the next 5 years. Instead, focus on achievable and realistic goals that align with your skills, experience, and career path.
If you’re thinking, wait - I don’t know what my long-term career goals are - that’s okay! Our long-term goals change throughout our lives. Focus on what your long-term career goals are TODAY. If you change your mind in the future, that’s fine - and it’s a much better alternative than saying you don’t know.
Before the interview, take the time to practice your answer and research the company you're interviewing for. Again, consider how your long-term career goals align with the company's mission, vision, and culture, and tailor your answer accordingly. Repeat your answer out loud a couple of times or have a friend practice interviewing you.
Remember to keep your answer concise and don’t give too long of a response (that’s when interviewees start to ramble). It’s okay to be direct and to the point.
Want a start on how to answer this question? Below are some examples of answers to the question, “What are your long-term career goals?”
For a Product Designer: “My long-term career goal is to advance to a leadership role within a product design team over the next 5-10 years, and manage my own team of junior and senior product designers. I'm passionate about making a positive impact on the organization and I believe that by developing my skills and gaining new experience, I can contribute in a meaningful way."
For someone changing industries: "I've been working in the communications field for several years now and my long-term goal is to transition into an Account Executive role in the IT services industry. I have a strong interest in the latest technology advancements and I would like to use my strong communication skills to develop sales pitches and win deals for my company.
For an individual contributor: “I have a strong interest in fintech, and my long-term goal is to become a recognized expert in that area. I'd like to use my expertise to build innovative new products, and make a meaningful contribution to my industry.”
Remember, these are just examples, and it’s important to tailor your answer to reflect your personal goals and aspirations. The most important takeaway is to be specific, realistic, and show your interviewer that your long-term career goals align with the company’s mission and vision.
In conclusion, it is important to take some time to consider your long term career goals before going into a job interview. This will help ensure that you have an answer prepared when the interviewer asks what your long term career goals are. Your response should be honest, but also tailored to the position you are applying for so that the hiring manager can get an idea of what kind of employee you would make.
Ultimately, if you stay focused on your goals and execute them - there’s no limit to where your career can go.
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