Helen Oswald

Be prepared for the question: What are your career aspirations?


Be prepared for the question: What are your career aspirations?

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Why do interviewers ask about your career aspirations?
  • What are some examples of career aspirations?
  • How can you define your career aspirations?
  • Tackling the interview question: What are your career aspirations?
  • Sample answers to questions about career aspirations 
  • Key takeaways

What do you aspire to be? What is your Everest in terms of reaching the pinnacle of your career? How can you impress a hiring manager with your long-term career goals? Follow our step-by-step guide to defining your career aspirations.

One interview question that always comes up in an interview is ‘What are your career aspirations?’ This seems like an easy question, that you can probably just answer on the spot by talking about your future career plans and professional goals. 

That’s partly correct, but as with most interview questions, preparation is key. Understanding why the interviewer is asking what are your career aspirations will ensure you present an answer that is another step toward a job offer. In this article, we will explore:

  • What are your career aspirations?

  • Why do interviewers ask about your career aspirations?

  • What are some good career aspirations?

  • How to define your career aspirations

  • How to answer, ‘What are your career aspirations?’

  • Sample career aspirations answers to impress a hiring manager

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”  - Steve Jobs

What are your career aspirations?

Career aspirations are your long-term hopes and dreams in terms of the career path you wish to pursue. Essentially, ‘Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of your professional life?’ 

Many people also develop a five-year plan which serves as a guide to help you stay on track as you navigate toward your North Star. This is not carved in stone and needs to be flexible, as we all know that life can be unpredictable at times!

There can be some confusion between career goals and career aspirations. While these are linked objectives, they are also different objectives. 

Your career goals are specific, short-term objectives that are focused on achieving an outcome, such as securing a promotion in a six-month period. 

Your career aspirations are more generic, long-term objectives that may change in terms of outcomes and results as you navigate your career.

Why do interviewers ask about your career aspirations?

The majority of hiring managers will ask about your career aspirations in some way, shape, or form in the interview. This could be phrased as

  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?

  • What are you hoping to get out of this role? 

  • Do you think this position aligns with your professional goals? How? 

You may already have a clear vision of what your career aspirations are, but it is also good to understand what the interviewer is looking for when they ask this question. 

A hiring manager will be assessing your suitability for the role, whether your goals are realistic and if they are aligned with the role and company.

Interviewers will also be evaluating your potential commitment to the role and whether you plan to stay with the company for a reasonable period of time.

What are some examples of career aspirations?

Here are a few examples of professional career aspirations that may give you some ideas in terms of potential long-term objectives for your career:

  • Become an expert in your field 

  • Reach a leadership position

  • Win a prestigious award

  • Earn a degree or certification

  • Make a career switch 

How can you define your career aspirations?

Career aspirations can be impacted by many factors, such as your talents, values or lifestyle for example. Sharpening your focus on what is important to you and what you are good at will enable you to understand your career aspirations better. You can then create a plan to achieve these objectives.

Start by exploring your strengths, in terms of what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. If you can find a role that blends both of these factors, it’s a winner! Also, reflect on your values. Determining what exactly you care about can help you identify what motivates you.

Here are some sample questions to help you pinpoint your unique career aspirations:

  • What are your talents?

  • Which tasks do you enjoy doing?

  • What tasks do you find unbearable?

  • Which industry do you think you would perform well in?

  • Who do you want to help?

  • Would you like to manage a team?

  • Do you prefer to work autonomously or in a team-focused environment?

  • What would you measure as a success in terms of your career?

  • Is there someone you admire in terms of their success and career achievements?

  • What fulfills you? Power, money, continual learning, innovation, helping people, recognition?

Once you have explored these areas, complete some research on job positions and companies that are aligned with the answers you gave to these questions. For example, if you are smart, compassionate, organized, and have great judgment skills, maybe you can aspire to be a humanitarian lawyer.

Another option is to meet with a career coach or mentor. An objective third party can help you uncover your aspirations if you are finding the process tricky. 

When you think about the amount of time you spend at work, it makes sense to invest time in uncovering your career aspirations so you can pave the way for a fulfilling career.

Tackling the interview question: What are your career aspirations?

Follow this five-step process to prepare your answer to, ‘What are your career aspirations?’

  • Research the company culture and what the organization is currently working on in terms of short- and long-term plans

  • Be honest, but try as much as possible to align your professional goals with the role. Review the job description so you can link tasks to your career goals and aspirations

  • Focus on talking about your strengths in relation to the job skills required 

  • Explain how your long-term interests, career plans, and aspirations tie in with the job’s key functions

  • Highlight your commitment to staying and growing with the company. Gone are the days when an employee stays with a company for a lifetime, but if an employer is investing time and resources in you, they will want some commitment in return.

Expert Tip

Focus on the specific job opportunity in front of you, rather than talking about what you aspire to achieve after this job. While it’s great to have career aspirations stretching into the future, the hiring manager may worry about your commitment to the role.

Sample answers to questions about career aspirations 

It can be a challenge to create a response to questions about your career aspirations. The key message you need to get across is that both you and the potential employer will benefit as your career aspirations, the position and the company are a perfect blend. 

Here are some examples to help you get started and tailor according to your career aspirations:

Example #1

Copyable example

‘Recognition is a key factor for me. From an early age, my passion has been in the field of design, and I aspire to win an international award in the future. I am curious, passionate and love challenges, constantly surrounding myself with great work to continually improve my standards.

Your company appealed to me due to your focus on creativity and innovation which is something I would like to be rewarded for. I am committed to contributing to your vision and goals, while also being excited to join a team of talented graphic designers.’

What does this answer show?

Recognition is a key aspirational goal. In the creative field, the desire to create award-winning material and raise standards is something an employer will really value. The candidate also makes it clear why they are interested in joining the company and their commitment in terms of staying and growing with the organization.

Example #2

Copyable example

‘I am extremely goal-oriented, love working with clients, and enjoy providing customers with solutions to their problems, which is why I knew my career path was in sales. I have secured valuable sales experience over the past few years, with success in attracting and retaining key clients, negotiating competitive contracts, and delivering excellent service. 

My goal is to secure a sales leadership role and I am really inspired by your company’s mission, vision, and objectives. If given the opportunity, I am confident I would quickly excel in the role of Sales Associate and prove myself worthy of leadership opportunities.’

What does this answer show?

This candidate is clear in terms of their strengths and career path as well as the aspirations they have in terms of securing leadership roles. This person shows a strong interest in the role and company as well as a commitment to contributing to the success of the business over time.

Example #3

Copyable example

‘Having just completed my bachelor’s degree in computer science, I am excited to secure a position in software development. I have worked part-time for the university to support my studies, with responsibility for a portfolio of web application development projects. My education and work experience have not only enhanced my technical capabilities, but also my communication, organization, and problem-solving skills. 

In this position, I would look to build upon these skills and experiences to make a positive contribution to the company in both the short and long term. Over time, I want to be regarded as an industry expert in my field, who contributes to the industry and creates innovative products that benefit society.’

What does the answer show?

This is a great answer. The candidate is looking to become an industry expert in their field and use this knowledge to benefit both the company and society. This information, combined with the details provided on studies, work experience, and transferable skills, would be major selling points to a hiring manager.

Example #4

Copyable example

‘Over the past six years, I have been honing my skills and capabilities in the field of operations management while working for a national service and distribution company. I feel ready for a new challenge, working for a company that is focused on growth and gaining exposure to managing large-scale operations and global, remote teams. 

I have strong leadership, communication, and analytical skills, which I am looking to develop further. My longer-term goal is to become a Senior Operations Manager or Operations Director with increasing levels of responsibility.’

What does this answer show?

This answer clearly communicates the applicant’s career aspirations and skills, while aligning them with those of a multinational company. They come across as an ambitious individual with skills and experience that will benefit the target role and company both now and in the future.

Key takeaways

  1. Define your career aspirations to secure a job you love! Link your current skills and expertise with your interests and passions, underpinned by what people will pay you for.

  2. Take time to prepare a convincing answer to the question, ‘What are your career aspirations?’ Research the company and role, then align your aspirations to the position.

  3. Practice answering the question using the examples provided. Keep your answer relevant to the company and role, be honest and avoid mentioning personal goals.

Helen Oswald

Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.

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