Leaving any job comes with a mix of emotions. One of the most exciting parts is realizing that you get to realign yourself with your career dreams. Don’t rush through the process of filling your next role. Instead, use this as a chance to take back control of your life and career.
Being asked in a job interview about your overarching career goals can feel daunting. Are they looking for a specific answer? Will what you say cause you to lose this opportunity? It can feel like a trick question. However, the contrary is actually true. Allow yourself to feel empowered by a prompt like this. An employer who asks their candidates about their future is allowing each individual to have a say in the projection of their career. Mentioning your goals is an excellent tool for setting a course and keeping to it.
We’re going to talk about how to answer questions from an interviewer about what you are looking for in your next role. We’ll draw from your personal goals to deliver the best message that gets you the job, while also staying true to yourself. In this article we’ll cover
What career goals are, and how to find yours.
The difference between career goals and goals for a specific position.
How to answer questions about your goals during an interview.
How to answer the question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Answering the question: What are you looking for in your next role?
When someone asks you during an interview, “What are you looking for in a job?”, this is an invitation to speak to your future career goals, but approach it from the perspective of those goals being dependent on the position you’re applying to.
If your career goal is to work in eco-home building, and you are applying for a position as a project manager at a commercial building company, try saying:
“I want to someday specialize in eco-friendly homebuilding, so I hope to work for a company that supports professional development through certifications and courses in environmentally responsible building practices.”
Even if the company doesn’t already have a professional development course in place, this could very well prompt them to do so, upon which you’d find yourself in an excellent position!
Why are you interested in this role?
To provide the best answer to this question, be specific: work in a self-managed capacity, work directly with clients, work as a team or independently, room to grow in the company. All of these examples are not as broad as a career goal, but rather are specific things that you are looking for in the position you’re applying for.
Research the company!
A great way to use your goals to your advantage during an interview is to research the company beforehand. Employers want their staff to want to work for them. The best work environments are mutually beneficial. So, if you present a goal to your interviewer that aligns perfectly with what the position or company offers, it’ll make you stand out.
Try mentioning that you’ve always wanted to work for a company that:
hires from within
supports the same charities you do
allows employees to pick their own holiday dates
offers the benefits they do (specific benefits, like free childcare, a gym membership, education reimbursement, retirement matching, etc.)
What are career goals?
Goal setting should be an integral part of every person’s life. When it comes to career goals, you can have specific goals, such as being the COO of a national adventure clothing brand. Or they can be more broad, like work in the industry of adventure sports.
Goal setting can help you expand yourself, and to do so, it’s important to not let your goals be self-limiting. If you set a goal of working in IT project management but then fall into the world of video production, roll with it! Set a new goal, pursue it, check in with yourself in a year, and keep going from there.
Get into the habit of writing down your goals so you can look back six months or a year later. Ask yourself if you achieved your goals, and what might have helped or hindered you. Contemplate whether your previous goal is even relevant to you anymore, and make adjustments as needed.
Consider it like an incremental check-in that you do with yourself regularly. Career goals can mirror your life and personal goals, or they can be used as a way to keep your eyes on the horizon.
What are you looking for in your next role: examples of career goals
There’s really no correct way to decide your career goals, it’s entirely subjective. Every single person will have a different idea of what it’ll look like, and that’s a great thing. You’ll find that most people don’t have a linear career path by the end of their careers.
Be gentle with yourself when you make goals. Here are six examples of career goals that are loosely time sensitive and with low consequence.
Some examples of career goals are:
Join the management team within the next three years.
Produce high-visibility events.
Have the option to work overtime.
Implement a new strategy within your department.
Work with specific clientele.
Travel or relocate for work.
What’s your personalized career goal?
It’s quite normal to not have a clearly defined career goal. Some people won’t have set goals because they want to remain open to the pulls of their life. For many people though, life has been so demanding that they haven’t been given a moment to pause and really dig deep, look within, and find a projection that brings them joy.
If you relate to the latter, this section is for you. You are being asked to take a short pause, right now, to think ahead and create a goal.
To help find a personalized goal for you, let’s try an activity
Close your eyes and picture yourself at the height of your career. You don’t have to determine what field that career is in or even what position you’ll be in, let your imagination help bring clarity to that.
Consider what the environment looks like. Are you in
a personal office → you might want to pursue a management, executive, or c-level suite position.
a co-working space → you might thrive in an industry or position that offers community and collaboration.
surrounded by people with fast-paced energy → try exploring your affinity for big cities, which offer a large variety of industries and positions with a finger on every pulse.
in your living room or home office → tech, design, customer support, marketing, writing, and data analysis are all industries that regularly offer remote work, hybrid, or work-from-home (WFH) options.
Next, picture yourself engaging with those around you. Are you:
Meeting with a group of people in a conference room or on video? → Teamwork might be important to you.
Networking at events? → Sales, event planning, non-profits, public relations, and marketing are all industries where events are important.
Corresponding majority via email? → Having limited contact with colleagues might be your ideal.
Receiving no instruction on how to reach an outcome? → You might be a natural problem-solver and prefer coming up with your own solutions to problems.
The only person speaking or presenting during a meeting? → Leadership might be important in your professional growth.
Go through this same process with other elements of your dream career too, such as what hours of the day are you working, what is your ideal work apparel, what kind of duties you’d like to be doing during your work day, or what kind of relationship you’d like with your boss and colleagues.
Activities like this help to think of the larger scope of your career dreams. When you are asked about your goals in an interview, you don’t want to just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. You want to give genuine insight into your professional goals, which will inevitably translate into enthusiasm.
For more help on setting goals, look into SMART goals. It is a format used to create goals that are attainable. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Timely.
Describe what you are looking for in your next job: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Another way you might experience this question is, “How would you like to grow within this role?” To best answer this question, try offering a mix of your broad career goal, along with your specific-to-this-role goals.
Try to think of a way to theoretically bridge the two. If you are applying to work at the reception desk of a dentist's office, try suggesting that this job will get you familiar with the industry and terminology, which you hope will benefit you when you go to school for dental hygiene. In five years, you hope to be employed by the company still, but in a different way, as a dental hygienist.
Honor your goals–don’t rush in!
The biggest key to letting your goals guide your career is to honor them. Your goals come from a very personal place, you deserve to see how they play out.
The workforce is competitive, and if you’ve been looking for a job for months, it can be enticing to accept the first offer that comes your way. In reality though, if it doesn’t speak to at least one of your career goals, accepting that job would actually put you farther away from your goals. Of course, along the way, you might uncover goals you hadn’t realized before. But keep this in mind as you move through the application process. If something in the back of your head is telling you that it’s not that exciting, it might be worth walking away from.
Goals are more like guidelines than rules. Let them flow with you.
Use your goals to your advantage in an interview–research the company beforehand to make your goals align with what they offer.
The right opportunity will present itself, only take a job if you’re sure it fits into your goals in some way.