Not everyone has a long-term career plan, and that's okay. But if this question comes up in an interview, you need to be prepared to offer a convincing answer. While you might not be convinced that the industry you are working in could be a long-term pursuit for you, saying this in an interview setting could make the panel nervous. After all, what's to say you won't have a change of heart after three months and decide this isn't the right path for you?
The art of answering this interview question comes down to letting the interviewer know that you are passionate about your career path and excited for what lies ahead. They want to know that you are planning to stick it out in the long term and that you have the drive to succeed. Here are a few tips on how to answer the question, "What are your long-term career goals?" in an interview:
1. Do your research
Before you walk into the interview, it's important that you have done your research on the company and the role you are applying for. This will help you to gauge whether or not this is somewhere you could see yourself working long term.
If it is, then great! You can use this opportunity to let the interviewer know that you are excited about the possibility of having a long and successful career with their company. If you see it as a stepping stone to your dream career, that's fine too. There are ways to express this without seeming flaky or uncommitted.
2. Be honest
Lying in an interview is always a bad idea. It might help you to get the job, but your lack of motivation will soon become apparent, so you might not keep the job for very long. If you're not sure whether or not this is the right path for you, be honest and explain that you are hoping to gain some valuable experience that will help you to figure out your long-term goals. Don’t say that this is your dream job if you can’t back this up with any real passion or drive.
3. Don't make it all about money
While salary is undoubtedly an important factor in any job, it's not the only thing that should be considered when thinking about your long-term career goals. Sure, you want to be well-paid for the work you do, but if that's your only motivation, then it's likely that you'll end up unhappy in your job. Money shouldn't be your only goal; think about what else you want to achieve in your career.
4. Don't be afraid to dream big
When answering this interview question, don't be afraid to dream big. It's okay to have lofty ambitions, provided you have a plan in place that will help you to achieve them. There's little sense in saying that you hope to go to the moon if you don't know what it takes to become an astronaut.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
The most common reason that interviews ask this question is to see how this role fits into your long-term plans. They want to see that you have motivation and drive. They also want to see that you understand where this role could take you.
It shows good commercial awareness to understand how one role fits into a wider career path. They might also want to see that you expect the role to challenge you in new ways. Most employers are looking for someone who is reaching for a new role, not someone who is settling for a role they could do in their sleep.
The question, "What are your long-term career goals?" can be a tough one to answer, but it's important that you do so in a way that will impress the interviewer. Be honest, be passionate, and don't be afraid to dream big. With these tips in mind, you're sure to deliver a great answer.
What mistakes should you avoid when answering this question?
Don’t answer with something that has nothing to do with the company: This is your time to show that you’ve done your research and you know that this company is where you want to be. If your answer is “I just want a stable job with good pay and benefits,” you might seem indifferent to the company and focused on the wrong things.
Think about more than just your salary expectations. We all want to be earning buckets of cash eventually, but you need to think about what will motivate you beyond the promise of a paycheque. Consider what else the company can offer you, such as opportunities for development, a good work/life balance, or the chance to work with inspiring people.
Don’t make it all about you. When thinking about your long-term goals, it can be easy to get caught up in thinking about what you want to achieve personally. But this question is also an opportunity to show that you’re focused on the company’s success too. Consider how your goals align with the company’s mission and values, and how you can contribute to its growth.
Don't say you want to be in the boss's chair. It's a clique interview answer that might get a chuckle, but could also make you seem very arrogant. There are better ways to say that you would like to move into a management role.
How to answer "What are your long-term career goals?"
If you're struggling for inspiration, try these example answers.
Example #1: The lifelong learner
If you aren't sure what you want to be doing long-term, you can talk about what you're going to do to help you figure it out. Continuing to add to your skills and learn new things is a great way to achieve this.
"My long-term career goal is to always keep learning. I want to always be learning and expanding my skillset so that I can keep up with the ever-changing landscape of my industry. I also want to be able to share my knowledge with others so that they can benefit from my experience. I'd like to go into teaching one day, and I believe this role would give me the skills and experience I need."
Example #2: The ambitious one
Rather than saying you want the boss's job, you can use this slightly more palatable answer.
"My long-term career goal is to progress into a leadership role within the company. I want to be able to use my skills and experience to help contribute to the success of the business. I’m also interested in developing my own skills so that I can continue to grow as a professional."
Example #3: The change-maker
Another answer for those who don't know exactly what job they will be doing, perhaps because it doesn't exist yet? If you're a creative thinker, this answer could work for you.
"I'm passionate about innovation, so I would like to eventually move into a role where I can focus on developing new products or processes. I want to be able to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to make a real difference within the company. I believe this role would give me the chance to develop those skills."
Example #4: The career mover
If you're in the process of switching careers, this is a great time to let the interviewer know why you are interested in this new path. This should give them some reassurance that you aren't a serial job switcher.
"For the past few years, I have been expanding my skills to be able to move from a sales role to a marketing role. I've taken online courses in marketing to make sure my knowledge is up to date. This role would be ideal as it is a bridge between the sales and marketing departments, so I would be able to bring a unique insight to both teams."
Examples #5: Moving into management
This is a great answer if you're hoping to move into management one day without sounding like you're trying to take over the company. It will allow you to talk about what you've done to expand your management skills. If the job description mentions management in any way and you don't think you currently have the experience, this could help to put the interviewer's mind at ease.
"I've been a team leader for the past few years and I believe I have shown promise in this field. I would like to continue on this path to becoming a senior manager and would be interested in working in an international setting with a distributed team."
These are just a few examples, but there are endless possibilities for how you can answer this question. The key is to be open and honest about what you really want. And don't forget to tie it into the role to show why this job is so essential to your career development.