“Where Do You See Yourself In X Years?”

At any job interview, this is the question I hate the most. It’s an open ended question, so there’s supposed to be no right or wrong answer, but on the contrary, there actually IS a wrong answer.

We’re asked this question as if we’ve mapped out our career and life path 5 to 10 years out. Not everyone has an answer to this question. We’re not certain where our future takes us. Things also change over time, so your plan could be severely altered in a way that needs to be adjusted so that instead of a 10 year plan, it’s now become a 12 year plan.

My simple answer as an aspiring software engineer is that I have no idea where I see myself in my career years from now. All I want to do is work and continue learning so that I have a relevant skill base that will take me anywhere. Surprisingly, that is a wrong answer. I can tell from the body language of the person interviewing me. I can recognize the tone in their voice shift over the phone, clearly unsatisfied with my answer. Then they proceed to question my answer, as if criticizing it is going to give them something solid.

Every company focuses on loyalty because they want you to believe in their vision and support them for as long as possible. Therefore, if your answer is, “I want to continue learning,” their response will be, “Well, what happens if you’ve learned everything at our company? Will you leave in order to pursue a new learning opportunity”? They will respond with such scorn and disbelief and wonder why their time is being wasted on someone who could potentially leave their company in 1-2 years instead of 5-10 years.

So am I supposed to apologize for wanting to learn things at a company? Or should I reevaluate where I want to be in my career years down the road? Why can’t the desire to learn be an acceptable answer for people? It’s the right attitude, correct? I just want to work, simple as that. Make some money, potentially retire by 40 and whatnot. Win the lottery.

You spend too much time planning your future, you’ll never have time to start working towards it in the present. Plain and simple.