Answering the Question, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

The first time I heard someone in a hiring position ask the question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years,” I was sitting around a large conference table at The Star-Ledger’s Newark, N.J. headquarters with about a dozen other summer interns.

“The Daily News.”

“The New York Times”


Not one of us said, “The Star-Ledger.”

Glenn Proctor, then a high-on-the-totem-poll editor, was the keeper of us interns and had a large say in careers at the top 20 newspaper, listened to each of our answers. When we finished, he gave a slight laugh and tilt of his head before calling each of us out for not saying we wanted to be working there.

While I can’t speak for everyone else that day, I can tell you my stomach dropped and I thought, “critical error.”

From that point forward whenever anyone asked me that same question, I always included the company I was talking with in my answer. But, about 5 years ago my answer when asked that question started to change, and I don’t apologize for the way I now respond.

Neither does Marissa Mayer.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, she in part, answered the same question by saying this, “But I would never have a five-year plan. If I’d stuck to my original five-year plan when I was 18, I would have missed every great thing that ever happened to me.”

I couldn’t agree more, and have been answering similarity when asked that question.

Typically, I say something along the lines of, “I want to be learning and using the newest strategies, trends and technology to help advance the company I am working for. It may sound like a silly answer, but 15 years ago publishing, journalism, social media and the world as we know it today was completely different. If I was so focused on just one plan, I would never have experienced all of the things I have.”

I usually get a confused look at first, but when I am done explaining, it usually gets one of three reactions: completely silence, an elusive comment like, “that’s an interesting way of looking at things” or a more futuristic respond like, “that’s a good point. The world has changed so much and to be marketable and relevant, you have to keep up with it.”

My interviewer’s reaction to my answer also gives me some insight into the person, and company, I could be potentially working for. Remember, when you’re interviewing for a position, you are also interviewing them as well to make sure they are a good fit for you. For me, I want to be working with people who are not only currently doing the best job they can, but also looking out for the future of the company and seeking ways to make sure it is always evolving.

Someone once told me that answer could come across as someone who is “always looking for the next best thing” and gets bored with the status quo. While I understand their point, I argue that it shows adaptability, which with the ever-changing business landscape, is something companies are, and should be, seeking in candidates.

I use newspaper publishing and journalism to support my case. Think about the newspapers that embraced digital, video and social media. Now, look at the ones who fought it tooth and nail.


Michelle MaskalyMichelle Maskaly is a content creator and business consultant who specializes in helping businesses of all sizes capitalize on their marketing and content potential. She has worked with large media organizations such as Fox News and Bloomberg, magazines and brands, as well as chambers of commerce and small businesses. Work with Michelle by contacting her now.  


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