I shake my head when I hear this question and ask myself what the difficulty here is . . . Unless, of course, you haven’t figured out a career objective yet. In which case, it’s okay to say, “I’m not sure because am still sorting that out.”
That’s a way to answer if you’re a relatively junior person. After all, it will be very easy to say, “I want to be in the C suite one day.” Or, “I want to grow up to be present in the United States one day (I’m using caricatures here quite obviously).
That’s what you can say if you’re a relatively junior person– You give a measured answer. “I’m still in the learning phase and figuring out what I want. University prepares you with one way of things and then you discover pretty quickly that corporate life is a little bit different. I’m still figuring it out.”
“How are you going about figuring it out,” becomes a follow-up question where they attempt to engage with you. They can take the question a lot of different ways to help you sort that out. It’s almost like a mentoring conversation where the mentor was trying to draw out useful information.
If you’re a more experienced person, there is a different way to answer and you have to have a career objective. Otherwise, all you’re doing is bending to corporate whims and doing whatever they tell you to do. Is that the way you want to live your professional life? Is that the way that the rest of your life should happen for you or do you have aspirations? Do you have goals? If you don’t, this is the time in life to figure it out because you are wasting time.
If you are unsure, having corporations tell you how to get ahead and how to advance have you barking up the wrong tree. They are not looking out for you; they are looking out for themselves. Yes, the question may have a couple of layers to it. For example, if this is a dead-end job and you have aspirations, you should be happy that they turn you down because it is a dead-end job. It may feel uncomfortable and awkward at the time to be turned down but you have to be happy that they had the good sense to reject you for the study and job rather than come aboard and kill your career.
Think of answering the question from a holistic perspective. The only right answer is the truth. I want you to hear that again. The right answer is the truth. Lay it out in a way that requires a textured response from them. If you turn around and say things to them along the lines of, “I demand that I get this…” And have that kind of tone to your answer, they will shoot you down because they are hiring you for a position today and are considering how it might lead to your future.
However, if you think about it from your vantage point, the truth is the best answer that you can give. That’s because you don’t want to join a firm that is going to beat you senseless.
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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