10 Questions that Will Help You Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

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Over the past few decades, people all across the world have been creating some pretty cool inventions that change the way we live—3D printers that print organs and save lives, refrigerators that take inventory of our food letting us know when the milk carton is running low and cars that parallel park themselves. But some tasks require more than just a machine. Predicting the future falls under that category. Right now, no machine exists to foresee the future except ourselves. Planning our future falls on one person and one person only—you. As a college student this thought can seem just a tiny bit intimidating as our future career rests solely in our hands.

Never fear, these 10 questions will help you answer, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

1. What’s your life like now?

In order to answer the question, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” you first need to figure out where your life is at right now. You can’t even attempt to plan out the future if you can’t decipher the present. For most of us, describing our current situation seems pretty simple, but if you’ve found yourself struggling, ask yourself these questions; where do you live? Who are your friends? Do you have a part time or full-time job? The answers to these questions can help you decide what step you should take next. “Right now, I am about to go into my freshman year of college and I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I’m passionate about. I mean I know what I don’t like: (cough cough) math and science,” said Western Kentucky University freshman Sydney Bosway. Knowing what you don’t like can also be helpful. You know where you won’t be in five years and now you’ve answered half the question. More importantly, do you like where you’re at now? If the answer is no, you might want to start thinking of ways to change your current status and find something more your style.

2. What is 100 percent certain in your life after five years?

Lots of things can happen in five years. Self-driving cars might start navigating the roads and strawberry cheesecake might find itself on breakfast menus nationwide. But some things never change. “Nobody knows for sure what they are going to be doing in five years. The only thing I do know is that we will all be poor, in debt and four years smarter,” said Drake University sophomore Elizabeth Weyers. Figuring out what will 100 percent stay the same in your life after five years can help figure out your future in five years. Whether it’s the simple fact that your family will continue to love and support you or the fact that you will continue to eat a crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch, even the smallest of things help. It makes the thought of the question just a little less daunting.

3. Where do you want to be?

Whether that’s teaching surf lessons on the rocky coast of California or starring in Hamilton on Broadway, we all have some sort of dream job. My plans for life are to take over SeaWorld and turn it into an animal rehabilitation center for injured animals and help them transition back into the wild being able to live and roam free in the ocean,” said University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire sophomore Melanie King. Knowing where you want to be helps narrow down locations to live, classes to register for in college and types of internships to apply for. For example, King should live close to SeaWorld and close to some coast equipped with sea animals, should take marine biology classes and apply for internships with the goal of animal rehabilitation. We might not end up there, but at least it’s a place to start.

4. Why do you want to be there?

If you want to be a pastry chef in Paris, why? Does your obsession with all things dessert lead you there? Or does your dream of traveling the world and living in France pull you there? “I’m really passionate about sea animals and how pollution is kind of killing their habitat and causing lots of them to go extinct. I specifically want to go into shark biology because people are cutting off shark fins and that makes me sad,” said King. More likely than not you can find some characteristics in your dream job that will help you determine what kind of job you actually want to hold in the future. If you dream of becoming a professional buffalo trainer in Montana maybe you enjoy living in the wild with no nosy neighbors. Or maybe you enjoy teaching and helping people or animals learn new things. Whatever the case, the dream job of buffalo trainer allowed you to learn a few new things about yourself and what you like and don’t like.

5. Are your goals realistic?

Dream jobs can be one of two things—totally achievable with a combination of hard work and dedication or something so far-fetched that neither hard work nor dedication will land you the job. Obviously, everyone wants their dream job to fall under the first category, but sometimes we have to be realistic with ourselves. “I built my dream job off of what I think I can achieve because sometimes I’m scared to go for things I won’t be able to accomplish. So, when I think five years in advance I try to be very realistic about it,” said Drake University sophomore Rachel Dietz. Sometimes our dream jobs just can’t become a reality. Once reality smacks you in the face, you can start focusing on finding an interesting job in the future that can lead you to an even more interesting job you could possibly hold later. If your ideal job proves itself both real and achievable, then continue to work hard and stop at nothing until you’ve got the job of your dreams.

6. Are you aiming high enough?

Almost everyone fears failure. Nowadays failing means giving something a try and not having what it takes to get the job done. But failing doesn’t always mean you fall flat on your face. It might even lead you to bigger and better opportunities you never would have imagined in the past. Whatever the case, don’t fear shooting for the stars and failing miserably. Even if that includes trying out for the competitive square-dancing team and accidentally breaking all your partners toes because you danced a little too hard. At least you can say you tried.

7. Are you aiming too high?

Sometimes dedication and hard work just doesn’t cut it. If you dream of becoming the next CEO for Google in five years, you’ll fall flat on your face from sprinting when you should have taken baby steps. Aiming too high often results from either unrealistic goals or wishing for the best of the best right from the start. Not that starting at the top is completely unrealistic, it just doesn’t happen that way for most people. Remember that you have to start somewhere and that somewhere usually falls at the bottom of the totem pole. When thinking of your life in five years, give yourself time to grow and improve.

8How do you think you’re going to get there?

Everybody’s got to start somewhere. It might not match where you want but at least its somewhere. In order to find this somewhere, start by thinking about your burning passions and what you love. After, brainstorm ways you plan on getting there. College will more than likely act as one of those ways. On campus make sure to get involved with many organizations, both social and professional. This can help you secure internships, expand your social network and build your resume to something so extraordinary no future employer could turn you down. Securing the first job will simply start you down the path of your dreams.

9. How do you tell a future employer “not with your company” in a polite way?

Sitting in a room with only you and a possible employer does not make for the most relaxing, sweat-free time. When interview questions start dropping like bombs, the level of nervousness spirals. When the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” appears, all thoughts of serenity have escaped your brain leaving you panic stricken. You don’t want to sound rude, but at the same time you cannot see yourself at the same company in five years as you hope to grow and accomplish even better things. How exactly do you say this without sounding like a stuck-up snob? “You know what I’m not really sure. I could still be working for you, which would be great or I could be moving on to bigger and better things but credit you for my accomplishments,” said University of Dayton, Ohio freshman Nicole VanVoorhis. Using this response shows a future employer both your interest in working for their company and also displays your interest in career growth.

10. What if the answer is “I’m not sure”?

One of the reasons this question continues to stump college students lies within the fact that a large majority of college students have no idea what they will be eating for dinner, let alone the state of their career in five years. Whether that’s because they haven’t yet found their passion or they literally can’t picture themselves five years older, it’s okay. Your answer doesn’t need to sound accurate or too professional. You just need to have an answer other than “I’m not sure.” You can list off a few possible career options you can see yourself having, mention a really cool place you would like to be living in or talk about the type of family you hope to gain. As long as you talk about something that shows some thought to your life in five years, whether its accurate or not, that’s really all that matters.





Abbey is a sophomore English and Creative Writing student studying at the University of Iowa. She is a lover of all things pineapple, cares for any and every animal, enjoys traveling and doing crazy adventurous stunts with her brothers and dreams of living in New York City- the city that never sleeps.

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