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There are a few classic interview questions that will never go out of style, no matter how the job search and the modern work landscape may change. “Where do you see yourself in the future?” is a question your grandparents probably heard during their job interviews, and it’s not leaving the script any time soon … for good reason. This question works on two levels: It helps employers understand how well your long-term plans align with the needs of the company; and it allows you to demonstrate a sense of personal direction and self-determination, both qualities that usually indicate a self-motivated employee. So, when you hear this question, which you will, answer with these tips in mind.

Be as honest as possible.

Your answer won’t help you — and it won’t help your employer — if you size up the situation and tell your interviewer what you think they want to hear. Why would you want to sign on with a company that can’t teach you what you’d like to learn, can’t help you reach your goals, and won’t have a promotion available for you when you’re ready? You can do better, but first you’ll need to know what this company can offer. So be clear. Tell them where you want to go; then they can explain how they plan to get you there.

Reach high.

Honesty should be your top priority; your second should involve setting your trajectory as high as possible. Maybe you see a promotion to management within five years. But what about three years? Maybe you’d like to gain an IT certification while you work here. But what about a bachelor’s degree or an MBA? The company might be able to sponsor you or offer education assistance, but you’ll only know if you ask.

Let your personality shine.

Talking about your personal goals can be like talking about your pet or your passions outside of work. The topic might make your eyes light up and help your true personality take center stage. Let it happen! Nothing helps you show off who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going like a chance to talk about your goals and plans. Tell your story with energy—don’t just phone it in or share the bare minimum.

As you share, ask questions.

Your employer will probably make the case they can provide you with a ladder to wherever you’d like to go. But get meaningful confirmation on that before you walk away. “Yes, we can help you with that,” is nice to hear. But it’s better to hear something like: “Yes, we’re planning to open a new branch office within two years, and when that happens, we’ll need a specialist with your specific skills. Here’s how we can make sure you’re ready for that role.”

For more on how to interact productively with your interviewer during the search process, turn to the team at Extension.

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