Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Back in the USSR

I had my first job interview in years yesterday. Kind of scary, actually. I pushed the ‘send’ button and my resume was gone, and then what felt like 10 minutes later, I was on the phone with a woman and setting up an interview for a mere hour and some away!

I have been fortunate (lucky? Unlucky?) enough that my last few jobs have literally been handed to me on a platter. However, the flipside of that is I haven’t had interview practice for a good… oh… 6 years? Needless to say, going into the interview, I felt kind of unprepared. I was trying to imagine what the questions would be, and as I rode my bike to the interview, I practiced what I would say if asked. The thing is, it’s been so long that I really have no clue what people even ask these days. (I sound like I’m about 84 years old when I say that, but it’s true. I really feel out of the whole job interview loop.)

Many of the questions I actually got in the interview were of the type I wouldn’t need to prepare for (‘How long have you lived in Victoria?’, ‘What was your degree in?’), but I was caught completely unawares by one question in particular:

‘Can you tell me what your plans for the next five years are?’

Five year plans??! What is this, the effin’ USSR?!?

In retrospect, the question seems pretty standard for a job interview, but the full and honest truth of the matter is that I really have no idea what my five year plan is. I can tell you what I don’t want to be doing in five years from now, but I haven’t really thought through the specifics of what I do want.

If I had been asked that question in September 2004, the answer would have been simple: In five years, I would be almost finished my Ph.D. and I would be preparing to scope out a professor position at a university.

Things changed, though. Things always change.

Now, if I think through what I really and truly want for myself for the next five years, I think more in general terms. I want to live in Victoria. I want to be in a still-happy marriage with Marty. I want to live somewhere without neighbours above or below us. I want to be pursuing a meaningful line of work. What that meaningful line will be, however, I can’t say right now.

I can’t even recall how I really answered that question in my interview. It was probably an OK answer, but if she was hoping for me to demonstrate how focused and goal-oriented I can be, I didn’t.

The odds are good that I won’t be getting called back for that position, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to go through the interview nonetheless. It got me thinking a lot about my goals, and it even kick-started something inside of me that has been lying around like a lazy blob since I defended my thesis.

Does anybody know a textbook answer to the five-year plan question? I won’t lift it for my next interview or anything… I’m just curious what employers are actually looking for when they ask it.


Terra said...

You never know, maybe you'll be surprised, otherwise it was not meant to be.
I have had many interviews, and the way I would answer that one would be the whole vague way of saying some (crap) answer such as
"I want to be beginning to establish a career in.... while pursuing to move up by ..... and taking advantage of what the community of Victoria has to offer".
Hindsight is always 20/20 though!

Rose said...

I would say Terra's pretty much bang on for the appropriate if you don't have anything too specific answer. You could also be brutally honest and say that you're exploring a couple of avenues in trying to decide on a more long term plan - heck, maybe they are only thinking short term anyways, or don't want a big risk but that's just a thought.

Tangerine Dreams said...

congratulations for getting an interview! I haven't had one of those since the '90's so I'm drawing a blank on what I would have said. Guess they're weeding out the undesirable types like me answering "I see myself raising a herd of sheep, mothering two Craiglettes on our solarpowered hobby farm in the middle of nowhere but at the centre of everything".

wednesday said...

"Why didn't you ask me that five years ago when I was 18, ASSHOLE?!?"
(Or, 20 in your case.)
I'm glad that your Wednesday-chanelling abilities were set to low during the big J.I.
I've been hitting the pavement myself in anticipation for my Feb. 14th last day, and honestly, it's draining... If you come across something as easy and quick, but far less compromising than nude housecleaning, please drop me a line.