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.