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How To Answer "What Are Your Long Term Career Goals?”

September 21, 2021

Developing a long-term career goal can help you focus on your short-term objectives and advance your professional status. Many employers ask about long-term goals during the interview process to better understand a candidate's background. By preparing an effective response before your interview date, you can discuss your aspirations effectively and may increase the number of job opportunities you receive. In this article, we explain why employers ask about long-term career goals in more detail, describe why they're important, list key steps for how to answer the question "What are your long-term career goals?" and provide some examples of answers.

Why do interviewers ask, "What are your long-term career goals?"

Interviewers often ask this question because they're seeking information about your ambitions and work ethic. It can also provide insights into how you set goals and achieve them. This information can help employers assess your qualifications for a job position and whether your perspective can align with a company's values. If your long-term career goals can benefit the company and help you succeed in a position, then you may increase your chances of receiving a job offer from a hiring manager.

Related: How To Utilise Goal-Setting Theory in the Workplace

Why is having long-term career goals important?

Consider the following reasons why it's important to have long-term goals for your career:

  • Preparing for career development: If you develop a long-term goal, you can better focus on which type of position can help you achieve them. It can also help you make effective decisions in a workplace, which employers may appreciate.
  • Creating an action plan: Setting a goal may allow you to identify the necessary steps to achieve it. For example, if you plan to own a software company, you might decide to aspire for job positions in the software development field or take a business course.
  • Showing an employer your aptitude: You can use the long-term goals you develop to show your aptitude for a certain position. They can demonstrate how you might internalise a company's values or approach a supervisor's expectations.
  • Conveying your characteristics: Many job positions require certain traits to complete tasks, especially if there's a large client management or teamwork component. If you create long-term goals, you can use them to describe your characteristics and other relevant soft skills.

Related: Guide: How To Choose a Career

How to answer and explain your long-term goals in an interview

Here are some key steps you can follow to answer this question during an interview:

1. Identify your aspirations

Schedule some time to reflect on your career goals, including a short-term objective and your overall aspiration. Some examples might include advancing in a career path, enhancing a skill or gaining a new accreditation. Determine some steps you can take to achieve them, like attending a graduate school or increasing your productivity at work. It may be helpful to list these steps in bulleted points so you can add more details as you develop your answer.

2. Research a company

Collect research about a company to learn more about its mission statement and value system. You can locate the website, read press releases or find employee reviews through an online service. It may be helpful to review the job description carefully, as hiring managers may detail critical information about a company's overall culture in its content. Afterwards, note significant keywords or facts you can implement in your interview response about long-term goals.

3. Align your goals to a company's mission

When speaking with an interviewer, it's important to discuss goals that apply to the job position. Determine which aspiration in your initial list can align with both the goals of the position and the company. Using this approach can allow an interviewer to determine whether you might find success in a workplace. Consider expanding your previous research into an outline format to help you learn it, then study these notes every night before the interview so you can better prepare a highly informed response.

4. Narrow your objectives

Review your notes and choose a specific timeframe to enhance your plan of action. It's often helpful to focus on the five to 10 years, so you can offer a realistic response when asked about your next step in accomplishing your long-term goals. A hiring manager may appreciate precision in your interview response, as it can show you have a growth mindset and keen organisation skills. For example, if you're applying for an entry-level job position, you can discuss a desire to become a team leader or mid-level manager after spending five years developing the necessary skill set.

5. Summarise your plan

Using your collected research, prepare your response to a question about long-term career goals. It may be helpful to discuss your short-term objectives initially, as you can better discuss the steps of your action plan in chronological order. This approach can enhance the clarity of your answer and better ensure you can provide sufficient details about each aspect. Be mindful to develop a concise summary, a hiring manager might remember your points more distinctly as they decide which candidate suits the role.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help Achieve Your Goals

6. Focus on ways to benefit a company

During the interview, be sure to listen carefully to any information they provide about a company's goals to see if you can better adjust your response. For example, if you discover an employer prefers to cultivate talent and promote current staff members, you can discuss a preference for accepting new challenges in your current job position to help you grow in the future. It may be helpful to use the keywords from your initial research to support the information in your responses, as this approach can show dedication to a company.

7. Highlight your achievements

Emphasise previous accomplishments in your interview response that relate to both your own long-term goals and a company's objectives. This method can indicate the timeline of your career progression and shows confidence in your abilities. For example, if you plan to enhance your industry-based skills and professional capabilities in a graduate program, you can feature accomplishments from your bachelor's degree and highlight how it aided you while working in your chosen field. If you aspire towards a management role, it may be helpful to discuss leadership opportunities you accepted in a previous position.

Related: How To List Achievements on Your Resume With Examples and Tips

Example responses to explain your long-term career goals

Here are some example answers to interview questions about long-term career goals:

Expert in the field example

Some individuals aspire to become reputable experts in their chosen field. By discussing your skill-building plans and how they relate to your job position, you can better position yourself as a candidate who seeks self-improvement, which hiring managers often value. First, offer a timeframe for this skill set, then explain your previous experience and action steps using specific details.

Example: "In the next ten years, I aspire to become an artistic director at a professional theatre company. I have directed 10 programs in companies across Australia in the past three years and made my international debut in London last September. I plan to earn my master's degree in directing and arts management to enhance my knowledge. I believe this experience and dedication to growth can make me a valuable asset as an associate artistic director at your company."

Managerial example

Many individuals pursue a promotion in the same company or career growth in their general industry. By discussing your aspirations for a superior position using defined steps, you can show an aptitude for leadership and an ambitious mindset. Hiring managers often seek this quality in a candidate, particularly when the job position has a capacity for career development in the future. Consider discussing ways you've prepared for a management role in the past and how you plan to develop some associated skills.

Example: "I've held a team leader position at my current organisation for a year, and I aspire to become a full-time manager in the next five. In my current role, I supervise twelve software engineers to ensure they understand project parameters and help them develop code according to our clients' preferences. I recently enrolled in a six-month-long leadership course to enhance my managerial skills. These experiences can help me become an effective supervisor in your company."

Career change example

You may decide to change your career path or industry, meaning an interviewer may be especially interested in how your long-term goals apply to a job position. It may be helpful to explain how aspects of your background prepared you for work in a new field. Afterwards, demonstrate the ways you've prepared for this transition and how you plan to develop your capabilities in a specific job position.

Example: "In the past year, I decided to transition from a graphic design career to a marketing profession. To translate my skills, I can use my creative sensibilities to create visually appealing content for advertisements and other promotional content. I have also completed two courses in marketing, which gives me certification in how to advertise on five social media platforms and prepare SEO-driven article content. Using these experiences and my client management skills, I believe can perform well in a marketing position at this company."

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