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Published on March 9, 2020

How to Answer: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

How to Answer: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? You don’t need to be a fortune teller with a crystal ball to find the answer. Although it may sound like a trick question, it’s not. The only trick in answering it is to try to align your own ambitions with a given company’s.

Let’s say you’re interviewing for a job at a start-up. A good goal may include growing as the company grows and learning about the space from the most ambitious people in the business. Then, you can answer the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” with a solid response: In five years, I hope to be leading a team of my own within the company.

Your answer should be forward-looking and optimistic. That said, you don’t want to come across as so ambitious that you would steal your interviewer’s job from under her. Think of your answer as a litmus test for how long you will stay with the company. However you answer the question, your interviewer’s takeaway should be that you want to stay at the company for many years.

The Psychology and Subtext of the Question and Answer

Why do interviewers ask this age-old question? Simple. The company does not want to go to all the effort and cost of training you, only to have you leave — taking everything you have learned with you.

Bringing on new employees is both time-consuming and costly. The subtext of your answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” should be to allay your interviewer’s fears that your only interest in the job is as a conduit to a better job elsewhere.[1]

How to Answer It Well?

Coming up with a good answer to this question can be complicated as it forces you to think of a future that is currently a complete mystery. However, there are some ways you can prepare a reliable answer that will satisfy any interviewer.

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1. Consider Your Five-Year Plan

To help you navigate the right answer, try jotting down a road map of where you actually see yourself in five years before you go on any interviews. Don’t worry about the exact title you’ll have (unless it helps you plan your future). Instead, think about the tasks you’ll be doing each day. Taking this one simple step can help you answer with conviction.

Plan to answer this question since it’s a perennial favorite of interviewers, and whatever you do, don’t show a lack of ambition by answering “I hope to be in this same job.”

2. Beware of Being Too Focused on the Future

Think of the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” question as a shiny object. The interviewer wants to distract you from the present interview by asking you this question. Why? She asks you about the future to see if you can use it to draw a straight line back to the present.

For this reason, a two-part answer often works beautifully. “I want this particular job…,” you might say as a way to reinforce your desire for the position. Then, in part two, explain your future plans: …“because it will help me build the outreach skills I will need as a foundation for a successful career in marketing. Your company has won numerous marketing awards, and I know I will be learning from the best in the business.”

Keep it short and sweet, but also include details that show you know the company you want to work for.

3. Walk the Same Career Paths That the Company Offers

When someone asks “Where do you see yourself in 5 years,” should you answer with absolute honesty? Yes, of course you should. Your answer should also reflect the research you put into the company.

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You never want to say anything about your plans to retire young. Never suggest that you’re independently wealthy and therefore won’t need to be working in five years.

Before you go to your interview, do as much homework as you can on the probable career path you will take. How does this job give you the entrée to that path?

For example, if you are applying for a receptionist position at a dermatologist’s office, do not say that you hope that this entry position will help you secure a job as a nurse at the same office. Instead, if you dream of becoming a nurse, learn the degrees and licenses you will need to earn to become qualified. If, indeed, becoming a nurse is your dream, it makes more sense for you to apply for a medical aid position instead of a receptionist so that your career path aligns with your goal.

One way to plan out your short-term career ambitions is to look up online job descriptions of the position you hope to attain and scrutinize the qualifications. In doing so, you will about realistic goals to bring up when you answer.

For example, if you aspire be a financial analyst in the investment firm where you’re interviewing, but you are currently applying for a finance program associate position, make sure you can attain the needed qualifications while working full-time. If you haven’t already earned the necessary degree, your interviewer may infer that you’ll be going back to school — and therefore either leaving your position or cutting back on your hours to attend part-time. That answer could backfire.

Better still, find out what training programs are offered through the firm or that can be reimbursed through the firm while holding down your full-time job. Reference your desire to hone your skills and learn more, and you’ll impress your interviewer with your future-focused aspirations.

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4. Don’t Fight the Question

The “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” question forces you to peer into the future. Sometimes this can feel frightening, but fighting the question will not help you secure the job. Lean into the question, instead of away from it.[2]

For example, do not say, “I can’t possibly know where I will be in five years from now. In the last five years, I got married, divorced, and remarried. Whew! Life’s a whirlwind.” Do your best to answer the question, and don’t be defensive.

If you are truly just trying to land a job and haven’t given much thought to what long-term career path to pursue, you may want to answer in a broad, nonspecific way while still showing an upbeat attitude. For example, you may have decided your major in college isn’t your passion after all, and you are interviewing at the company because your roommate works there and flagged your application.

Let your interviewer know that you’re excited by the opportunity and why, and that you are ready for a long-term role. In this case, you may simply answer, “This is a field I’m excited to explore for its growth opportunities and cutting-edge advances. I’m hoping that in five years I’ll have the expertise to help move the company forward and keep it competitive.”

5. Be Realistic

You may be particularly ambitious, and your plan is to climb as high and land as far up in the company as possible, as quickly as possible. Still, tamp down your determination to unseat the CEO in five years (unless you’re entering upper management). If you shoot too high, instead of impressing your interviewer, you will raise eyebrows and come off as over-eager, callous, or even unrealistic.

Root your answer in reality, realizing that advancing one or two positions above the one you’re interviewing for is the most likely scenario. If you can use a past job advancement experience as an example, you will show that you are advancement-worthy.

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For example: “My summer job in college was at a vacation resort where I started in the restaurant as wait staff, but after one summer, I was promoted to restaurant manager, and the next summer I became an assistant to the general manager. My hope is that in five years I’ll again be able to advance two positions above where I’d be starting in your company by showing my ability to learn quickly and gain others’ trust.”

6. Prove Your Staying Power

As today’s job turnover rates become as commonplace as upgrading your iPhone, employers are trying their best to discern which candidates will stick around and which will quickly become antsy and want to move on. In fact, applicants with a job history of changing jobs frequently may not land the interview at all, regardless of their qualifications.

Try to demonstrate that you see yourself staying within the company, learning and adding value as you go. If you then end up staying with the employer for five years or more, chances are it has turned out to be a positive situation for both you and the company — and the answer you gave to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” may actually have been realized.

More Tips on Interviewing

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Applied Psychology: The Situational Interview
[2] Language in Society: Answers and evasions

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work How to Decline a Job Offer Gracefully (With Email Examples) Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

Fortunately, meditation can help.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

    3. Challenge Your Brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

    4. Take More Breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    5. Learn a New Skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

    6. Start Working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat Healthier Foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain, too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – Improves memory
    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

    Final Thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

    More on How to Improve Memory

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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