Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Generation Y Plans VS Dreams Recently I’ve come across a very interesting HBR article about the meaning of this question and career planning. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is one of most heard questions in job interviews because it provides the interviewer with a false certainty of the applicant’s ambition level. In reality, it measures the applicant’s ability to say what’s expected of him.

To further apprehend the problem with this question, let’s take my own example:

-10 years ago, I was passionate about Math and living in Brazil. I was saving money to have my first and probably only trip to Europe. Less than a year later, I was joining an exchange program in France.

- 5 years ago, I was a high potential trainee within a global corporation. My desire was to work in production and make a quick ascending career. Less than 2 years later, I moved towards commercial projects, discovered a higher meaning in people management and moved to Belgium.

The truth is that my life has gone through a series of organic transformations. It hasn’t been linear and it never will. As a matter of fact, the long careers in a single company, the corporate ladder, the unshakeable family structure, the “offer-demand” equilibrium and the geographical stability are for a majority of us a thing of the past.

Generation Y careers are not shaped by plans, but dreams and passions

Yers have learnt that middle term plans are just guesses and that they reduce our flexibility to accept opportunities. While older generations struggle with the concept, Generation Y has fully embraced serendipity.

Moreover, they have the confidence and conviction that business is nothing like rocket science. To them, most positions can be filled by those willing to learn the ropes.

The lives of talented Yers are therefore marked by diverse and converging passions, a stronger awareness to opportunities and a drive to acquire the skills for the next step. For that reason, Yers career directions might seem illogical to the common recruiter, while holding enormous meaning for them.

Understanding Yers “life is organic” philosophy is the key to retaining them

Yers are not in search for promises of linearity and stability. Instead, they’re offering their talent, skills and original work ethics in exchange of support in their quest for purpose. Underlying the most surprising attitudes of Yers in the workplace hides this unwritten contract.

So the next time you’re in front of an applicant with a varied career path lift your judgments for a second and ask yourself which questions will best assess his chances for success. Forget about the 5-year career plan: don’t try to fit him into a broken mold!

Which question do you ask to best assess talent and potential?