What do you see for your career in the next 2-5 years?

What a stupid question. I am utterly convinced there is no right answer to this question. I have never heard one anyway. If you have some sort of idea where you want your career to go and it doesn’t match what the company is looking for, you’ve shot yourself in the foot. If you have no idea where you want your career to go, you’re a flight risk (or an idiot) and have therefore shot yourself in the foot. If you make up some BS about how you want to see what opportunities the company can provide to you, you sound like a brown nosing jerk or too wishy washy or uniformed about our company. Either way, you are no closer to a right answer for this question.

Truthfully, I have no idea what I want from my career in the next 2-5 years. My not interview appropriate honest answer is that in 2-5 years, I hope to be employed. Period. I want to be working, making marginally more money than I am now since my student loan payments will hit their next graduated level soon. Of course, I wouldn’t balk if I was making significantly more money than I am now. If I could also figure out some way of making more money while also working a reduced schedule or working part time from home, that would be magical. As for the content of my career, I don’t really know or care to be honest.

My younger sister and I had a conversation on this theme recently. We share the same desire to be the best at what we do but without the drive to be in a higher position. We don’t want to control the office, we want to quietly make sure the office runs in the best possible way while someone else takes the heat if it doesn’t. Is there some way of putting that into an answer that doesn’t make me sound like a lack ambition? Or like I’m making something up?

I see myself continuing to provide the best quality service to my employer and the customers and clients I serve, whether they are department managers or external representatives. I still find that one of the most satisfying things about the positions I have held are when I get to handle the complex, mundane, or seemingly insignificant tasks that allow others the peace of mind to do what they are passionate about. I like problem solving, I like when I find a great solution to a difficult situation, I like project coordination, I like being responsible for facilitating communication and I think I perform very well at each of these tasks. I’d like to continue to work in a field that I can be excited about. Right now, I make decisions to hire people who are testing what could one day be my own or my loved ones samples for cancer, or genetic conditions, or pregnancy health, or a variety of other medical conditions. I know the decisions I make are potentially impacting thousands of people per day. I want to work in a field that continues to challenge me to be the best I can be. With stability, of course.

What would you consider to be one of your greatest accomplishments professionally?

If I haven’t said it before, I am a recruiter. I interview people pretty much every day. As I interview candidates, I tend to think my answers to the questions. It serves multiple purposes including entertaining myself during the particularly boring interviews, challenging myself to come up with new answers, and helping keep my over expressive eyes from betraying how I really feel about a candidate’s answer. (So many reasons I am not anxious to be interviewed.) I could go on for days about my strengths and weaknesses, I have very clear examples of conflicts with co-workers that were professionally resolved, and I know exactly what type of management style works for me. But this accomplishment question stumps me every time.

Honestly, my greatest accomplishment is having never been fired (knock on wood). Not even from crappy jobs in college. What is that saying about promoting to your highest level of stupidity or something? I irrationally fear that one day I will be too dumb or too socially inept to handle my position and I feel a sense of accomplishment that that time has not yet come. But this does not seem like an appropriate interview response.

I could go for the standard line I get all the time – “Being able to work here as long as I have and absorbing all of the knowledge I have.” Or “Being identified as the go-to person in my department.” But those always sound trite and aren’t really true anyway.

Try this on for size:

One of my greatest accomplishments professionally would be the support I have been given and have been able to provide the leaders of my organization. Through my outstanding performance in my training role, I have been recognized for my development and organizational skills and have been given the opportunity to take on special projects for divisional leadership that aren’t directly related to my current position. One such project was to work directly with our General Manager to create, advertise, and maintain a program titled the Employee Council. This program takes current employees identified as “Employees of Excellence” and brings them together with the decision makers of the division to intelligently discuss questions or concerns from the represented departments. We hold sessions twice per year with a rotating panel determined by our peer nominated Employee Excellence Award winners and our management nominated Laboratorian of the Year winners. One successful outcome of these meetings was the implementation of a new vending program in which traditional vending machines were removed and a café style set-up was installed to allow more fresh healthy food options to support the health and wellness of our employees.

I sound like an idiot.

Practice Makes Perfect

I applied for a position today. I have not submitted an application in years. Though I am pretty certain this (my first application) will not go far, I have submitted an application. I have set something in motion that my brain is struggling to keep up with.

Ironically, my primary fear is interviewing. I interview people almost every day. I see the fear in their faces and laugh with them to break the ice but we both know I subjectively evaluate them based on the answers they are about to give me and their skill in the delivery. I don’t know how to feel about the possibility of being on the other side of the desk.

I have never been good at the sell. I am horrible at the interview. I have constantly struggled with rationalizing and therefore communicating how I would be better than anyone else. But I know how I work and I know how long it takes me to get familiar with something new. No matter the position, I will be the best person for the job if not day 1 then certainly by day 90.

I foresee this blog becoming a document of record for interview questions and the best way I know how to answer them. I can’t think of a better way to practice other than to carefully consider, cut & paste, reorganize, rethink, and present a final answer to the verse. An “anonymous” opportunity to articulate my strengths, weaknesses, and all the other ridiculous things people in my profession will request of me. I apologize for any boredom this may cause.