What do you aspire to do in your career? - Tough Interview question

What are Your Career Goals? – How to Answer Cleverly

What are Your Career Goals? – is a common interview question for especially youngsters!

It generally triggers fanciful or overambitious or irrelevant responses.

Understand a clever approach to answer it!

If you are reading this article, you are mostly just out of college or looking for internship opportunities during your college days. You may also be in the first 3-4 years of your job and looking for a job change.

This is the time when you are like Alice in the wonderland of your career! So, during an interview, when you are asked about your career goals it can trigger several questions running through your mind.

You may think, “What are my career goals? Do I really have any of them? Do I need them?  What if I don’t have any? And what do I say when the interviewer asks me about them?”

This is how, such a seemingly simple stock interview question tends to start a rush hour in your head!

If so, let’s get inspiration from this quote from the famous Apple founder …

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” — Steve Jobs

If you haven’t yet thought about your genuine career aspirations, you better give it some thought before you go on for a job interview. The quote above can give you a simple but powerful guideline to think about your career goals.

“The path to a great career starts with clarity about what you will love doing in the long term. It may need a few professional experiences and experiments.

If you haven’t realized it yet, keep seeking. Don’t settle.”


With that as a starting point, let us dive in and get to know how you can handle such questions in any job interview with calmness and clarity.

Why do the interviewers ask “What are your career goals?”

Let us look at a few key reasons why interviewers want to know about your career goals!

  1. Employers ask this question to learn more about your future aspirations and your main career objectives.
  2. Your answer tells them if your expectations for this role align with the organization’s mission and job prerequisites. 
  3. When the company asks such a question, they want to know if this job will hold your interest in the short term and potentially long term. They want to choose a candidate who is aspiring yet realistic about what the company has to offer for their career growth.
  4. They want to get some idea about your key motivations behind applying for the job.
  5. Finally, they want to see if you have given any deep or different thought to the kind of work you wish to do!

Companies don’t want to hire you for a role that isn’t in sync with your professional aspirations because you’ll eventually lose the motivation and your motivation may get hampered in a short span of time.

What Is a Career Goal and Why is it Important to Have Career Goals?

A career goal is a well-defined statement in simple language, which explains where or which position an individual intends to reach in his career.

In other words, this statement describes your vision for your career. It helps you to come up with effective action plans for your career. So, a career goal is, more or less, an objective you hope to achieve as you advance in your profession.

While our career goals are often inspired by the desire to earn some good money, there are many more factors that play a central role in your fulfillment of expectations that go beyond money. It can be things like being well-known or being respected or being well connected or being an expert in the field of your liking.

A clear career goal will cover all of these expectations in minimum words.

How do you set your career goals?

Now that you are clear about why is it important to have career goals and what a career goal is, let us look into how you can set your career goal.

1. Set Big Picture

The first step is to look at the big picture or the ultimate stage that you can imagine of your career. You may even want to visualize what would you like to see in your career if you had all the necessary resources and skills that employers love!

2. Break it down

Then you need to focus on the smaller steps that you’ll need to accomplish in order to achieve that end result. That means looking at the long-term first and then the short-term.

Ask yourself these questions –

So what is your most inspiring goal in your career? Is it a management position? Leadership role? CEO? CTO? CFO? CPO?

3. Outline the steps

Once clear about this, start outlining what you’ll need to do in order to achieve this ultimate goal.

These are your short-term supporting goals and should include:

1. Researching what it takes to achieve your long-term goal

2. Getting the education and training you need for the same

3. Gaining relevant experience and developing the associated skills related to your long-term goal

4. Building connections and networking with the people in your chosen field who can help you achieve your goal

So there you go!

You can have multiple long-term career goals and it is totally cool!

The important thing is to have a reasonable and actionable plan of attack that will help you achieve those goals.

Generally, those goals which naturally align with your core strengths and are on the lines of your hobbies in life, will have the highest possibility of happening in your life!

How to Cleverly Answer – What are Your Career Goals?

At this moment, you have a clear idea regarding the importance of having career goals and how you set them for yourself.

Let’s understand how you can frame the same for your job interview. It is time to show the interviewer that you have given it a thought at such an early stage of your career. So you may be a good future employee.

1. Be clear on long-term and short-term career goals

We covered how to set your goals and why they matter. However, once it is done it needs some introspection.

Start with a self-evaluation of what you have come through so far! You will get a feel of what you can and cannot do.  Identify your goals that seem pursuable and eliminate the ones that seem far-fetched.

Now that you have the final list, rank them in order of priority, starting from the most important goal. Divide this list into short-term goals and long-term goals for your career.

2. Choose a smart career goal to discuss

Talking about a random goal in an interview can hurt your chances of impressing the interviewer. Ensure that your goals are SMART – that is they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound (SMART).

Using the SMART approach while talking about your career goals reflects that you have a well-defined plan and that you mean to achieve it in all seriousness. Doing this itself will put you a few notches above your competition!

It’s okay if a job doesn’t meet everything you’re looking for in your career. For example, you can say that you eventually aspire to take a Sales executive position, even if you’re not being considered for that particular role in this interview. But, in your interview answer, you’d want to show how this job is bringing you closer to those future plans/goals.

3. Align your answer with the position and the company

Here knowing about the company and position will come very handy during an interview.

Talking about your professional plans that align with the position you are interviewing for reflects that you have considered working there in your career goals. It also makes you a better fit for the position, as your goals seem to be in alignment with the company’s visions.

To do this, you must, research the company and check its website.

4. Establish a timeline in your answer

Talking about your career goals with set deadlines makes you look motivated and focused.

It shows that you want to move forward in a structured manner. This can give some useful insight to the interviewer on how you may want to progress your career in their organization.

If your timelines look achievable, it shows that you are a mature youngster. Typically, youngsters tend to show that “anything is possible” and “sky is the limit” mindset, without a practical approach to their dreams.

Mistakes to avoid while answering about your career goals

1. One specific response to avoid is being blunt and saying – “I have no goals” or something along those lines. Who wants to hire seemingly careless candidates?

2. Avoid talking about specific earning goals. Rather, look into the positions in your industry that get the kind of earning you desire and showcase them as your goal.

3. Avoid talking about unrealistic goals. It is good to dream big but dreaming of making it to the CEO in the next few years sounds like fanciful thinking.

4. Avoid talking about irrelevant goals. Imagine someone, talking to you about a goal to do some social work project while the position you are interviewing for is in the field of software engineering or sales. It will not relate to you at the time. So why do this in your own interviews?

Tips to Answer – “What are your career goals?”

If you have read it this far, then you are definitely motivated to crack your next interview. So let us help you with a few additional tips to give you an edge while answering this interview question.

Remember …

1. Make sure that your career goals look achievable from where you stand currently

2. Unrealistic goals or irrelevant goals are a big NO! We are repeating this because youngsters who are naturally high on energy and ambition tend to make this mistake consistently.

3. Sounding confident is important, but there is a thin line between being confident and overconfident.

4. Give examples of your experiences to support your answer.

5. Keep your answer short and crisp. It is a sign of clarity.

Let us look at a sample answer to such a question in fresher interviews:

“Learning is really important to me. Currently, I strive to enhance my people and communication skills. Hence the prospect of working in your company is exciting for me. I hope to manage and drive the sales and marketing efforts for a reputed organization in the future. So in the next 3 years, I wish to contribute in all possible ways to this position of marketing executive. I believe that working in this position will give me some valuable skills and insights that I need to lead the sales and marketing divisions in a large corporate.”

Youngsters frequently falter when answering seemingly simple interview questions! Learn how to handle them deftly in our “Fresher Interview Questions and Answers” section.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top