One of the questions I ask every candidate during an interview: “What’re your career goals?” As a Human Resources professional, I feel it’s very important to ask this question during the second stage of the interview, after exchanging greetings and questions over qualifications, skills, and experience.
There’s a simple reason for asking “What are your career goals?” And that reason is, it provides me a valuable insight into the job seeker's overall personality. Of course, I am also interested in knowing their career goals, but the candidate gives away a lot of information with their body language and the manner of answering the question.
Therefore, stay tuned with me as I reveal the secrets of how to answer this crucial question: “What are your career goals?” and what do HR experts want to know about you during the interview.
First, I will define the meaning of the term “career,” because lots of people in the world simply don’t know what this word actually means. The explanation I offer could also help you to find career goals and answer that all-important question.
Definition of a Career
In my humble opinion, a career has a much broader meaning than simply a job that you do for a considerable part of life or a profession that helps earn money to live happily.
Here’s my definition of a career: A career is a path from school days to the rest of our life.
I’ll explain my reasons for this definition of career. Actually, our career begins right from childhood. Our days at school, the things that interest us, grades we get and subjects that we learn better are things that define a career.
Usually, this foundation from childhood continues into teens. We go for courses at college or university that fit into our interests and subjects that we can learn easily.
Eventually, the degree we get defines our job or profession, which in turn decides our income and the overall quality of life while working and after retirement. Our lifestyle and interests decide our personality and the type of friends and social circles that we have.
By my definition, the term career defines everything from our interests and hobbies to jobs and finances and personal relationships, to sum it all up in a nutshell. As you can see, the word or term ‘career’ therefore is everything to do with our lives and not merely a job, career, education, or money.
Therefore, answering the question: “What are your career goals?” becomes very important from an HR point of view. It’s always best to respond to this question properly, with a lot of thought.
Career Goals on Resume
Normally, job applicants write or mention their career goals on top of their Resume. This allows recruiters to assess you even before they read your educational qualifications, skills, experience, and other details.
Therefore, the most important thing is to write your career goal on the Resume itself. That usually helps prepare you to answer the question: “What are your career goals?’
How to Answer “What Are Your Career Goals?”
If you’re thinking about the best answer to this question: “What are your career goals?” don’t worry. Continue reading till the end.
Because I will be giving you all details on the best ways to respond to this question along with examples of professional goals. Also, I will be discussing briefly, what HR experts look for when they ask this question.
Here we go.
Career Goals as a Fresher
Unfortunately, most freshers believe that they needn’t have a career goal while applying for a job. That’s a myth and hence, untrue. As a matter of fact, defining career goals are most important if you’re a fresher.
That’s because your first employer or the place where you go for an internship or as a trainee would love to know the nature of work of your interest.
In such cases, the best way to answer the question: “What are your career goals?” is by speaking about the reasons you did a particular course.
And if you’re a high school graduate, you could still respond to this question by saying why that specific job interests you and how it helps meet your career goals. As a fresher job seeker, you can definitely expect this question from an interviewer.
Also read: How To Answer What Makes You Unique
Career Goals for Finances
Making more money from a job also forms part of the overall career goals. However, very few people speak of money as part of their career goal.
Therefore, they don’t negotiate for pay with the employer and settle for what’s on offer. This can prove disastrous for your financial situation and can impede important plans such as buying a house, marriage, and retirement, to name a few.
If you’re looking for more money from a new job, there’s no harm in mentioning that too. In fact, employers appreciate such honesty.
By saying that your career goal is to get richer, you’re actually insinuating that you’re willing to exert extra efforts at the job and work for promotions. It also sends a direct message that your services aren’t available cheap, which is superb for a career.
Career Goals for Professional Growth
As a matter of fact, most job seekers mention their career goals about professional growth on their Resumes and chant them like a well-recited poem or song at an interview. Such kinds of recitals are totally unacceptable at interviews when it boils down to looking for superb jobs.
Therefore, if you’ll be discussing your career goals for growth in the profession, it’s best to make a mental roadmap. Clearly outline where your career should be at the end of a year and where do you see yourself in any organization, at the end of five years. This means you have to clearly outline the expected growth from a new job, along with other expectations.
Career Goals for Foreign Jobs
You could be a well-qualified, skilled professional with superb experience in a specific role or profession. However, when applying for a foreign job, the employer would definitely like to know your career goals. That’s because employers wish to understand what would you gain by working in a foreign land.
In such cases, the career goal becomes fairly clear. You can simply state that your career goal is to excel in the profession by getting some experience in a foreign country and learning the systems that are used there.
In most cases, the foreign employer would like to avail of your services if you’ll stay with them for a longer term. Therefore, show your commitment to a long-term contract or job. That can help bag this job and earn abroad.
Career Goals for Higher Studies
As I mentioned earlier, some colleges and universities can ask what are your career goals when applying for a course.
This will generally happen when you’re applying for a professional course in medicine, fine arts, architecture, engineering or management, journalism, or IT, among others. Your response will decide whether or not you get that seat for higher studies.
If you’ll be facing such an interview, the best way to answer the question about what’re your career goals is by telling the reasons you’re selecting that course and your plans for a job or business.
During the new normal, some colleges and universities expect you to record a CD with the answer and send it. Be very confident when you speak about career goals on such videos.
Examples of Career Goals
A lot of job seekers ask me about what’s some of the best examples of career goals. Honestly, there’re no best examples. That’s because all of us have to define our career goals based on the above five reasons.
Furthermore, all of us have different educational levels and varied experiences or skills. This makes it all the more difficult to create a sort of prefixed template about the best career goal.
Therefore, here’re some ways to highlight your career goals.
Take Your Skills Inventory
Basically, a skills inventor means finding out what’re relevant strong skills that you can offer in the job market and finding high-paying employment. This involves considering everything, from likes and dislikes to education, skills, experience if any, and strong points.
Taking a skills inventory often can help define career goals better. Obviously, you would love to offer only the stronger skills to an employer. Therefore, make your career goal on basis of such skills only. You could point out how and where these skills are helping you and how they’ll prove useful to the employer.
Create a LinkedIn Profile
Maybe you already have a LinkedIn profile. If not, you could create one for free. With one hire every six seconds or so, around the world, LinkedIn is becoming a favorite place for employers to find good workers. Therefore, create that killer profile on LinkedIn and clearly define your career goals in your intro. You can make these career goals based on the five options that I mention above.
Career Goals that Matter
In my opinion, making a career goal and expecting it to suit every job application and employer is a major blunder. That’s because each employer has unique needs. Therefore, learn to customize your career goals according to what an employer requires.
This is fairly easy, though it would require some practice. Read the requirements and responsibilities of the role before applying for a job. Customize your career goal to sync with the needs of an employer. However, ensure that you’re honest with your skills and not merely writing a career goal to bag the job.
Answering the Unasked Question
Now, I will tell you a small secret, as an HR professional. When an interviewer asks you what are your career goals, they’re not merely interested in what you say. Instead, the manner in which you respond will also matter equally, if not more.
Here’re some points that an interviewer looks for when you answer this question. These are in addition to what you say about your career goals.
The majority of candidates that I’ve seen get nervous or shaky when responding to the question about career goals. The reason is simple: they don’t have any clue about their own career goals. Instead, they’re just following a trend or doing a job without much expectations of career growth.
Therefore, diffidence in responding to this question sends a clear signal that you’re interested only in a job and not in your career. And it also sends the message that you aren’t actually following a career. Instead, you’re just living a life without a proper goal and matching ambitions.
It goes without saying that anyone interested in a career would have enough knowledge about the industry or field where they’re working. Or, as a fresher, would love to work. That means you would have to know about the latest trends and developments in the industry and field as well as your chosen specialization.
This also implies that you would know the various stages of your career and the designations and roles you could play in the future, in that career. And if you don’t have such knowledge, it’s impossible to make a roadmap for your career. While answering the question, be definite about the roles you wish to play in your career, in the future.
Clarity of Thoughts
Clarity of Thought is another element that an interviewer will observe when a jobseeker answers the question: What are your career goals. A candidate with clear thinking patterns will respond to the question and outline exactly what they wish to gain from the job and what they can deliver to achieve that goal.
A job is two-way. The employer wants something from you and pays you in return. Therefore, you have to outline your own needs and match those with the job role.
In stark contrast, an applicant with confused thinking will beat around the bush, as we say, and not respond clearly. They will give vague answers that serve neither their purpose nor those of the interviewer.
Remember, no employer will hire a worker who doesn’t think clearly for themselves. Obviously, we conclude that a person that can’t think clearly for themselves can’t think well for the organization too.
Mismatch Between Career Goals
If you’ve sent a resume with a career goal and your answer is very different at the interview, HR managers and recruiters will conclude easily that you’ve sent an application in haste or without proper consideration. Therefore, it’s best to customize the career goal to suit each job. And remember the career goal that you’ve mentioned on the Resume when answering that question at an interview.
Again, a lot of job seekers write a very vague career goal. This is a clear giveaway that you’re not interested in a career or have no definitive plans. A vague career goal often won’t even get you an interview call. A vague or very general career goal can suit any person and hence, it lacks the seriousness that employers look for in a job applicant.
Before wrapping up I’ll add that a career goal isn’t merely relevant for your job or studies. Instead, it is important for your life, personally too. A proper career goal helps in planning our life. It gives a roadmap and directions on how to proceed and achieve these goals, which culminates as proper action.