How to Answer "What Are Your Career Aspirations?"

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Recent statistics reveal that applicants must undergo at least 2-3 interviews before landing a job. Even if you end up doing more and still fail to get a job offer, the best thing to do is keep trying. The experience may be crushing, but one must persist to succeed.

Besides sharpening communication skills, improve your chances of succeeding in a job interview by responding well to common interview questions. For instance, if the interviewer asks about your career aspirations, would you be able to give an impactful answer? If not, there are a few pointers that you should keep in mind.

career aspirations panel job interview

What are career aspirations?

Before expressing your career aspirations, it is crucial first to understand its concept. Career aspirations refer to professional goals one wishes to undertake in the following years. While not always concrete and largely dependent on a person’s preferences, career aspirations can open paths for professionals to undertake as they go through life.

Career aspirations examples

There is no right or wrong when it comes to career aspirations. Every career development goal that one sets to achieve is a reflection of personal desires and experiences. For example, the desire to gain extensive experience in an industry one is passionate about is as valid as wanting to own a small business.

For your reference, here are more specific examples of career aspirations:

  1. Be a digital artist in a production company that specializes in 3D animation.
  2. Land an administrative position whose tasks focus on internal management.
  3. Get hired as an HR specialist to have more experience in mass recruitment.
  4. Start an advertising company that mainly caters to social media marketing.
  5. Create a profitable, mobile-friendly accounting program that tops the Apple Store and Playstore.

Why do employers ask about your career aspirations?

Field experts estimate that hiring managers only ask three to five comprehensive questions during a job interview. While there is no limit to the number of questions to be asked, hiring managers continue to interrogate applicants about their career plans. The following are the top reasons why:

1. To ensure you have the same objective as the company

One of the main concerns for hiring managers when asking about applicants’ career aspirations is whether they can see eye to eye with the employer. Although an applicant has the relevant experience and skills to qualify for an open position, it will be impractical to hire them if they cannot agree to the company’s objectives.

2. To know how long you plan to stay with the company

Sometimes, hiring managers will ask the applicant for a 5-year career plan instead of one’s career aspirations. Interviewers ask this question because they want to know if applicants are planning to move to another career or position within a short time frame. Companies often look for employees who will stay for good.

3. To know if you fit in their company culture

Company culture is probably one of the biggest things employees must adapt to upon accepting a job. Since it is not mutable, hiring managers should filter out applicants who cannot keep up with the company’s environment. Forcing to hire an employee who disagrees with the company’s culture will make the situation chaotic for all stakeholders.

4. To understand your personal ambitions

All applicants have unique ambitions, and not all of them may be compatible with what the company wants. Asking about career aspirations is helpful in this situation because applicants would reveal their career plans and expectations. Employees whose interests do not align with the company’s plans could trigger problems in the system.

How to answer “What are your career aspirations?”

There is no formula for answering “What are your career aspirations?” It is a personal question that begs for a personal answer. However, it is best to answer this question strategically because it can make or break an interview. Follow these tips to provide a good answer to hiring managers:

Research the company’s mission and vision

Knowing the employer well will score you major brownie points with the hiring manager. Interviews can pool hundreds per position, so innovative applicants should do something to draw positive attention to themselves. Providing specific details, like the company mission and vision, creates an impression that an applicant is resourceful, attentive, and well-prepared.

Talk about your personal vision

One of the best ways to sell yourself during an interview is by sharing personal details with the interviewer. Career aspirations can be an intimate topic, so it only makes sense to approach the question with raw emotions. Do not try to sugarcoat your answer, and share your vision about the position and your overall career.

Take the “we” vs. “me” approach

Use “we” instead of “me” during the interview. This strategy implies that whenever possible, try to include the company in the conversation and explain how landing the job contributes to your career advancement. In short, attempt to talk as if you are a part of the company and mention collaborative options to grow your career.

Practice your answers before the interview

As the overused proverb goes, “practice makes perfect.” Although you are not aiming for perfection, practicing multiple times will help build your confidence during interviews. The interview skill is an underrated soft skill that every job applicant should master because it opens doors for career development.

career aspirations applicant talking to recruiter

“What are your career aspirations?” sample answers

Looking at other people’s examples is probably the fastest way to gain inspiration in answering interview questions. The inquiry on career aspiration is a personal question, so there is no right or wrong answer. However, some ways of presenting answers can be so impactful that the message can sound more impressive. Check these sample answers:

Entry-level position

Unsurprisingly, greenhorns are excited to share their career aspirations during an interview. However, as someone new and inexperienced, one may tend to overshare and set unrealistic expectations when discussing a career plan. At this stage, the safest thing to do is specify a couple of career aspirations and find realistic ways to approach them.

Sample #1:

“I wish to apply for an administrative position in ABC Corp. to grow my organizational and clerical skills, learn how to work with professional teams, and gain professional experience in the corporate field.” During my first year, I want to settle into my position and fulfill my duties with proficiency. Then, in the next four years, I intend to climb the corporate ladder and take on a management role. The higher position would provide me with better career opportunities.”

Mid-level position

Qualifying for a mid-level job requires a few years of experience. Although you are still relatively new, your exposure to work provided irreplaceable lessons and bigger career opportunities. When asked about career aspirations as an applicant for a mid-level job, it is crucial to demonstrate your intention to grow further.

Sample #2:

“Working at our local daycare center for one and a half years strengthened my passion for childcare. Throughout this experience, I discovered there is more to this job than attending to children’s needs. After knowing how I can change lives, I plan to take some teaching units while continuing my work at a bigger daycare institution. I want to improve my new skills and seek growth in a busier and more progressive work environment.”

Executive position

Many think one’s career path ends at an executive or c-suite position. Others do not realize that career success is not linear and that professional development can continue anytime. Even after thinking that you have already achieved all career aspirations, new challenges can surface during the most unexpected moments. To find a new career goal, one must stay open-minded.

Sample #3:

“I took full advantage of the rare job opportunity of being the executive manager of the most successful marble producer in town. I worked as a high-level executive for almost a decade and successfully fulfilled various long-term goals for my employer. At an older age, I started wanting to establish my own company. So, without retiring, I will spend the next three years preparing for the launch of my business.”

Team member role

Not everyone is fit to man a leadership position, but it should not deter another from fulfilling other roles. Like leaders and managers, member roles also contribute heavily to the success of any business. Therefore, when applying for a member role, establish your credibility and competency without sounding too standoffish.

Sample #4:

“I hope to utilize my engineering degree and professional background in low-cost housing in a position that encourages collaboration between different departments. If provided the chance to be a member of XX Realty, I will fulfill my duties as a project planner and perform other tasks relative to my role. I will actively participate as a team member and explore new ways to improve the company’s performance through organizational interventions.”

Leadership role

Leaders and managers fulfill similar roles, but it is crucial to distinguish one from the other. Of the two, leaders cover a more expansive responsibility toward their subordinates, departments, and other dependents. In addition, leaders should have experience handling crises and other related scenarios requiring immediate decision-making.

Sample #5:

“Being with the company for a decade helped me mature as a person and a professional. In addition, leading the marketing department gave me the confidence to handle local and international projects. To increase my expertise in marketing, I intend to focus on metaverse digital marketing. I can lead and train a specialized team for this matter.”

Express your career aspiration from the heart

Not every company you apply for will appreciate your career aspiration. However, it should not be a reason to give up on how you want to live your professional life. Keep improving to ace your upcoming interview because everything else will eventually fall into place, leading to your successful career development.

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