Congratulations! You’ve landed yourself an interview after weeks of job searching.
The only thing left to do is make a good impression.
The key to a successful interview is preparation. To avoid making common mistakes that leave impressions awkward or bad, it’s best to prepare ahead of time.
Getting Into the Interviewer’s Head
To start preparing for an interview, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
An interview is the beginning of a professional relationship.
Both you and your interviewer have taken time out of your day to meet and negotiate your needs. You both are seeking something to gain, and want those to align.
So what is an interviewer seeking when they ask, “What are your career aspirations?”
They may ask this question in a variety of manners, including:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
- What advances are you looking to make in your career?
- What are your goals for your future?
These questions share a common goal: to identify if you are a good fit for the company.
Defining Career Aspirations vs Goals
While the terms are used interchangeably, an aspiration and a goal aren’t the same thing.
Looking at your career in length, aspirations are long-term goals, a marker or destination rather than a journey.
Meanwhile, goals are short-term action items. Goals make up the to-do list that lead you to fulfilling an aspiration.
An example of an aspiration is to use your skills to help others. To help fulfill that aspiration, one of your goals could be to get a job with a non-profit organization.
Identify Your Career Aspirations
Having a hard time thinking of answers on your own? Here are a few further steps you can take to identify your personal aspirations.
Start by thinking about why you wanted this job in the first place.
- What is important in your life?
- What do you like to do?
- Which work areas are you good at?
- Which work areas are you not good at?
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
Review Your Resume
Take a look at your current resume. Does it reflect your career history accurately?
If not, it’s time to update your resume.
Once your resume showcases your strengths and accomplishments, ask yourself:
If you could add one thing to your resume, what would it be?
An area of improvement = an aspiration.
Industry or Set of Skills
Review your industry and the set of skills you have.
Where can your skillset improve? What is a skill you’ve always wanted to grow?
The answers to these questions are goals working towards a larger aspiration.
Create an Individual Development Plan
You’ve identified some goals and some of your aspirations are in life. Great!
But how do you keep focused on these during an interview?
Creating an Individual Development Plan can help you align your career aspirations with the advertised job.
An Individual Development Plan is a how-to guide to reach a single aspiration.
For your interview, focus on an aspiration that is relevant to your career. This way, you can explain to the recruiter how your personal development will work well alongside their company.
Creating one is simple:
- At the bottom of the page, write down your aspiration.
- Working backward, write all the actionable steps–goals–you need to do to get there. This can include promotions, client acquisitions, or major projects.
- As you write, think about how the company you’re interviewing for impacts these goals. Where can they aid in your development?
- Write down every goal until you get to “get hired by [the company you’re applying for]”.
Avoid aspirations such as a salary, location, or the company itself in your Individual Development Plan. Getting hired by the company can be your first goal, but should never be your end aspiration.
And voila! You have your Individual Development Plan, tailored to a specific company.
Example of a Good Response with an Individual Development Plan
- “I would like to merge my work experience and degree to create a unique customer experience with XYZ Company. My background in sales and buying will generate business profit. My team building skills will unite the customer experience as one company and one face. As I continue to develop, I envision myself enhancing customer experiences with business strategies, branding, marketing, and sales.”
The Individual Development Plan would be as follows:
- Get hired by XYZ Company
- Learn company’s customer service approach
- Master customer service approach by getting positive customer reviews
- Identify potential customer service improvements
- Suggest places of improvements to senior management
- Lead customer experience improvement project
- Get promoted to Brand Manager
- Lead small branding teams to drive big results
- Get promoted to Senior Brand Manager