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Where do you see yourself in five years?

This used to be a standard job interview question. Maybe it still is if you're interviewing for a job at the Tata Group or ICICI Bank.

It used to be a very valid question until a few years ago. One would do her schooling, then her Bachelor's, then her Master's, then join an established company as the equivalent of a junior associate and then, over a career of twenty five to thirty years, climb up the corporate ladder to be a VP or an SVP or something like that, all in the same company or in a handful of companies.

Given this fairly well defined career path, it was a fair enough question to ask where one saw oneself in five years. Why, the question might very well have been about ten years or fifteen years from then and it would still be fair to ask. Because a candidate interviewing for a job was expected to have that level of clarity about the corporate ladder and where they stood in it at the time of interviewing. This was also the time when the company could sell the candidate on the opportunity to climb swiftly up that ladder.

I don't think anyone asks that question in a job interview any more. It is pretty stupid to do so to be honest. Many an interviewing company doesn't have an idea where it sees itself in five years, let alone the candidate.

What matters today (and what is sought after) is not someone who sees herself somewhere five years from now and is looking to take up this job as a means of getting there. What matters today is whether one can be a hacker, a doer, someone who is passionate enough to take the company somewhere in five years.

The relevant question today is not where one sees herself in five years, but what problems she's passionate about solving. Because that is where she will be in five years, solving those problems. With the company she's interviewing for or without. That's the kind of people in demand and that's the future of job interviews.

Nobody will care how long you've spent at a job, because it is no longer a bunch of similar operating corporates where employees climb up the ladder gaining experience along the way. What matters is what problems you're passionate about solving and what you've done towards that end so far and what you've learnt that will help you go ahead and do it.

What problems do you want to solve?

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