Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? This or a variant of this question is quite commonly asked during interviews. We never really give this question a second thought. Mechanically, an answer is googled and a variant of that answer is implemented during the interviews. Now, if you sit back and think calmly, this question is quite deep. This question works your brain out to find the thing that interests you. It asks you to paint that picture about yourself which you fantasize about. The interviewer is asking the question to understand if your career interests align with the role you are being interviewed.

This question is not just for potential employees. If you are talking to the right person, you should always grab the opportunity to ask him/her “Where do you see the company in 5/10 years?” For example, if you are talking with CEO of a company, this is an excellent question to ask. This will help you understand the direction in which the company is treading and analyze if you want to tread in a similar direction. Employment is a two way street. The benefits are always mutual and the productivity is at its tip if both, the company and the employees, are pulling the rope in the same direction.

In financial terms, there is a term called Net Present Value (NPV). In simple words, NPV means the value in the present of a sum of money, in contrast to some future value it will have when it has been invested. This means that NPV calculates the value of an action that you take now with respect to the future value of that action (from a finance perspective, this action is investing a sum of money). The point is whatever action you take now, in your present life, has an effect on your future life. That job, which you are preparing for, will shape your career. Is this the job that will take you to that picture you always paint about yourself in your mind? If you are applying for a job then it is important to understand how that particular job will help your career and steer in the direction you want your career to be in. Say, I am studying Mathematics and Finance, and am offered the role of Software developer at XYZ. Even though the pay is well and XYZ is a big brand, unless working as a Software Developer excites me or helps me in taking my career in the direction I want, the job may not be a good prospect for me.

The notion of NPV can be applied to all the decisions you take up in life. Higher studies, buying a car, accepting a job offer, buying real estate, etc. are some of the few common things that need good decision making. The value of NPV, in pure financial terms, means money. For the decisions you take in life, NPV could mean value in any form, be it personal growth value, monetary value and even emotional value. For buying a car or buying real estate, NPV could actually mean calculating the value in terms of money. For deciding whether to spend a fortune on higher studies or deciding to go on an international vacation, NPV could mean both monetary value and personal/emotional value. Of course, some values are abstract and cannot always be calculated with precision.

A friend of mine has a philosophy, “Every action is an investment”. It is true in most cases. Whatever action you take right now is an investment. So there is a Net Present Value to every action. It is critical to understand the value that you gain from any action you take so that smarter decisions are taken. Next time when you apply for higher studies or a job, think about that dream of yours and see if this action is an investment for that dream to come true.