Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?


I hate this question. I hate when I hear it at an interview, and I hate thinking about it when I’m staring into space, pretending to think about work. It’s a ridiculous question. Anyone who has a clear sense of where their career will be in five years either has a government job or carries an assault rifle to work (soldier, pirate, gangster, etc.).

I feel we’ve strayed off topic. The point is, it is impossible to accurately predict how your career will play out, what choices will present themselves, and what random twists of fate will guide you to this promotion or that investment. So let’s not waste time seriously thinking about this question.

Instead, let’s consider the future in general! Well, what do we know about the future? It all depends on which science fiction movie paradigm you subscribe to. We should examine the classics.

Star Wars

Job options: evil corporate empire with a rigid bureacracy and a strict dress code or rag tag fleet of rebel freelancers who are pretty informal and accepting of diversity. Either way, you may win the genetic lottery and get magic powers, conveniently catapulting you to the leading ranks of the organization despite your complete  lack of experience or training.

Terminator

Computers take over, build killer robots that look like Austrian weight-lifters, and start sending assassins back in time. In this instance, your career will probably swerve suddenly into hunting, gathering, and hiding from SkyNet. But don’t worry! As a survivor in the wasteland, you won’t have many other cubicle-dwellers competing for company resources or promotions.

Back to the Future

Cars can fly, we use thumb-prints instead of credit cards, and energy comes from tiny appliances that run on old banana peels. Your career has probably continued on track, climbing the corporate ladder, wearing two-tailed neckties, and bullying your subordinates into doing your work for you. Just remember to get the assignments early so you have time to re-type them, and try not to work for anyone named “Needles.”

Blade Runner

Humans have colonized the solar system using android slaves, most animals are extinct, and the Los Angeles is really, really smoggy. You’ve worked hard, but unfortunately you’ve been replaced by a robot and now you’re forced to make a living as a street vendor peddling black market Furbies and Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls. Things may look grim, but relocating to the suburbs should make life easier. Assuming, that is, that you’re really human.

Planet of the Apes

Nuclear war has destroyed all civilization, leaving super-intelligent chimps in charge. You’ll do well as long as you refrain from speaking to your simian overseer and focus on blue sky thinking to maximize the synergy among the other people trapped in bamboo cubicles. Recommendation: Legally change your name to “Bright Eyes” now to save time.

Total Recall

Governments are out, mega-corporations are in, and you can go on vacation without leaving home by having fake memories implanted in your head. Accept the herd mentality and keep playing office politics as usual and you’ll be fine, as long as you don’t ever visit Mars or marry Sharon Stone.

The Matrix

The entire world is really an elaborate computer simulation. Don’t worry, you’ll probably never find any proof that you’re living in the Matrix anyway, so just keep your nose to the grindstone and your drab cubcile-bound existence will continue uninterrupted, as long as Agent Smith doesn’t ever appropriate your body to fight Neo in the subway.

Starship Troopers

The world’s gone authoritarian, and just in time! Because who better to fight giant alien bugs than a fascist Doogie Howser, MD? If you’re at all mechanically inclined, it’s time to start designing military-grade prosthetic limbs and industrial-strength flyswatters. Memo to self: Don’t move to Buenas Aires. Ever.

Robocop

Crime has gotten so bad that the police have resorted to turning dead cops into robotic zombies. Memo to self: Don’t move to Detroit. Ever.

Wall-E

Reckless corporate greed and poor government management has rendered our planet too disgusting to live on anymore, so you’ve been relocated to a giant spaceship for the rest of your life. Yahtzee! You get to spend eternity in a hovering barcalounger, drinking giant milkshakes, and playing video games. Every day is casual Friday!

Minority Report

Psychic cops ensure that no one is ever murdered again, while most business is conducted using retina scans. So get to work designing your new line of sunglasses, eyepatches, contact lenses, and glass eyeballs for all the people accidentally blinded while ringing up their purchases.

Fahrenheit 451

Firefighters burn books and most people spend their time in virtual-reality rooms. Clearly, it is time to get out of the publishing business and learn how to program video games. Or if you enjoy playing with flamethrowers, you may have a future in uniform.

Children of Men

Humans have mysteriously lost the ability to have children. Thus freed from the expenses of raising kids, you can focus on paying off that mortgage and saving for retirement. If you save aggressively, you might be living in the Bahamas five years from now.

Star Trek

Humanity has evolved beyond war, beyond racism and classism, beyond basic economics, so… everyone is out of business. The good news is that you can get three hundred kinds of cheeseburger from a machine in the wall and you can download all the music you want for free.

So there you have it, a vast array of possible career options and paths you might find yourself stumbling down in a post-apocalyptic horrorscape… in five years.


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Joseph Lewis is a writer and editor who has worked in the public and private sectors, including military, health care, and technology firms. Visit Joe's site
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Discussion

  1. Alex on the 11th March

    Haha! This is great, so many classics. Back to the Future excites me the most. I would love to see that in my next five years. Really cool post, fun read.

  2. Schérii on the 11th March

    This is exactly what I’m talking about for ages!

    This comic describes the definitely best answer to this:
    http://www.explosm.net/comics/1896/ :D

  3. Gregory Pike on the 11th March

    When asked “Where do you see yourself in five years?” in an interview, is it appropriate to answer fighting Agents in a Matrix-simulated world? Who’s to say I’m wrong?

  4. Avery on the 11th March

    I was told once that anyone who asks you to tell them about yourself in an interview doesn’t know what they’re doing. I think “Where do you see yourself in five years?” can be added to that.

    Come to think of it. I’d rather answer the first question than to tell my future manager (assuming they’re the one interviewing me) that I want their job within the next five years and won’t be happy until I get it. Hmm, maybe I could instead say that I want nothing more in life than to work the job I’m interviewing for and won’t strive for anything more ever again because I have no ambition? Yeah, that’ll work.

  5. Giorgio Sironi on the 11th March

    Star Wars is “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” :)

  6. RaduM on the 11th March

    Nice one :) but really now where is Stargate???

    • Thera on the 11th March

      Indeed, “I see myself in the Pegasus galaxy in five years” would be my preferred answer to the question :-)

  7. Julius on the 11th March

    I honestly don’t think of where I would be five years from now, but I try to devise a plan and keep it flexible. I like the Bladerunner idea and the mental picture I got from it. Not too crazy about being a street vendor though.

  8. imuri on the 11th March

    What’s about travelling? it’s more amazing than fiction)

  9. Nuno Esteves on the 14th March

    Hehe, lacking a reference to 1984 and Waterworld, although the latter wasn’t that much of a success anyway.

    Cheers.

  10. PETER KAMAU on the 26th September

    I SINCERELY LIKE THE WAY YOU ARE HELPING PEOPLE SAIL THROUGH THEIR CAREERS AND REALIZATION OF THEIR DREAMS. THANK YOU A LOT.

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