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5 minute read

How To Answer Interview Question: What Are your Career Aspirations?

What are your career aspirations? There are plenty of ways to respond to this interview question, but a well-structured one always wins. Here is a guide to answering questions about your occupational aspirations.

“What are your career aspirations?” On first thought, this seems like a question about your future career plans and goals. However, potential employers are looking for specific information that tells them whether you are the perfect fit for the role. You’re not wrong if you share that your aspirations are to increase your salary over time. However, it’s better to frame your question towards growth, a mindset most employers seek.
It’s easier when your interviewer asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. This is one of the more popular interview questions, and it is pegged to a timeframe to keep your answer tangible. The common career aspiration question, on the other hand, is more open-ended. This means you can decide how to structure a response that aligns your career goals with the role you are applying for.
So, how do you answer a question about your occupational aspirations?

Looking for career guidance? If you are exploring career changes and need professional advice, register for a complimentary session with WSG’s Career Coaching today.

How to understand what your career aspirations are?

Before you embark on any career field, it’s normal to know where you intend to work. An IT Desktop Support Engineer may wish to transition into cybersecurity with relevant certifications. A content writer may eventually want to lead a team of writers after acquiring enough on-the-ground experience.

Your occupational aspirations are typically a result of a range of factors, including your values and strengths profile. There could also be influences on career choice stemming from family or academic interests. How do you understand what they are?

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Your strengths tell you your competency level and how far you can go in a particular career field. On the other hand, your weaknesses remind you of potential career development barriers that can interfere with career success.

If you can find a way to overcome your weakness, it’s easier to fulfil your occupational aspirations. Otherwise, you’re better off considering job roles in another sector where you can use your strengths.

2. Speak with a career mentor

An additional perspective can help you better understand potential career aspirations you are unable to identify. This means you will learn more ideas about goals you can set in your career. Speaking with a career coach or mentor can help you get started.

These career counselling sessions are designed for you to make sense of your strengths and interests while mapping them against a career aspirations scale. Here, they help you tabulate your career aspiration score based on a series of questions to determine your suitability and interest.

A higher or stronger career aspiration score indicates higher success chances; a lower or weaker career aspiration score signifies disinterest.

How do you talk about your career aspirations?

There are different ways to talk about your career aspirations, but three factors play a critical role in your delivery when speaking with your future employer:

  • Future goals
  • Skills development
  • Timeframe

We describe these three factors below and explain them through various examples of career aspirations.

1. Describe your future goals

Your future goals are the first area to ponder. Consider the reasons you have applied for the role and match your goals accordingly.

Fresh graduates

Leveraging your educational level and background, map out your goals to show you have planned your trajectory with thought. Think about the influences on your career choice that led you to apply for the role.

Career aspirations example for fresh graduates:

“My career aspirations stem from my interest in information technology. With my current diploma, this job opportunity will be an important platform for me to apply my knowledge to practical applications and build up my technical skills with relevant certifications as I move along various executive positions.”

If you are still exploring a career path, giving an idea of where you intend to reach within the particular sector is one way to frame your goals.

Career aspirations example for fresh graduates who are still assessing career suitability:

“As a beginner in this field, this role will allow me to harness the basic skills required to fully kick start a career in IT. From here, I can explore different domains and consider specialising in one with your company.”

Find out more about WSG’s Career Matching Services and how our professional career coaches can help you in your career journey.

Mid-career switch professionals

Defining future professional goals may seem challenging for professionals looking at a mid-career switch, but being authentic about your circumstances will benefit you.

Career aspirations example for mid-career switch professionals:

“After over ten years in the banking industry at the executive level, I’ve decided to switch to the IT sector. I’m aiming to grow my foundational skills before finding my niche interest, and I feel this role will give me a head start.”

2. Give an idea of your skills development plan

Your future goals are tied to the skills you develop — after all, your competencies will define your career development. Go into detail about the skills you wish to acquire as part of your occupational aspirations.

You can explore various managerial skills, such as managing projects and overseeing teams, or go into more specific ones, such as a particular tech certification you are keen to acquire.

Interviewees want to see your capacity for growth. Think about the essential skills necessary to develop yourself in the field further, but be sure to refer back to the job description and company and how they will help you grow.

Career aspirations example showcasing career development plan:

“Among the certification options, I have set my eyes on the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). With that, I hope to transition to a Network Engineer with your company when there is a career opportunity or be able to learn on the job while studying for the qualification.”

Use these tips in your next job interview. Visit MyCareersFuture and start applying now! 

3. Define a timeframe

As we have mentioned, a timeframe allows you to make your response tangible. Set one on your own should the interviewer inquire about your career aspirations without indicating any time period.

Consider a one to two-year and a five-year mark. As with your future goals and plans for skills development, factor in your time in the role you are interviewing for.

Hiring managers look for candidates keen to develop themselves with the company for the long term.

These are the key traits that convince them to welcome you to their talented team.

Career aspirations example by setting a preferred timeframe:

“I plan to acquire at least two years of experience in Desktop Support and, by the one-and-a-half-year mark, explore the operations of networking while I study for my CCNA. In my third or fourth year with the company, I would have acquired my certification and can consider transitioning to a Network Engineer, with a possible inclination towards a leadership position.”

Quick interview tips for questions on career aspirations

Whether you’re being interviewed by the human resources team or your potential manager, common interview questions such as this can impress them when you have a well-crafted response. These tips can help:

1. Be realistic about your career aspirations

Your interviewers are subject matter experts themselves, and they can quickly point out if your career plan is too ambitious. Your professional aspirations must make sense and have clear short and long-term goals.

2. Be tactful in your responses

Do not divulge too many details that may hamper your chances, especially when you do not have a concrete idea of your career goals. Avoid diving into specific information that may be counterproductive to your job application in front of your potential employers. Being an industry expert, your future employer knows well what career barriers can easily hurt your chances of landing the role.

3. Avoid discussing personal issues

Your career aspirations are tied to your profession and not based on personal circumstances. Do not mix your personal aspirations with your professional ones, such as bringing in your family background to support your career choices or lifestyle changes that create career barriers you want to overcome.

4. Avoid mentioning salary aspirations 

Keep the focus on skills development and how you will be an asset in your industry.

A stronger career aspiration response emphasises career developmental ideas, practical barriers to conquer and a clear logic to your career choice process.

Career success begins when you impress your potential employers at the interview. Your answers to career aspirations questions must be convincing enough such that your future hirers can picture your place in the company.

Stand out in the job market with an impactful response to this common question about your professional aspirations and convince future employers that you’re the best fit.

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