“So where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”, “How ambitious would you say you are”, “”What are your goals in life”, “what is your expectation from this job”. This and many more such “behavioural” questions often wreck our nerves and leave us in hair-splitting mode whenever we are to prepare for a new job interview or walk into one of those “career progression and employee engagement” talks with the HR.
Standard, smart and acceptable answers would range from “I see myself as a productive resource for the organization, multi-tasking across functional teams and adding to my skill sets as I progress” to “I am a sponge, learning best practices and grooming myself for leadership roles within the organization” and of course the quintessential “ In 5 years, I see myself grow with the company. I believe in long term and strong association”. However, I face a bit of a trouble when it comes to stating these answers poker faced and letting my employer know, in rather euphemistic terms, that I am ready to be the corporate slave till the end of my life (or yours, whichever is shorter!). My life is expected to be balanced cautiously against work, perched atop a pile of “to do’s, need to do’s, should do’s , you better do’s”. Any slip from the top would be treated as a cause of personal negligence and sloppy time management; and be subjected to negative appraisal on my ability to “multi-task and generate efficient outputs”.
5 years from now I would like to see myself earning sufficient for a monthly shopping spree, a family lunch over the weekend and an annual vacation. My goal in life is to be able to provide adequately for my near and dear ones and be available for them in their happiest and saddest moments. I expect that my job enables me to work in an environment where I am not distressed by the fact that I do have a personal life which needs equal attention. The problem with my answers is that these instantly put me in the bracket of “unambitious, non-enterprising and laid-back resource” who is unable to “add value to the ambition and vision of the organization going forward”. And this irks me BIG time! Why is not “living a life” categorized as ambition but “earning a million” is highly ambitious. Or why is my idea of having a personal life deemed “understandable but not acceptable” on grounds of my being a woman, “after all”!
Yes, maybe early 20’s is too early to think of having a work-life balance. Yes, right now it is all about work hard, party harder and TGIF syndrome. But why does this have to change my definitions of “ambition”, “job expectation” and “goals in life”? And no, this is not a tirade against long working schedules or aggressive workplaces, hell no!
Maybe you can treat this as my attempt to “initiate lateral thinking and encourage alignment of ideas between the employee and the employer through active voicing of conflicting opinions”!