Dear Elpha: I’m over 60 years old, interviewing, and no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder. How do I answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”Featured

✨Dear Elpha✨ is a new series where we feature a question submitted by one of you (can be anonymous!) with thoughtful advice from our pool of experts.

Q: I’m over 60 years old and interviewing. I’m interested in continuing to work interesting jobs, but no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder.

I’ve been in training operations for 23 years – 15 of which I have worked and 8 of which were spread out in 3 career breaks: (1) Lasted 3 years and was during the 2008 recession (2) I was an internationally trailing spouse for 3 yrs, and (3) Two years during covid/New CEO.

During this last stint, I have been a caregiver for extended weeks for several family members and volunteering for a non-profit co-running their internship program.

Since I have about 12 good years of working ahead of me, how do I answer the question "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" in a job interview?

Do I be honest about this or do I need to play the game? I've only had one interview so far - and I was stymied by this question and I was not polished. – Career Switcher

In the third edition of Dear Elpha, we’re excited to feature advice from @cristinastam, @farenahlman, and @AlisaManjarrez:

Dear Career Switcher,

I think your opening line, “I’m interested in continuing to work interesting jobs, but no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder” is in itself an exceptionally good answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”.

You just see yourself continuing to work interesting jobs for the remaining 12 years of your career. While you have no ambition to climb further on the corporate ladder, that just means you want to create impact and add value where you are right now, and enjoy what you’re doing.

If I were you, I’d be honest. It will definitely help you land jobs that are more enjoyable and better suited for you.

If you really want to get to a specific role and you feel like the interviewer is very inexperienced, you can easily turn the question around and ask: “Oh, while I am aware of my personal ambitions, I’m in fact first curious about what the general progression line of successful people in this company looks like across their first 5 years. What do they generally achieve?”.

I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck in finding a suitable role!

- Cristina Stam, Founder at The Kind Code

Hello Career Switcher,

When you are answering the interview question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", it's important to strike a balance between being honest and not oversharing, while also ensuring that your answer aligns with the role you are applying for.

With these ideas in mind, you should craft a response that genuinely expresses your interest in the position and your background’s alignment with the role.

For instance, you might say, "I have had a fulfilling career in training operations that has given me a unique perspective on the field and exposure to many different types of teams. While I am not looking to climb the corporate ladder at this stage of my life, I am seeking roles that will continue to challenge me and allow me to apply the knowledge I’ve gained. Over the next five years, I aim to use my expertise to contribute to [mention a goal or project related to the job’s description], and ultimately help the team succeed."

This response helps you truthfully express your career goals while highlighting your dedication to contributing to the organization. It also shows that you are aware of your strengths and are focused on leveraging them to align with the role.

Remember that at the end of the day, a “great interview answer” is one that demonstrates authenticity, enthusiasm, and fit for the role!

- Faren Ahlman, Career and Recruiting Consultant at Lovely Monday Careers

Dear Reader,

Congratulations on such a rich career and life giving back to those you care about! With 23 years of experience, it sounds like you’re interested in continuing to utilize your experience and expertise in a role that provides value. You can simply say that that’s your focus and you’re more interested in the collaborative work that will align with your skills, more than achieving the next title or climbing the ladder.

Interviewers are looking to fill the role that’s open and in front of them. If they are looking for someone they can depend on, with great institutional knowledge and someone who is ready and willing to participate in initiatives larger than themselves, it sure sounds like you’re the perfect fit.

Having years ahead of you where you can be a rock in the organization is a rare find. Your stability is your strength. Your years of experience are your strength. You’ve probably learned to be nimble, resilient, empathetic, and adaptable to organizational change, more than most people. Don’t be afraid to showcase that and paint a picture of how you can benefit the organization.

Think of examples you can share that demonstrate these qualities and jot them down before your next interview.

Additionally, if you’re interested in honing your craft more, mentoring others, or focusing on process improvements, these are all skills and qualities that lead to operational excellence. The bottom line is to emphasize how much you have to contribute because you’re not fixed on career advancement. You’d rather align your talents to impact the organization because that’s what’s meaningful to you at this stage of your career.

You’ve got this! 💃

- Alisa Manjarrez, Managing Director at Stories Bureau


✨ Want to have your question featured and receive expert advice? Please fill out this form.

🙋🏽‍♀️ If you want to share your expertise, please submit your info here.

⏰ Note: If your question is extremely time-sensitive, we encourage you to post directly on Elpha right now!

I'm 53yo and a software engineer. I respond to these questions with "I'm motivated by solving interesting problems and being in a position where I can always be learning and be a mentor to others on the team. I've learned that I do better work when I'm an individual contributor and not always changing the next big corporate title"