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Where do you see yourself in five years?

Seriously, HR people ask the weirdest questions.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

For a Twentysomething with no owned property and no family the truthful answer is of course “In a different company, twice removed. Not because you suck more than anywhere else, but, like, statistically.”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “Week 27 or 28?” — LionKingLee

That time when you finish school and university and before you settle down with dependencies that make you immobile – it is an important time in your life. Use it wisely: Change jobs every two to three years, and make it count.

That is: understand that the people you work with are more important than the companies you work for – you are building your professional network. The companies you work for will change every few years, but the network you build will be with you for the rest of your life. It will be an important part of you and your career.

These people you are with in your wild years, they are the people who will recommend you to the company you are aiming for next. They will make sure that your CV is at least read, if you send it there. They will make sure that you have at least the first interview with that new shop. They are the people who will ask you, when they have a professional question regarding your area of expertise, and who will listen to your recommendations – for hiring, for purchase, or just for grounding some goofball ideas which may or may not turn into a startup.

Seriously, HR people have the weirdest ideas.

I met some once, who were wondering why self-assessment and 360º reviews and management reviews diverge so much. There are things like this for example (and that’s already one of the better solutions). But you are effectively typing feedback about your future network peers into a SaaS solution, and you know that.

So there is a third party company which collects data about me at work, and what others think about me. This company may or may not keep it around when we leave our current engagement, depending on legislation, this companies operational skills and culture: would you trust a company with an Uber-like culture with this data? How do you know if they are an Uber or not?

If they keep it, and they are successful in their market, they will build a profile over my networks and my entire career, over each of our professional engagements over time. Yeah, one more profile to worry about, on top of the Google shadow, the Github and the Linkedin.

Anyway, back when I was 20 (that was 1988), I learned the value of feedback – it is what helps you grow.

I also learned that negative feedback is always delivered over coffee and beer, privately, face to face, and never, ever, written down.

Especially not in some random 3rd parties SaaS interface. You have no idea where it is going to end up, how long it is being kept or who is going to buy whom in the end.

So, anything that goes into reports and reviews will of course be formatted in a way such that it does not damage the current and future relationship between my network and me. It’s not real and can’t ever be. And that was true already before systems like these, when HR was still working with paper folders and kept data in-house.

Seriously, HR people have the weirdest jobs. Whatever technology you build, theirs can’t be automated, and in many ways not even effectively assisted.

Published inWork

3 Comments

  1. Correction. It was 1988 when you were 20 ☺️

    • kris kris

      Fixed. :-)

  2. Alphager

    From my conversations with HR people, they ask that question to filter out certain individuals. Your answer is mostly irrelevant; they are looking for certain red flags:

    * Unrealistic carreer progression (if you hire for an entry-level position, you don’t want to hear “your CEO” as the answer)
    * Inappropriate comments
    * No idea whatsoever (shows a certain lack of thought about the role)

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