“I Want to be an Astronaut”: How to Deal with the Tricky End-Goal Question in Interview

Ok, so you may not want to be an astronaut, but answering this question correctly may seem very much like rocket-science. We all know the dynamic – you don’t want to say the ‘wrong thing’, as it may rule you out of the job, but what on earth (excuse the pun) can you say if you don’t have a master plan?

#1 Accept that a perfectly scoped out end-goal is an elusive concept

The main issue with this question is not many people, even super ambitious types, know what their end-goal is. They may have an idea – for instance to be in a leadership role, with a degree of authority and autonomy, but for most people, this isn’t a well defined ‘position’. Likewise, most careers develop organically over time by either discovering or taking opportunities as they present themselves – and that can’t always be predicted and planned for.

#2 Understand the steps you need to take in the mid-term

Trying to define this elusive ‘position’ further isn’t necessarily the way to go, as the reality is careers aren’t as straight forward as this. Keep your aspiration, even if it is vague, but spend time understanding the various steps you definitively need to go through to get there – in other words, what you need to do to build your capability set in order to reach the level you aspire to. Use this thinking to shape your answer.

#3 Try to pull it back the role you are interviewing for

If you’re interviewing for a role, it’s likely this role is going to be one of those next steps that will help you build your capability set. But it’s also likely that this role will have a mid-term objective – it may tie into a 5-Year Strat Plan or programme of transformation the company is executing. Use this to define your mid-term.

“My end goal is to achieve a number one finance role, preferably a CFO role in a mid-sized services company. To get there, I know I need to develop a number of competencies, including leadership of a larger team of qualified accountants, more day-to-day contribution to executive-level decisions and specific experience in company secretarial work. This role provides me with the first element of this, and coupled with the context of delivering a number of systems and improvement projects as part of the 5 Year Plan I see this as furthering my career goal. As we near the end of that 5 Year Plan, I’d like to have achieved enough to be in discussions about increasing my accountabilities or taking on a promotion.”

#4 Practice makes perfect

Whatever you say, make sure you have rehearsed it, and it rolls off the tongue. This is (almost) more important than the content – principally because if you don’t seem like you have a ‘plan’, or seem to lack confidence in it, it may appear like you’re not taking your career seriously – even if that’s not the case. Whatever you do say, make sure that you believe in it, practice it in front of that mirror, and deliver it with absolute conviction!

Good luck!

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