Coffee Chat: The Next Ten Years

I’ve had a few interviews lately in the saga/struggle that is my job search. And inevitably, the interviewer will ask me some variation of: Where will you be in the next ten years?

I hate this question.

“Ten years? Um, well, I don’t know. Moved out of my parents’ house? Hopefully?” [Insert awkward laugh here.]

The next ten years—is this some sort of magic, reveal all interview question? Because I’ve interviewed at many different types of places, and everyone asks this. Everyone.

Now, tell me, because I’m honestly asking: what is a good answer to that type of question? A normal, smarter person than me would have just come up with some generic, interviewer pleasing answer by now. I, however, am apparently hoping the questions will just go away.

Here is my completely honest—and completely job interview unacceptable—answer: I don’t know.

I don’t know. Sorry, but I just don’t. The world is too big and I haven’t experienced enough of it yet, so how on earth can I pick just one thing to answer with?

Whether you’re a 22-year-old graduate and still bewildered that you’re not buying new notebook and folders for school in the fall or 40 and in the midst of a career change, I’m sure you understand what I’m feeling. I promise that I’m sending hugs and good vibes your way.

Mostly (when I’m not despairing over job rejections or my crushing student loan debt) I’m glad I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years. Knowing would take the fun out of it, right?

Right? (This is where you nod and smile to humor me. “Right, Tierney, of course you’re right.”)

When I was a little kid, little enough that 22 seemed ungodly old, I figured that “in the future” I’d be married and have kids and a garden. Back then, that was a satisfactory answer. 

Back then, money grew on trees came from my parents and a dollar made me rich. Back then, I believed I’d somehow grow up to be a princess. Today my career goals are a bit more attainable. (Though a piece of my heart is still rooting for the tiara and the gigantic closet from Princess Diaries movie.)

Ten years seems like a long time and also like a blink of the eye and definitely a mystery. Maybe I’ll have that garden, maybe even a money tree—can’t hurt to dream. Here’s what I know. In the next decade, I hope my life is wonderful and crazy, and I hope I still enjoy the little things. I hope I am surrounded with people I love. I hope I can still learn something new and be amazed by something every day. I hope that, whatever it is that my life ends up being, I am happy. 

In ten years, I don’t know what type of job I’ll have or will have done in the past, but I keep telling myself this is okay. I’ll work hard and something will happen and I will get where I need to be. So, I still don’t have an answer to that interview question. And maybe that’s the reason I’m still jobless once my summer position is over. But I’m going to stick with my answer.

I think “I don’t know” is okay for me, folks. Now, fellow unemployed friends, let’s go find ourselves some crowns (little child Tierney would say the sparklier the better) and fill out some job applications, shall we?

Update: Full disclosure, friends: I do believe goal setting and planning are important. And I do fully intend to have an answer to that question the next time an interviewer may ask. The point of this post was to say what I firmly believe: that it’s okay not to know everything, and it’s okay to revel in the “what if’s” of life.  

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