“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Experts say that’s one of the most common questions asked in job interviews. But it’s one that a lot of people struggle with answering. Because the reality is that none of us know what we’ll be doing in five years – and even the best-laid career plans can change.

So, what do you say when someone asks “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Career expert, Alison Green, who writes the popular “Ask A Manager” blog, says the first thing to consider is that the question isn’t about YOU - it’s about the THE JOB you’re applying for. Meaning, the hiring manager isn’t asking you to map out your life, and commit to a plan. They just want to know that you’re excited about the job and you’re not going to leave as soon as something better comes along.

Green says the only way managers can know those things about you is if you tell them how the job fits into your goals - whether it’s to learn a new skill, or use the job as a stepping-stone to a higher-level position in the company.

For example, you might say: “In five years, I’d love to have a bigger role in this company, and be in a position to train others to do this job."

That shows the manager that you’re excited about the job, and you’re planning to stick around.

Also, Green says it’s okay to say that you’re not sure about your future plans as long as you don’t come across like you’re just applying for random jobs, and taking whatever you can get. So, say something like: “I’m not sure how things will pan out, but I DO know that I want to do something meaningful, and continue increasing my skills and responsibility. And I feel like this job will help me do that.”