Questions about your overall career are designed to get a feel for you as a professional and what you're looking to get out of the work you do. Asking about your development is specifically asking you to reflect on your skills and knowledge—where you are, where you're headed, and where you ultimately want to end up. The inquiry is designed to gauge your interest in your field and your commitment to improving yourself as a worker in the industry.
Points to Emphasize
Naturally, employers will typically give more consideration to those who seem truly invested in the industry and their own development. Craft your answer honestly but carefully.
- Discuss your current stage of career development—what you've learned in relation to where you're headed.
- Have some fairly specific goals in mind to discuss in terms of your development, other than financial goals.
- Talk about how you'd like to develop yourself professionally in the specific job you're applying for.
- Elaborate on your long-term goals in addition to those in the nearer future.
Goal-oriented individuals are almost always more likely to gain consideration for positions than those who seem to be drifting in their careers.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
There are many pitfalls to avoid when discussing career goals and personal development. Keep these in mind:
- Avoid arrogance—don't imply that you're at the pinnacle of development with little else to learn.
- Talk about more than just your ideal future salary or fun job. Think along the lines of developing skills and knowledge.
- Don't focus solely on what you hope the job does for your career, but how you plan to develop yourself by impacting your next company.
- Never come up empty-handed in a discussion about career progress and development.
Even though the question relates to your own development, it's a good idea to try to tie in ideas relating to the company you're interviewing to work for.
Your answer will depend largely on your present career path, but the format of this response gives you an idea of how yours might sound:
My primary focus is on continuing to develop my leadership skills, and I believe the best way to do that is to constantly challenge myself. I've always strived to take on greater responsibility with each of the companies I've worked for previously; I think my vision goes toward the big picture and I want to exploit that talent to the best of my ability.
This response defines a clear ambition, relates it to past and future positions, and describes where the motivation comes from.