After obtaining my master's degree, I am applying to doctoral programs; my career goal is to work in academia. However, during these months I have to save more money for my future possible studies by applying to various kinds of jobs. I will hear back from the schools that I am applying to after March 2016; if I am admitted, then I must quit my job (if any) on August 2016, say; if not, then I will continue to work for one more year and apply to doctoral programs again next year.

From time to time I was asked questions such as "what is your career goal" or "what do you want". Given that I just want to get a job to save more money, that I know that if I tell them I am applying to doctoral programs and want to work in academia then I would have no chance to get the job, and that I do not want to lie, I wonder what a wise way to response such a question is.

  • 2
    You may want to say you that you are looking for an exciting opportunity to learn continuously. By this you are not lying and would still have a shot at the job :) Dec 4, 2015 at 6:35
  • @watercooler Thank you very much; I did not think of that. :)
    – Yes
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:41
  • @watercooler Is it advisable to mention that I am interested in academics?
    – Yes
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:49
  • Don't! if you want the job. Dec 4, 2015 at 6:50
  • I'm not sure whether watercooler is right. I'm also not sure what type of job you're talking about -- a summer internship? working 5 years somewhere then going back into academia? these would of course be very different answers.
    – user42272
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:52

3 Answers 3


In general it is not required to reveal your entire career plan when you are appearing for a job interview. Questions like "What are your career goals?" are generally asked to check how aspiring and motivated the candidate is. I am not very certain if it has real meaning to ask, as career directions and plans could be very dynamic and adaptive.

It also depends on the position you are applying for. If you are appearing for a position in a research department or internship in your field of interest. Then mentioning academic interest would help as they may encourage you to pursue. If you are looking for corporate jobs who focus on impact to business only, it may hinder your chances.

Alternatively you may want to say you want to pursue a direction of continuous learning which would not raise a red flag to interviewers and you would not be lying :)

  • 1
    I think the issue is whether "aspiring" includes "aspiring to actually still be working here this time next year."
    – user42272
    Dec 4, 2015 at 7:00
  • Yes it could. But it depends on how the question is being posed. Your idea of being discrete would help refining the question. Dec 4, 2015 at 7:10

I think you're going to need to be on the discreet side with this. It kind of varies based on industry, company, position, etc., but I tend to think 2 years is an OK amount of time at a company and planning to leave in just a year might lead to you being passed up.

So, talk about something that isn't planning on being in academia in the near future.


This is a very lazy but common question where the interviewer is demonstrating their lack of experience in effective interview techniques. They probably haven't read your CV/resume very carefully and so are resorting to asking generic questions. It is asked often enough that it's good to have the answer ready before each interview, I would guess I am asked this, or some variation of it, at about a third of the interviews I have attended.

What the interviewer is looking for is an answer that demonstrates you will fit into the role you've applied for, will carry out the role for a reasonable period of time, ie long enough so they don't need to find a replacement for you in a few weeks or month etc.

Don't reply by saying that you want the interviewer's job either!

I wouldn't mention your academic aspirations if you want to be successful at interviews where you just need to earn money. You don't need to lie but to be a little creative with your storytelling!

I would be tempted to answer along the lines of that I am looking to progress my career within the company, but make sure you know enough about the company and the position you are applying for. Most people don't really know what their "career goal" is anyway and it changes frequently during your lifetime for a variety of reasons, some out of your control.

Use this question as another chance to sell some of your qualities, such as determination, hard-work ethic etc and also show off that you know a bit about the company and the role.

Good luck!

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