My Boss Asked Me “Where Do You Want to Be In 3 Years?”

And I stumbled on my answer. I don’t know where I want to be in 3 years. He prodded, “VP of Marketing?” “VP of Communications?” I paused, and said, “well, it’s hard to say in three years what I’ll want to be doing. If we’re still doing well then, yes, VP, or maybe, I also want to start my own thing, possibly, or …”

The reality is, I don’t have a clear picture of what I want three years from now. Part of me wants nothing more than to make it in this crazy world of Silicon Valley – to take what I’ve learned from the startups I’ve worked at and use it to start something new, useful, and successful. I have a small bug in my head that says it might be possible (and the fact that there are so few female entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley makes me want to make that possible.) There’s also another bug in my head that dreams of my stock options being worth at least a million in a few years, and then going to art school where I can get back into a life of painting and maybe become good enough to sell my work.

My boss constantly reminds me of how great it is to be part of the story of a successful company from the early days, and how, later on, this will be incredibly helpful for my career. The board knows my name, he says, which is rare for a person at my level, and I should stay for that fact alone. Which is very true – it would be if in my heart I believe that I want to be VP of Marketing in the next 10 years. And maybe I do – there are elements of marketing I’m really good at and other elements that I now understand enough to hire the right people to successfully fill the role. I guess at this point in 3 years I’d like to be a manager with a team of people that I’ve selected personally who are hungry, passionate, and excited to do the work they do. The title doesn’t really matter. The job would be more or less the same. The scale would be much larger. We’re already going global, and I’m managing projects with partners and customers everywhere from Brazil to Japan. I just want to scale with the business.

But to do that, I need to convince everyone that I’m management material. I’m so ADD (yes, clinically) that it’s a huge struggle for me. I’m good at creative projects and maybe I should stick to being a creative and not try to become a manager where the actual day-to-day work eventually becomes completed by people under me. Why would I want that when what I get the most satisfaction out of is that work?

But maybe that will change in the coming years. I’ll get married, have kids, not have time to spend my waking hours of 24/7 constantly fixating on the details. Instead, I’ll want to be focused on running an effective organization / team. The details will be the big picture. The people I hire will understand the importance of the details. And together, we will make amazing things happen. Hey, what about – in three years, I want to be a younger and alive version of Steve Jobs?

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3 thoughts on “My Boss Asked Me “Where Do You Want to Be In 3 Years?””

  1. I hate it when people ask me this question at work. I think a lot of career-oriented folks would be surprised at how many people just want to keep doing what they're doing and not be bothered with networking, office politics, advancement, etc.

    If I was perfectly honest, I'd tell someone that in 3 years I would love to be nearing the end of my full-time employment because my saving and investing progress had been tracking even better than I had planned. But of course you can't say that to your boss, because then you'll be labeled as selfish, unmotivated, and "not a team player" and probably put on the list for the next round of layoffs. So instead I have to put on this act that I'm all uncertain and not sure where my career will lead. When in reality all I want to do is be left alone and continue the job I'm doing until I have enough money that I can stop doing it, forever.
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