Bosses (or potential bosses) sometimes throw curveball questions at you, questions designed not to throw you off your game, but to have you think about what game you are playing and what game you would love to play.
First things first, the question isn’t something to fear, and it’s not an enemy to fight with or struggle against. It’s just a question. You wouldn’t feel the same kind of pressure if you’d been asked what your favorite cheese is or what size shoe you wear, so take some pressure off yourself. There’s no right answer, just your answer.
Here are some pointers for how you can frame your response and give yourself the opportunity to answer naturally and without second-guessing.
* A great answer will reside in that space between what’s comfortable and what’s not; something that’s on the edge of your experience that would help you be great at what you do.
You don’t want to answer with something you could nail flat, or you are showing a distinct misunderstanding of your role and your ability to offer tangible value. Similarly, answering with 'I have always wanted to solve cold fusion' may not be the best way to go either.
* Relevancy also stretches to the nature of your experience while in the job, things like not letting the small things stress you out or being able to balance the pressures of work with having fun with your team. As long as your answer is in the ball park, it’s good.
Keep your answer focused on your job, your skills, your talents, your hopes, and your ambitions as they relate to your current career path. You might want to get better at negotiation, learn how to run a great workshop, or be able to lead a team or a project because you think you would really come into your own at that level.
* A great answer to 'How do you want to grow' will likely have a couple of beats to it. The first beat will be something short-term, something you would love to improve on or get better at because it will help your effectiveness right now.
Speaking up more in meetings, planning your time better when faced with a deadline, or really nailing a technique or process that feels a little clumsy, all fall into this category, and show that you have a good understanding of how things are right now.
The second beat is then about what you would love to grow into. This probably isn’t about specific skills or existing areas of improvement, but talks to what you would love to be doing, the value you would love to add, and the difference you see yourself making in the future.
Talk about how you would love to be someone who can train others or help others be better at what they do, or how you want to help the company be more creative in the way it approaches challenges. Not only does this shows that you have a strong sense of how you can add value, but it demonstrates that you are an individual with heaps of capability and aspiration.
And that’s perhaps what this question is aimed at, over and above anything else, and the reason your boss asked you in the first place. He or she knows your capability and now wants to know that you are pointed in the right direction.