How to Answer, "Who Has Impacted You Most in Your Career and How?"

steve jobs

When you think about your current career, there's no doubt that certain people had an impact. There are so many ways in which someone can make an impact in terms of your career. Often it will be a family member or spouse, but many do not even know the people that have impacted them. You may look up to a certain public figure, as they inspired you to make the choices you did.

When you sit down for an interview, you may be asked "who has impacted you most in your career and how?" This is a great question, which allows you to deliver an even better answer.

Before you decide who has had the most impact on your career, think about the following characteristics:

  • Encouraged You: The individual will have encouraged you, pushing you towards success. They would have believed in you, making you believe in yourself. Once you truly believe in yourself, anything is possible. Encouragement is key in terms of personal success.
  • Taught You Skills: Some people are naturals in terms of their career and skills, but most people learn their skills through someone else. As humans, we model behaviour. Someone may have taught you the key skills that were required in your career. You may have also taken formal training. The skills you currently possess will have a lot to do with your success.
  • Taught You to Learn From Your Mistakes: Perhaps you have made some mistakes along the way, who hasn't? Perhaps there is someone who taught you how to grow from that experience. They will have turned negative experiences, into a positive learning experience. Sometimes we avoid our mistakes, trying to forget that they occurred. However, it's great if someone impacts your journey. This may push you towards beneficial learning opportunities.
  • Challenged You: Someone who impacted your career will have pushed you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes outside perspectives see something that you do not. They may have seen potential in you that you had not yet recognized. By challenging you, they may have allowed you to reach goals you never knew were possible.


It is important to focus on how you've grown within your career because of this person. How have they allowed you to develop and thrive? The interviewer will want to see how your development will benefit their company.

  • Focus on the impact they made in terms of the skills you developed. This will highlight your current skills and how those skills would benefit the prospective company.

Example of answer:

If I had to choose someone that impacted my career, it would have to be my first manager. I was fresh out of university, eager to learn. I was lucky, my first manager was an amazing leader. She directly taught me about the industry, aiding in my learning process. She had twenty-two years experience at the time, I really respected her. Not only did I learn the basics of the industry, I learned so much indirectly. She was the perfect example of how you can effectively run a team. I picked up on her leadership skills. Everyone within our team respected her because she respected everyone in return. Once my career developed, I started at a new company. Due to the knowledge she provided, I successfully became a management team leader. Although I am highly driven and passionate, the skills she taught me had a large impact on my career. I have received various awards, and now help teams develop into strong, co-operative units.”

You may apply this idea to all kinds of unique scenarios. Perhaps your grandfather taught you everything you know about plumbing. You would mention your education which is important, but your grandfather would have been pivotal in terms of your career. You could go into detail regarding the unique skills you learnt from him. This can be applied to any situation, just focus on the skills you developed.

  • Focus on someone in terms of your education. This will highlight the specific training you experienced.

Example of answer:

My second year business professor had a massive impact on my career. After I submitted my first paper he approached me. He said that my ideas and knowledge were beyond my years. From that moment on, he was a wonderful mentor to me. He saw potential in me and went out of his way to make sure I pursued a career in business. I experienced many business orientated workshops because of him. He opened up my eyes to the world of business and I never looked back.”

When choosing a person, think about the way in which they've impacted your career. Perhaps you'll choose an influential person that you've never met. Many people would choose someone like Steve Jobs, impacting the way they view their career. Maybe you decide on a family member, displaying your strong family values. Everyone will be different, which is what makes this question such a great opportunity. Run with it, displaying your strong points.