By Suzanne Bird-Harris, Fly Rod Media LLC
You’ve probably heard the term SWOT analysis in the context of business planning and might be wondering how doing one would boost your career.
When creating your strategic career plan, there are three questions you must answer for your plan to be effective:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to go?
- How are you going to get there?
A SWOT analysis takes information from your answer to the first question and helps you evaluate the options you identify in answering the second question. It makes answering the third question easier, as well.
You’ll want to do a separate SWOT analysis for each option you identify while answering the second question. Though they will be very similar, each option will also have unique factors to consider.
What is SWOT Analysis?
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses refer to your skills, abilities, and traits that impact achieving your goals that are within your control to change. Opportunities and Threats are events, conditions, or plans that impact achieving your goals that are outside of your control.
You create a four-section graph and each section is for one of these areas. Then, you list information in each box accordingly.
Strengths (traits or abilities that will help you achieve your goals):
- Personal brand
- What are you good at?
- Which of your skills set you apart from your peers? Think of education, talent, certifications, etc.
- Which achievements are you most proud of? Which projects have you completed?
- Which soft skills set you apart? Are you a good listener? Are you a great communicator? Do your colleagues trust you? Do you go that extra mile to make your executive and team happy?
- What values or ethics set you apart from your peers?
- What do you like to do?
- What makes you happy in your job and in your personal life?
Weaknesses (things that will make it more difficult to achieve your goals):
- Missing important skills
- Lack of education
- Inactive/lack of professional network
- Lack of discipline
- Inadequate resources
- Difficult relationships
- Lack of support
- Which skills are you lacking? Does your education or training need improving? If so, in which areas?
- In which areas have you been told you need to improve by your executive or your peers? Do you agree that you need to improve in these areas? Focus on the “soft” skills, in particular.
- What don’t you like to do?
- Do you have any bad habits? For example, you like to postpone things, you are late, you come across as unreliable, etc.
Again, refer to your assessments and reports for traits that could hinder your progress.
Opportunities (external factors you can take advantage of):
- Favorable economic conditions
- Changing staff or leadership
- New technologies
- New relationships
- Favorable changes in policies, procedures, laws
- Positive perceptions of you
- What are the key trends affecting your industry? In which areas is it growing?
- How do these affect employment in your industry?
- How could technological change and innovation help you with your career and personal progression?
- What additional skills will be required to be successful in your industry in five years?
- Could your skills be used in other industries? Which ones?
- What additional education and training is available to you, externally or via your current employer? How would it contribute to your objective and skills development?
- How can your relationships and access to a personal network help you be more successful?
Threats (external factors that can adversely impact achieving your goals):
- Economic downturn
- Position eliminated/reassigned
- Unfavorable changes in policies, procedures, laws
- Personal illness/family leave needed/pandemic
- Relocation for spouse’s career
- What obstacles do you currently face in your career?
- How is your industry changing in ways that could affect your current career path?
- Who or what is your competition? Is it someone within your company or external, such as industry restructuring, customer self-service, automation, artificial intelligence, outsourcing, etc?
- What additional skills do newer / younger employees have that you do not have?
- Will new skills be required to perform your job in the future? How easy is it for you to acquire these skills?
- Are your skills getting outdated? What can you do about it?
Questions To Help You Brainstorm Your SWOT Analysis
Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm what to include in your SWOT analysis:
- What are the unique strengths you have that others don’t? In what areas do you already excel beyond your peers?
- What weaknesses or threats do you face that others don’t? How can you strengthen these weaknesses or avoid these threats?
- In what area(s) do you uniquely serve the needs of your executive and team?
- Where are there opportunities for you to fill in the gaps others leave open? Look for areas where others aren’t meeting expectations but where you can.
- How are you fundamentally different from others in terms of operations, vision, culture, or objectives? How can you play to these differences to set yourself apart from others?
- What areas should you avoid? These might be areas where you feel you won’t meet expectations.
Once you are finished brainstorming, create a final, prioritized version of your SWOT analysis. List the factors in each category in order of highest priority at the top to lowest priority at the bottom.
Develop Strategies from Your SWOT Analysis
Compare your strengths and weaknesses to those required to reach your objectives (e.g. a job description for the position you would like to apply for.) This will help you identify what you need to emphasize in your application and during the interview process, as well as how to address potential weaknesses that your potential employer may perceive.
Assess whether it is worth pursuing some of the opportunities you identified. This may include:
- Enrolling in formal education courses.
- Investing in the development of additional “soft” skills. For example: participating in an internal management/career development program or project to learn or demonstrate certain new skills.
- Improving your time management skills.
To take your analysis even further, take a look at the data you’ve gathered from these angles:
- How can you use your strengths to maximize opportunities?
- How can you use your strengths to minimize threats?
- How can you minimize your weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities?
- How can you minimize your weaknesses by avoiding threats?
There might not always be ready answers to these last few questions, but it’s definitely worth your time to ask!
Using SWOT analysis to evaluate career opportunities gives you a time-tested tool to help raise your awareness, pinpoint how you add value, and prepare you for the journey ahead.
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