If you’re familiar with SWOT Analysis, it’s probably because you used it at work. But did you know it could be applied to your personal career development? Businesses have been benefiting from SWOT Analysis since the 1960s, and nonprofits, community organizations, and governments have also discovered its diagnostic power.
Now it’s your turn.
SWOT Analysis Primer
Think of a SWOT Analysis as a routine doctor visit. In an annual check-up, your practitioner performs a variety of internal and external tests on you to gather an overall evaluation of your physical health, both positive and negative. In the same way, a company can determine how “healthy” it is compared to its competitors by undergoing a series of assessments for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Get it?
It’s not easy scrutinizing your own life, but if you’re up for some honest self-reflection, a personal SWOT Analysis can get you out of a rut, help you ace your next interview, and send you down the path to a more fulfilling career. The trick is to play to your Strengths and minimize your Weaknesses (internal elements) while preparing for Opportunities and fending off Threats (external elements). Let’s do this.
Start your self-assessment off on the right foot. This effort will help you prep for the beloved interview prompt, “Tell me about yourself.”
Think about the skills you’ve impressed your colleagues with in the past. Flowing from that, recall a few of your proudest professional moments, preferably quantifiable with metrics. Gather the names of influential industry leaders or companies you’ve worked with in the past. Then consider the more intangible positive qualities that you’re known for at work. And don’t forget the basics: your training, certifications, and if relevant, your education.
This is a toughie. No one likes dwelling on their shortcomings! But these insights are vital to you becoming an asset to your next employer.
For this section, you can turn around some of the positives from your Strength assessment. What would your colleagues say are your negative habits or traits? (If you have the stomach for it, this might be something you could ask them directly.) What have your supervisors dinged you for in past evaluations? What tasks do you dread doing? Remember an assignment or two where you fell down on the job—and figure out the skills you lacked that might have saved you. Finally, identify any holes in your training or experience.
Here’s where we start looking outward. Everyone from Seneca to Oprah has trotted out the old standby about luck being part opportunity and part preparation—and that’s because it’s true.
Picture yourself in your dream job, working for the ideal boss. What is it about those two things that appeal to you, and how can you get there? Research the trends and growth areas in your line of work, and try to predict where your profession is headed so you can be ready for what’s next. Sign up for technology training, maintain your professional connections, and consider exploring another industry where your unique skill set will be more valued.
The whole point of SWOT Analysis is to think now so you can act decisively later. Instead of fearing the unknown, this is your chance to prepare for it.
There are two kinds of threats you need to get ready for. The first category includes employment disruptions like downsizing, stagnant career growth, burnout, office politics, and termination. The second involves your fellow job seekers—otherwise known as your competition. Determine the role both these threat types play in your life, and do the research on hiring trends and market forces to predict the damage the threats could do. If you can see problems coming a mile away, you could even prevent them from intruding on your career prospects at all.
SWOT Analysis Wrap-Up
Whether you’re hunting for new opportunities or angling for a promotion, performing a personal SWOT Analysis can help you get your head on straight and create a career development plan. Once you’ve clarified your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, it’s time to formulate your career goals and fortify yourself against anything that would stand in your way.
As we said earlier, achieving self-awareness is no simple task. But knowing what you want and what you need to do to get it will give you a crucial competitive advantage. Build your brand now while you can, so when you get that recruiter to call out of the blue, you’re 100% ready to march into a better career—and life.
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