A Guide to a Personal SWOT Analysis: Preparing for Your Next Role
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a technique that has been used over the past few decades to assist organizations in identifying current and future trends.
This analysis is often used in developing strategic plans or in evaluating individual project conditions. You may be familiar with a SWOT analysis in assessing your professional projects or examining your organization’s internal and external environments. A SWOT analysis is more than just a business tool. It is a valuable developmental exercise that can be utilized to reflect, identify, and evaluate your own personal or professional goals. It can also be helpful for job seekers who are looking for new opportunities and those who are looking to climb the career ladder.
Your Reasons for a Personal SWOT Analysis
When conducting a personal SWOT analysis, think about your desired outcome. What is your goal? Do you want a new job or a promotion in your current organization? Are you looking for personal growth, or do you want to explore a new career path? Listing everything in a SWOT diagram (below) will help clarify your thoughts and shape your resume or proposal for promotion.
A personal SWOT analysis can provide insights based on your personality strengths, foreseeable challenges and present opportunities you can maximize in pursuit of career goals. Your awareness of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be an invaluable advantage. If you can identify and understand your strengths and opportunities, you will know where to tread with confidence and security. If you can also realize the weaknesses and threats posed to you, it is possible to focus on and create a plan to improve and/or minimize the potential harm if left unattended.
How to Create a Personal SWOT Analysis
It is a quick and easy diagram to fill out—just like the one below. You can just write it out, or if you are like me, you can make it more organized and give it a professional look by typing it out.
Internal positive aspects that are under your control and upon which you may capitalize in planning
Internal negative aspects that are under your control and that you plan to improve
Opportunities in Your Career Field
Positive external conditions that you do not control but of which you can plan to take advantage
Threats in Your Career Field
Negative external conditions that you do not control but the effect of which you may be able to lessen
Take a Blank Page Approach
Follow the steps below to identify, prioritize, and act on your particular SWOT factors.
1. Identify your strengths
Explore your strengths. This first part is an opportunity for you to show off and jot down all the things you do well. Remember to make it as personal as possible and put yourself inside a prospective employer's head as you consider your strong points. What skills can you bring to the organization or role? Even better, what makes you unique? Try to avoid false modesty while being brutally honest and realistic with yourself. Start by making a list of words that describe you or how your friends and family would describe you. Your strengths can be your skills, abilities, or qualifications. You can also include work experience, education, additional training, and certifications. Recall your key achievements, including successful projects and campaigns. What other personal skills do you have? For example, are you calm under pressure? Are you an active listener? Are you a great leader? Listing your strengths can help you create a resume and cover letter that demonstrate your most relevant qualifications. If you are making a personal SWOT analysis while searching for a job, consider additional strengths such as the ability to relocate or the professional network that you can leverage.
2. Review your weaknesses
At first glance, this is honestly my least favorite part. No one likes to think about what they are not good at, right? But do not look at this as a crushing self-esteem exercise; it can be the most valuable part of the analysis. And, when it is all said and done, it can be the most motivating part. In assessing your weaknesses, think about what prospective employers might consider being the areas you could improve upon. The idea here is to be completely honest with yourself. It does not mean being too hard on yourself, yet it requires you to be truthful with yourself. Facing your shortcomings now can give you a huge leg up in career planning. It is human nature that we find it relatively difficult to identify the areas where we are weak. List all your professional bad habits. Past performance appraisals and even your professors’ comments from school provide valuable feedback. For example, do you struggle with group work? Do you need to brush up on your communication skills?
Any area you could improve would be a weakness, such as needing additional experience for a potential job or building better relationships within your current organization. Think about this as your organization’s leadership would and where you want to go in your career. Reviewing your weaknesses will help you understand where you need to invest in yourself.
3. Define any opportunities available to you
Now it is time to think about external influences. Opportunities are external factors that can improve your situation. Your list of opportunities could be personal or within the industry that you are targeting. When creating your list of opportunities, consider resources, market trends, and other factors that could help you. Look at how the industry that you are targeting is developing. Are there any significant changes/advancements in your industry that you can take advantage of? If you are looking for an internal promotion, is there a new project in your organization that you can join to benefit your career? The list of questions can go on and on. The most important thing is to be on the lookout for opportunities. Opportunities can present themselves in many ways. In my opinion, the most common type of opportunity is the one you create for yourself to carve out your path. It is usually excellent if the opportunities you create match your strengths. But sometimes, great opportunities arise in areas that do not match your skill set. Do consider the pros and cons before disregarding them.
4. Understand your potential threats
When making your list of threats, consider external factors that put you at a disadvantage. You need to think of yourself as a company or a product and assess yourself against others. This way, it makes it easier for you to identify threats. Here are some ways to identify your threats: Is one of your peers doing a better job than you in a similar role? Are both of you competing for the same promotion? Are your traits hurting your career advancements? What are the obstacles (personal or professional) that prevent you from achieving your targets goals? Threats can also include changes in the job market (unemployment or even a pandemic), potential competitors, or new industry restrictions. Identify the threats and try to eliminate the ones you can. When it comes to removing threats, one of the easiest to fix is negative personality traits. Sometimes we are not aware of them and may need to examine ourselves and our current surroundings. Get professional help if necessary. For example, if time management is an issue, you can hire a productivity coach or practice scheduling and holding yourself accountable. Understanding potential threats can help you form plans to minimize the risk or turn it into an opportunity.
5. Make an informed decision
Some individuals know from an early age what kind of work will make them happy, while for others, nailing down a career that will bring them fulfillment comes from a process of exploring their interests, skills, personality, learning style, and values. From your SWOT analysis, you will have a road map that shows you how to capitalize on your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses. When reviewing your list, determine if the strengths and opportunities outweigh the weaknesses and threats. If you find more weaknesses and threats, consider how you can improve your situation before proceeding with a plan. You should then use these tips to take advantage of opportunities and avoid or lessen threats.
Time for You to Practice
Copy and paste the table below into a document and fill it out directly in the boxes.
After analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities, you should use that information to plan how to market yourself. I have used this SWOT analysis every time I apply and interview for a new job throughout my career. Going through this exercise helps me ensure I am prepared for the interview and gets me ready to tackle tough questions from interviewers.
So, if you need help with a job search or to obtain a promotion, try creating a SWOT analysis based on the diagram above to sharpen your strengths, improve your weaknesses, identify development opportunities and neutralize or overcome your threats.