SWOT Away Barriers to Career Success

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 in order to determine their potential impacts. It is often used in developing strategic plans or in evaluating project conditions. You may have used SWOT analysis in assessing your organization’s internal and external environments, but did you realize you can also use this technique for personal reflection and re-calibration, as well? Follow the steps below to identify, prioritize, and act on your particular SWOT factors.

Step 1:   Take a blank page approach                

Wall of advesive notes with one standing out

If you could have the ideal conditions needed to be successful in your career, what would they look like? What would you need to have access to? What skills would you require? What would the key ingredients to success look like?

By grabbing a sheet of paper, whiteboard, or set of sticky notes, you can brainstorm ideas.

Take your time on this step. You may even want to leave a stack of sticky notes on the corner of your desk and jot ideas over time as they come to you. Once you have exhausted your thoughts, take a look at what you have come up with and organize your ideas into clusters or categories.

Step 2:  Consider internal requirements needed to get the job done

Take a look at your current job description, as well as how your job may be changing or even what future job you aspire to. Based on associated requirements, how do you measure up? Where are your strengths? Your weaknesses? How do the requirements compare to the items you generated in Step 1?

What are the implications? Do you see gaps? Lack of alignment? Do you see strengths that could be used better or in different ways? Are there weaknesses that are easily addressed?

While you may think you know yourself, others’ perception is truly reality, whether we like it or not. Make a list of your stakeholders (those who impact your work and vice versa) to obtain their views. Reach out to them to obtain their perspective on your strengths and weaknesses. There are many ways to do this such as using a 360-degree evaluation, or even by just creating an online survey for them to take. Allow them to respond anonymously in order to obtain the most candid responses.

Step 3:  Consider external influences on your ability to be successful

Binoculars reflecting a sunset and laying on table by the sea

Look back at what you generated in Step 1.

Which of those items represent external factors that affect you but that you may not have direct or complete control over? Which represent opportunities? Threats? How extreme are such factors? How likely are they to impact your work? Which are higher priorities?

You may even want to consult outside resources to ensure that you have amply considered market and professional trends that could affect your own career goals.

Step 4:  Formulate a strategy for your future

This last step brings together the internal and external influences so you can determine possible actions to take. If you have a strength that aligns well with an opportunity, that may suggest a new way of approaching your current role, or perhaps even a new role that would benefit from your skills.

If you have a weakness that is keeping you from addressing an organizational opportunity, what would it take to improve on it or even overcome it? Is there training that you should seek? Are there tools you should request?

If there is a threat, ask yourself if your strengths could avoid the threat, minimize it, or perhaps even turn it into an opportunity. And, if you are concerned that there is a threat that does not align with your strengths, but instead with your weaknesses, decide whether your current role is truly right for you. It may cause you to realize that you could be of better and different use to your organization for both your and their benefit. Think of personal SWOT analysis as your professional check-up. Isn’t it better to take proactive steps in advance rather than wait for issues to manifest themselves? Doing this sort of personal reflection every year or two can help you adjust as your skills, interests, and company needs evolve.