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How SWOT analysis can help your career

How SWOT analysis can help your career

If your career is in need of some shaking up, use this technique to take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re feeling stuck career-wise and want to shake things up, running a SWOT analysis—the popular model used to analyze businesses—on yourself can help you figure out next steps.

And, it’s a lot simpler to do than you might think. Read on to find out what SWOT analysis is all about, how to do it and what you can learn about yourself in the process.

What is a SWOT analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. “It’s mainly what businesses do when they’re starting out, but that same acronym can be applied differently for an individual,” says Dane A. Palarino, founder of Palarino Partners, a product-manager-recruiting agency.

A SWOT analysis is basically an evaluation tool that can help users identify strengths and weaknesses to aid in growth, and identify areas where your competitors may have an upper hand, adds Kristen Fowler, SHRM-SCP, practice lead for Clarke Caniff Strategic Search and vice president at JMJ Phillip Group. “Being able to conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself takes a high level of emotional intelligence, especially when it comes to wanting to advance your career.”

Breaking it down

Follow these steps to perform a personal SWOT analysis.

Strength

“Defining your strengths is a matter of looking at your past and current roles and saying, ‘What were the two or three things I achieved that are quantifiable?’” says Palarino. From there, you have to unpack that further and ask, “What did it take to achieve those things?” In other words, which specific skills and talents have you accumulated to achieve those outcomes?

Gathering information on yourself can be tricky, though. Fowler suggests using quizzes and a 360-feedback loop to help. “Quizzes can help you self-identify, and reaching out to co-workers and supervisors allow you to be aware of traits you were unaware of,” she says.

Weaknesses

If you’re been on an interview in the past 30 years, you’ve probably been asked about your weaknesses. “The canned response is, ‘I’m a perfectionist, or I work too hard,’” says Palarino. He says that hiring managers will see right through that, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you can probably come up with something more authentic. Try thinking about a mistake you’ve made or a skill that you’re lacking, and what you did or are trying to do to correct it.

For example, it could be something simple like realizing that on most days, you arrived to work barely on time and exhausted, and that it might be creating a negative perception of you. So you can make a commitment to get to bed earlier so you can have extra time in the morning and get to work refreshed and energized.

Another way to figure out your weaknesses is to dig back into past evaluations and feedback from co-workers, supervisors, and mentors. Perhaps you’ll discover a pattern of them telling you to be more assertive, or maybe your communication skills need some smoothing out. The most important thing is to be able to take an honest look at yourself and admit your shortcomings—everyone has something they can improve upon.

Opportunities

No matter how content you are in your current position, you should always be your own recruiter. “Identify the two or three things that, regardless of timing, would get you to look at an opportunity,” Palarino says. Some things to think about include: What does your ideal employer look like? What does my next role look like? And what attributes would I like to see from my leadership team and boss? Once you have those answers, you might think about starting a job search or working with a recruiter in your niche who can keep an eye out for opportunities that match.

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Other ways to identify opportunities require you to be proactive. “For instance, joining networking groups, classes, and utilizing additional resources to step outside of your comfort zone could greatly enhance your development,” Fowler says. 

Threats

“When you’re an employee, there are all sorts of threats: the company downsizing, office politics, too much travel and not enough work-life balance, not performing and being let go. Those are all very real,” says Palarino. Outside of that, there is also an abundance of candidates today, he adds, so you’ve got to be your own advocate and build your brand should anything happen.

Fowler says you can identify potential threats to your industry or role by researching trends, certifications, or skillsets that younger generations are starting to possess so you can keep up with new competition.

Revisit your SWOT analysis every quarter

Taking the time to reflect and keep yourself marketable is a smart career move, says Palarino. “That way if someone does call you out of the blue, you have fresh bullets on how to sell your brand because your SWOT is constantly filled in with new data,” he says.

Using a SWOT analysis is an extremely useful tool when it comes to identifying personal and professional goals, says Fowler. “Taking the time to carry out a SWOT analysis requires you stop and think where you are in your career, and ways that you can grow.”

What to do next

Once you’ve done your personal SWOT analysis, you’ll have a pretty good grasp on what sets you apart, things you can work on, what your ideal role looks like, and some of the factors that might threaten your career advancement. This is where the real work begins—figuring out what to do with that information.

But self-awareness can go a long way, says Palarino. Once you know the things you do well, you can do more of that. Knowing your shortcomings means you can figure out ways to close the gap, whether it’s taking a class or changing up your processes.

Take advantage of resources at your current disposal. “It could be beneficial to work with leadership to work out a plan that could involve shadowing, mentor ship, or additional feedback to help you improve,” says Fowler. “In the same perspective, to combat your threats means taking the time to research and staying one step ahead.”

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