You're more likely to succeed if you're well aware of your strengths and know how to use those strengths to your advantage. Likewise, if you're aware of your weaknesses and honest about them, you can better manage them so that they don't hinder you or hamper your growth.
For that reason, wherever you are in your career, you should do a personal SWOT analysis.
What Is a Personal SWOT?
A personal SWOT analysis is simple. SWOT stands for:
A SWOT analysis is an effective process that professionals use to assess their internal strengths and weaknesses, and then analyze any potential external opportunities and threats that may stem from them. It's helpful for both job seekers and those looking to climb the career ladder to identify ways in which they can make the most of their strengths, manager their weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities and steer clear of threats. Essentially, a SWOT analysis is a strategic plan for growth.
The SWOT analysis was first used in the 1960s by businessmen Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews and William D. Guth. Then, in 1982, Heinz Weihrich came up with a two-by-two matrix to plot out the answers to the four categories (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to make the SWOT analysis more easily digestible.
Why Should You Do a Personal SWOT Analysis?
Every professional, regardless of where they are in their career, would benefit from doing a personal SWOT analysis. Though it may seem redundant to reiterate your strengths and weaknesses with yourself, given the fact that you're surely already aware of most of them, it's helpful to write these out on a palpable piece of paper or in a document that you can see, analyze and always come back to. While you may think that you're on top of all the opportunities and aware of any imminent threats, when you have an analysis to take in, you may learn of new opportunities and threats you might not have otherwise spotted.
Besides, it doesn't take too much time to fill out a personal SWOT analysis, and it won't hurt you to do it. The questions in a SWOT analysis are questions you should always be thinking of and asking yourself anyway.
What Should a SWOT Analysis Look Like?
In order to successfully conduct a SWOT analysis, you should first take a sheet of paper or a Word document on your computer and create a table of four boxes. Each quadrant will ask the questions about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And in each quadrant should be questions like the following.
You should be able to answer these questions for finding your strengths.
- What are some of your advantages that you have over others (i.e. certifications, connections, education, etc.)?
- Do you perform a certain skill better than others?
- Do you have personal resources you can tap into?
- Do you have any networks you can tap into or connections with influential people with whom you could speak?
- What are some of your former achievements of which you're most proud?
- Have your bosses or coworkers touted any of your skills?
- Do you exhibit values or ethics that others lack?
- How does your background set you apart from your peers?
- What are you naturally good at?
- What skills have you worked to develop?
When it comes to questions about your strengths, you need to be honest — there shouldn't be a concern about being humble, because this is for you and no one else.
You should also be able to answer the questions about weaknesses.
- Do you avoid doing certain tasks because you don't feel confident in doing them?
- Are you completely confident in your education or training?
- Where does your education or training lack?
- Have your bosses or coworkers mentioned areas where you could improve?
- What are some of your poor work habits (i.e. tardiness, disorganization, short temper, etc.)?
- What are some personal traits about yourself that you'd like to work on?
- What are some skills you think could use improvement?
- How could you have handled a work issue or work-related stress differently in the past?
- What are some areas in which you'd like to boost your confidence?
- Are you lacking some training (i.e. certificates) that your peers have?
Remember that you need to be honest about your weaknesses. Again, this is for you, and if you can't admit and own up to your weaknesses, you won't be able to work on them to help yourself get further in your career.
Once you've assessed your strengths and weaknesses, you should look at your opportunities.
When thinking about your opportunities and threats, I always find it easier to begin with the “threats.” Try comparing yourself to people you’ll likely compete against for that next job or promotion. Then, as objectively as possible, judge your threats and determine possible ways to overcome them. Here are some examples:
- Is there any new technology you can use to help you?
- Is your industry growing? If so, how can you take advantage of the market?
- If you do have a network or personal connections, how might they be able to help you or offer advice?
- Are there any existing trends in the industry that good positively affect your growth?
- Are your competitors failing at something of which you can take advantage?
- Is there a void in your industry or company that you may be able to fill?
- Does your boss or company need help with a project for which you have the skills?
- Do your customers, clients or vendors complain about anything for which you could offer a solution?
- Are there any upcoming conferences or events, or any classes you can attend to improve?
- Is there an opening for a new role that'd force you to work on new skills?
Then be sure to look at your threats.
When it comes to your threats, you should keep an open mind and not let them deter you. After all, the purpose of creating a SWOT analysis is to help you further your career, not set you back due to fear or apprehension.
- Are there any obstacles you currently face in the workplace?
- Do you have competition with coworkers or other companies?
- Is your job role changing due to factors like technology or the economy?
- Is your industry changing due to factors like technology or the economy?
- Is your company financially unstable?
- Is there pushback from the company, customers, vendors or clients that may be preventing a project of yours?
- Is there no room for growth within your company?
- Does your company's culture hinder your morale, productivity or success in any way?
- Are you facing any family- or home-related issues that may affect your work?
- Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
You may also want to consider asking people around you for help filling out these four boxes; sometimes other people can see things that we cannot see in ourselves. They may also be able to offer you advice on how to turn weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities.
After you've filled out your SWOT analysis, you'll want to make sure you match your strengths with opportunities and take action in those areas. You'll also want to make sure that you match your weaknesses with your threats to help discover solutions or, at best, situations you can avoid.
What Are Some Examples of a Personal SWOT?
Now that you understand what a personal SWOT analysis is and how it can help you in your career, you're probably wondering about examples. Here is an example of a personal SWOT analysis for every level professional.
A College-Level or Entry-Level SWOT Analysis
A Mid-Career SWOT Analysis
A Stay-at-Home Mom SWOT Analysis
Using a SWOT analysis will help you be successful in your career. Remember that filling out the answers to these questions and analyzing them for yourself can only help you.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.