Get Ahead Using Personal SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a common strategic planning tool in which you proactively identity strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your current situation. This type of examination isn’t limited to business analysis, though. The SWOT framework is an excellent way to evaluate your current career trajectory and identify areas for potential growth. Here’s how to put the SWOT tool to personal use.


When and why to use the SWOT framework in your career

The SWOT framework gives you a comprehensive view of a particular situation because it causes you to focus on both the positives and negatives. You could use the SWOT tool to define your job search, help you decide whether to go to graduate school, or consider whether to pursue a side hustle. Before you put pen to paper, clearly define which situation you’re analyzing so you can frame your questions accordingly.

Evaluating your strengths

 “S,” or “Strengths,” resides in the top left corner of the SWOT framework, and it’s a great place to start. (Might as well begin on a positive note.) The strengths in question are your personal attributes as related to the situation at hand. If you have trouble filling this quadrant, consider asking a mentor or close friend to help you brainstorm.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How does your education apply to the opportunity?
  • How have your previous professional experiences prepared you for this situation?
  • In what ways do your personal circumstances set you up for success (e.g., is your family situation such that it would make it easy for you to travel, if needed)?
  • What soft skills do you possess that will make you a strong candidate?

Assessing your weaknesses

In the next quadrant, you’ll examine “W,” or “Weaknesses.” Don’t get down on yourself. In many ways, you just need to reframe the questions you asked yourself in the first quadrant to determine how you would need to grow to be successful. Consider the following:

  • Would you need additional licensing or training to take on this new role?
  • How have your supervisors or mentors suggested you could improve?
  • What are areas in which you think you could improve as a professional?
  • Are you in the right season of life to take on this new role, or would your personal commitments result in conflicts?

Looking for opportunities

The bottom left corner is home to “O,” or “Opportunities.” Your analysis now turns outward. Instead of looking at what you bring to the table, now you’re examining what opportunities are available. Use these questions as a jumping-off point:

  • In what ways is your current industry/this new industry growing?
  • How can your existing professional network help you secure opportunities?
  • What does compensation look like in this new industry?
  • Are there other benefits associated with the new situation, such as the chance to develop a new skillset, travel, or expand your network?
  • How would this situation advance your overall career goals?

Identifying potential threats

The final quadrant is “T,” or “Threats.” This is where you look for the holes in your plan:

  • What is the economic forecast for the industry? Is this a field with growth, or are there potential layoffs on the horizon?
  • What new skillsets would you need to acquire to be successful? Are there any obstacles in the way?
  • How do you compare with other candidates in the field?
  • How much competition exists in the industry?
  • What financial investment will you need to make to become a player?
  • Would this situation be detrimental to your other current goals, whether personal or professional?

By the time you finish your SWOT analysis, you should have a firm grasp on the situation at hand and also know yourself a little better. Your analysis can be something you share with someone close or a tool  for your eyes only. Either way, examining a potential career move from every angle can only prove beneficial. You need all the data you can get to make the right choice for you.

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