How to Use a SWOT Analysis to Plan Your Next Career Move
You’re probably familiar with a SWOT analysis in terms of how businesses use it to strategically plan for the future. But did you know a personal SWOT analysis can also help you create an actionable career strategy? This article will guide you through the process of conducting your own SWOT analysis with detailed instructions for completing each section and a downloadable template with questions to consider as you plan your next career move.
How a SWOT analysis can help your career
Conducting a personal SWOT analysis can help you plan your next career move, prepare an honest performance review and stand out during your job search. A SWOT analysis is broken into four specific categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By examining each of these sections thoroughly, you will gain a clear understanding of all factors, both internal and external as well as positive and negative that can impact your career. Once completed, your personal SWOT analysis can help you formulate a plan to strategically manage your career by using your strengths to pursue opportunities while mitigating weaknesses and threats.
How to write your personal SWOT analysis
Your personal SWOT analysis will help you visualize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they relate to your career. The first two sections, strengths and weaknesses, consider internal factors that are specific to you as an individual — such as personal skills, experiences, qualifications and character traits. The last two sections, opportunities and threats, examine external factors that may impact your career — such as industry trends, development of new technologies and changes to the world of work.
Below, we discuss each element in detail with questions to consider while completing each section.
Regardless of the role or industry, one of the first things an interviewer usually asks is for you to tell them about yourself. Without directly saying it, they want to know what you perceive as your professional strengths. Here are a few questions to help you identify those strengths:
- What professional education, training and certifications do you have?
- What skills are you most comfortable with or do you use the most?
- What would your boss or coworkers say your strengths are?
- What characteristics or traits define you as a professional?
- Who do you know with professional influence within your current or desired industry?
- What achievements are you most proud of?
This section can be difficult to complete. No one likes to think about their weaknesses but doing so can give you a strategic advantage in your career. The following questions can help you identify your professional weaknesses with an honest self-evaluation:
- Are you lacking any necessary education, training or experience?
- Are there any necessary skills you are lacking or need to further develop?
- What would your boss or coworkers say your weaknesses are?
- What job duties or tasks do you prefer to avoid or typically need help with?
- Do you have any negative work habits that prevent you from doing your best work?
When done correctly, this section may help you find surprising career opportunities you otherwise may not have considered or thought of. Here are a few questions to help you identify your next potential career move:
- What trends are currently affecting your industry?
- Is your role or industry changing in ways that could help your career?
- What opportunities for career growth exist in your current role or industry?
- How could new technology impact your industry, change your job or help you advance?
- Are there other industries or jobs where your education, skills or experience are in demand?
- In what ways can your professional connections help you?
Any good plan requires an awareness of things that could go wrong. Identifying these things now will help you create a plan that mitigates risks and prepares you for possible future events. Here are a few questions to help you identify potential threats to your career:
- What obstacles are you currently facing in your career?
- Is your role or industry changing in any ways that could hurt your career?
- Could new technologies require you to obtain new training or certifications or slow your career progression?
- When considering your career goals or opportunities, who are your competitors and how do they stand out within your role or industry?
5. The Hidden Element: Interests & Goals
Knowing your professional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is important, but without a clear understanding of your goals and interests, your personal SWOT analysis won’t be effective in helping your career. Here are a few questions to help you identify your career goals and interests:
- What things are you most passionate about, both personally and professionally?
- What job duties or tasks do you tend to seek out or enjoy doing the most?
- Where do you want to be, both personally and professionally, in the next 3-5 years?
- What things do you need to do to reach these goals?