You should consider to do a personal SWOT periodically, at least once a year, and in particular if you are trying to assess where you stand in your career, for example, in relation to a new job offer you have received or if you are starting to look for a new job.
In fact, conducting a personal SWOT will:
help you clarify your personal and professional objectives
make you more self aware of how achievable they are
allow you to figure out what you need to do to achieve them.
How should you conduct a personal SWOT analysis?
Before starting the personal SWOT analysis, you need to define your career aspirations and objectives, because the assessment you are conducting will be specifically linked to these objectives:
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years? Close your eyes and imagine yourself…
How do your work and career aspirations fit into this picture?
What is your work objective, within your overall personal objective? How does it fit with your “work-lifestyle balance” desire?
For example, do you want or need to work from home because you want to dedicate more time to your family? Or do you need more time to pursue a personal interest? Or do you want to earn more to save for retirement and support your children through full time education?
After you clarify these objectives, write them down in one or two sentences at the top of a blank sheet of paper, then divide the rest of the sheet into four quadrants and name them in the following way:
The top left: Strengths
The top right: Weaknesses
The bottom left: Opportunities
The bottom right: Threats
Alternatively we also created this (https://www.swotanalysis.com/2647/SWOT-Analysis-Template) online template where you can conduct your personal SWOT assessment. It also allows you to save your drafts and share them with others, should you wish to do so at some point.
Before you start to fill out the quadrants and answer the questions, a few “caveats”.
Find a quiet time and place where you can sit and think introspectively about yourself, for example at the weekend or during a short holiday, as you need to be fresh and relaxed
Remember that you need to include all the skills, “soft” and “hard” in your assessment, not just the ones you currently use in your current job. Assessing all the skills that you have vs. the ones that you use will help you think of where else these skills could be used (other industries, other job roles,…). You will also be able to understand if your current job is too narrow for you. “Hidden” skills are most likely the greatest overlooked opportunity that will emerge from your SWOT
Make an honest assessment of yourself: this exercise is about a true understanding of yourself, so you can take actionable and “fact based” decisions after you complete it
After you jot down the first version of the personal SWOT analysis, you take a break of a few days and then reviewed it again. You should be able to reach a “final” / “stable” version with 2-3 reviews
Then, depending on your personal situation situation, ask people that you know well to review it and provide you with their feedback. Remember to ask only someone you trust and that knows you well, such as a close friend or co-worker or your spouse and other relatives.
The detailed questions that you should answer in your assessment
What are you good at?
Which are the aspect of your skills that set you aside from your peers? Think of education, talent, certifications, …
Which achievements are you mostly proud of? Which projects have you completed?
Which soft skills set you aside? Are you a good listener? Are you a great communicator? Do your colleagues trust you? Do you go that extra mile to make your clients happy?
What values or ethics set you aside from your peers?
What do you like to do? What makes you happy in your job and in your personal life?
Which skills are you lacking? Does your education or training need improving? If so, in which areas?
In which areas have you been told you need to improve by your boss or your peers? Do you agree that you need to improve in these areas? Focus in particular on the “soft” skills
What you don’t like to do?
What are any bad habits that you have? For example, you like to postpone things, you are late, you come across as unreliable, …
Which are the key trends that are affecting your industry? In which areas is it growing?
How do these effect employment in your industry?
What additional skills are going to be required in your industry to be successful in 5 years?
Could your skills be used in other industries? In which ones? Explore this point in detail
How could technological change and innovation help you with your career and personal progression?
How can your relationships and access to a personal network help you be more successful?
What additional education and training is available to you, externally or via your current employer? How would it contribute to your objective and skills development?
Which obstacles do you currently face in your career?
How is your industry changing in ways that could affect your current career path?
Who is your competition? Is it internal within your Company or external, such as industry restructuring, customer self-service, automation, artificial intelligence, offshoring, …?
Will new skills be required to perform your job in the future? How easy is it for you to acquire these skills?
Are your skills getting outdated? What can you do about it?
What additional skills do newer / younger employees have that you do not have?
How can you interpret the results and use it proactively to change?
Once you have created a good draft of the personal SWOT analysis, you can use to help you achieve the objectives you set at the beginning of the analysis.
Here’s how you can interpret your personal SWOT analysis:
Compare your strengths and weaknesses to those required to reach your objectives (for example a job description for the positon you would like to apply to): it will help you identify the aspects you need to emphasize in your application and during the interview process of the job and how to address potential weaknesses that your potential employer may perceive
Assess whether it is worth to pursue some of the opportunities you identified: this may include:
enrolling into formal education courses
investing into the development of additional “soft” skills, for example by participating in an internal management / career development programme or project to learn or demonstrate certain new skills
improving your time management skills
Understand how to manage the potential threats, before they materialize, via additional training or a career change. For example, if your industry is likely to face job reductions and your skills are transferable, you may want to proactively start to look for a new job now
Understand the opportunities you are more suitable for, by comparing your personal strengths to the opportunities you have identified. You are a lot more likely to be successful in pursuing these opportunities, as you have the right skills, therefore, when they are offered to you, you will be ready to take them without hesitation
Understand the threats and be ready to say “no”, when you come across situations that may expose your weaknesses and put you at risk
From theory to action
Now that you have a more clear understanding of yourself and of your objectives, you need to identify the “next steps” and put them into a clear plan.
Write down your plan and set a timeline, as it will help you to make it happen. Please be realistic about the time it takes for things to change.
Finally, conduct a periodic review of progress on your plan (and potentially and overall reassessment of the personal SWOT analysis), as external situations or personal priorities can change.
Good luck in achieving your personal and professional objectives! Now you know where to start from: a personal SWOT analysis.