Are you starting out your career? Or maybe you are a few years in (or a lot of years in) and you feel bogged down? We all know how to plan a strategy for a business or even a country but have you ever planned a strategy for your career? SWOT is a great tool for planning your career strategically. Below we go through the steps on how to apply it to your career. It’s time to SWOT your career to the next level!
SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is used to determine the current and future strategic positions of a company. For our purposes, we will use it to analyze your current position in your career and desired future positions.
The first critical step
Like any tool, to get the most out of SWOT you need to use it effectively. For your career, that means asking some tough questions and being honest with yourself. It can be tough to look at yourself in the mirror. If you get stuck, you can also enlist the help of a mentor or peer whose judgment and motives you can trust.
These are the aces in your deck. These are what make you a great employee in your current job and will make you a great employee in your future jobs.
Your strengths will illuminate what current and future opportunities are possible.
They can include skills, qualifications, experience, and personality. Remember that not all these attributes may be utilized in your current job so think about your dream job and what strengths you would bring to that. Different contexts activate different strengths. If you are not sure about your personality strengths then try this article on how to “SWOT your personality”.
Try asking your peers, bosses, and even friends and families about your strenthgs. Unlike weaknesses, people are usually happy to tell you what your strengths are. Online surveys like the CliftonStrengths Assessment can also help.
If you have some killer strengths that make you stand out from your peers, can you develop these strengths even further? It is often easier and more beneficial to develop strengths than weaknesses. What courses or opportunities can you take to develop these strengths?
There are so many courses and ways to develop skills now. From micro-credentials to Master’s degrees and even Youtube. A good place to start is on course portal sites or websites for professional development in your field. Also talk to peers, bosses, and people in the positions you want to be in.
This is less fun but just as important as identifying your strengths. Where do you fall down? Are you lacking some critical skills? Do you need some more education to stand out from your peers? Is your boss always telling you to “fill in the blank”?
Nobody is perfect. Knowing your weaknesses is a key to future growth and maximizing your strengths.
If you have weaknesses in critical areas these are signposts for your future development. What courses can you take or what opportunities can you explore that will turn these weaknesses into competencies or even strengths?
But beware of the value proposition, make sure that the weaknesses you spend time on are in a critical area. Don’t invest time and money in developing a weakness that will make little difference to your career. If you are a consultant and struggle with public speaking then develop your speaking. But if you have a weakness in website design, get someone else to do it, or use an all-in-one website service.
Weaknesses can also blunt your strengths. If you are an academic or scientist and have wonderful research skills but terrible writing skills then develop your writing skills and see your research skills get the attention they deserve.
These are future jobs and positions that you could move to today or in the future. Think about what type of job you ultimately want to be doing. Your dream job. Your end destination. Then do some skills gap analysis. What skills and experiences do you need to be eligible for your dream job? What intermediate positions do you need to do first? What are the rungs on the ladder you need to climb?
New opportunities always open up and some opportunities will close so review your opportunities regularly and adjust your development accordingly. It is also good to stay connected to your professional network to stay on top of new opportunities as they emerge.
This is motivation from the pointy-end. Nothing stands still. Opportunities can be taken by others and you can even lose your current position if you do not keep developing your career.
Look around and eye your potential competitors. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How are they developing their careers? How can you keep up and even surpass them?
Also, pay attention to external threats. Is your company in a growing industry or is it shrinking? What are the general economic conditions? A PEST analysis can help here.
When you SWOT your career, you unlock the door to future growth and possibilities. It is not comparing yourself to others but realizing what you have and how you can develop into that future self that gets your dream job.