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10 Top Rules for a Personal SWOT Analysis

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SWOT analysis is essential for more than just business management — it can be used on yourself. In fact, it should be used on yourself. Because a business is only as successful as the team behind it.

So how does a personal SWOT analysis work? Instead of examining the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in business, apply them to yourself. Starting with goal setting.

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Goal Setting is Essential in Personal SWOT Analysis

You absolutely need to set a goal before you start doing a SWOT analysis.

Do you want to…

  • Start a career in a specific field?
  • Be the #1 candidate for that upcoming promotion?
  • Get more responsibility from your manager?
  • Start a company or product from scratch?
  • Make better strategic business decisions?
  • Be a better friend/parent/partner?

When doing a personal SWOT analysis, it doesn’t have to be directly business-related. You’re trying to improve yourself, after all. In all aspects.

And hey, by being a better friend or partner, it’ll translate into your working life too. That’s the benefit of personal development.

So, pick one goal. One goal per personal SWOT analysis — otherwise, it gets too complicated, clunky, and difficult to manage the information.

Now, it’s analysis time.

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Start a Personal SWOT Analysis With the Fun Part: Strengths

Strengths (the ‘S’ in SWOT analysis) is the most enjoyable part. List every single thing that you do well and why you do it well.

Pat your back until your hand hurts.

Then keep track of your strengths. You want everything written down here — you can decide if it’s relevant to your goal later.

Your list can include:

  • Educational background: Where did you go to school? What did you major in? What individual classes did you take that can help you achieve your goal? (Include any internships or apprenticeships too).
  • Past career experience: List every job you’ve had, and the skills you needed to do these jobs well (Do the skills overlap? Why are they necessary to do your job well?).
  • Who do you know? Your network is everything. Is there someone who can help with your goal? References, coworkers or old friends? These people are all strengths.
  • Personality: What traits will reach your goal? Are you outgoing? A good story teller? Able to get to the point quickly? Cringe at being late or missing deadlines?

There are other strengths to put on your list. But with the above points, you’ve got the ball rolling.

The Next (And Harder Part of a Personal SWOT Analysis): Weaknesses

No one likes to discuss or think about their weaknesses. But this is crucial to completing your personal SWOT analysis. Because weaknesses are holding you back from completing your goals. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many strengths you have if one weakness is destroying all progress.

It won’t feel good doing this, but it’ll help later on.

Expanding upon your weakness is the most important thing. To start, answer:

  • What personality traits are lacking to complete your goal? Why?
  • What education do you lack?
  • Why haven’t you achieved your goal sooner?
  • What negative work habits are holding you back?

It’s important to answer “Why?” throughout the weaknesses category.

Since this can be difficult, ask others to help out. And remember, you’re doing this to cut out obstacles standing in your way.

Recommendation: Do Threats Before Opportunities

It’s smarter to answer threats before opportunities. By doing threats first, you can quickly find “opportunities” to eliminate or reduce the effects of the threats.

You basically kill two birds with one stone.

Threats can be fears that prevent you from reaching your goal.

If you’re looking to switch career fields, you may have multiple threats (fears) such as:

  • Lack of education (to make the switch)
  • Competition (finding jobs against people with 10+ years experience)
  • Lack of funds or reduce of income

How do you combat (or create opportunities) for these threats?

  • Search accurate sources, blogs, or textbooks to supplement education: Keep updated about industry trends and news online.
  • Talk to people in this field and see what advice they can give you. They may be able to point you in the right direction or give you an “in” at a company.
  • Save up before making the switch (if possible) to account for any unemployment time.

As you can see, it’s easier to find opportunities after picking through the threats.

Okay, your goal may not be to change fields. That’s fine. Here are other things to consider in your threats list of your SWOT analysis template:

  • Are people trying to prevent you from reaching your goal? Do you know why?
  • Is money an issue? How so?
  • Is location or transportation an issue?
  • Are there not enough hours in the day? If so, what can you change around to help out?

And The Final Part: Opportunities

Opportunities are things you create or act upon to help achieve your goal. Many see opportunities as an external factor you can’t control, but that’s not true. If you identify threats in the personal SWOT analysis, you can create opportunities to counteract threats.

What other opportunities exist?

  • Technological: Which technologies can help you reach your goal successfully? You may need to-do lists, email, texting or even online marketing.
  • People: Going back to those contacts, who can you network with to help out?
  • Competition: Who is your competition? Where are they failing? What are they ignoring? How can you use this to your advantage?

Once opportunities are done, you’ve finished the personal SWOT analysis.

There’s also an article published on Business Analyst Guru that gives a step-by-step guide on how to do this kind of SWOT Analysis with a working example. You will also find out the ultimate benefits of completing your own Personal SWOT Analysis. He himself shares the following 10 rules for your analysis!

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10 Rules to Follow in a Personal SWOT Analysis

It gives you the ten core principles (or rules) that you MUST take into account while you’re completing your Personal SWOT analysis.

Not taking these into account could be disastrous. It could mean more of your time is wasted than is productive. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Marketer, a Business Analyst or even just improving your personal circumstances. No one wants to waste their own time.

So follow these and I promise you will come up-trumps.

Give yourself a purpose

Whoever you are. Whatever you do.

The first thing you need is a goal or a target. The target could be a new job or a new project, or even just a year out travelling.

By having a goal, you will be able to focus your efforts and answer the right questions when it comes to reviewing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Your goal provides a purpose for doing the personal SWOT analysis and a person with a purpose is almost certainly a person with conviction.

And having conviction will help you achieve results – honest.

Come up with as many questions as possible

Some might say – Life begins with a question. And it’s your answers that help you thrive.

I’m not going into that debate now, but the personal SWOT analysis most definitely requires questions. Many questions will need answering.

By you.

There are lots of question lists available, but this article gives you a number of questions to ask. Here’re some examples:

  • S – What are my assets?
  • W – What areas do I need improvement on?
  • O – What external changes will bring me opportunities?
  • T – What are the negative aspects in my area of interest?

These are just the simplest examples. You need to ask a lot more questions than this.

The world is your oyster, so think outside the box when creating your own questions.

Ask Others

This may seem a bit contradictory to the previous rule.

Yes – I did say that the questions need to be answered by YOU. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some guidance from the people around you.

Whether that’s from loved ones (be careful there they might just tell you what you want to hear). Or from colleagues, friends or even people you’ve only met once or twice.

Think carefully about what they say but it could help you answer many of the questions in different ways.

Don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses

This is key.

One of the hardest questions in an interview is “What’s your weakness?” But you’re not in an interview so it doesn’t matter if your weaknesses are a bit harsher.

They CAN be weaknesses that you wouldn’t necessarily admit to a future employer. Having full knowledge of your weaknesses is arguably the first step to improving your situation. The bottom line is this:

Be true to yourself and you WILL succeed.

Don’t duplicate (A weakness can’t be a strength too)

This happened to me and I had to put it right. It may not happen to you, but I still think you should be aware.

While indulged in your work. You may get carried away filling in your strengths, weaknesses etc. In doing so, you could list similar things as a weakness AND a strength.

So filtering out your duplicate statements across the different sections is hugely important. A weakness cannot also be a strength and a threat cannot also be an opportunity

You get what I mean. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But anyway just keep a lookout.

Threats before Opportunities

Most guides will tell you to focus on your opportunities followed by your Threats. This is where I put a spanner in the works and be a bit controversial.

I was once told to focus on my Threats before my Opportunities. And I have to say, this was some great advice. I’ve never turned back.

Identifying threats before weaknesses can help you identify some new opportunities that you may never have thought of if you’d looked at opportunities first. For example:

  • Threat – Changes to the industry could leave me behind.
  • Opportunity – Use blogs, books and social to keep up-to-date with new industry standards.

So go on – do it – see what happens.

Take Action

This is the whole point of doing the personal SWOT analysis. So you can take real action in real life. To improve your skills and update your ways of thinking.

So don’t just do it and think ‘it’s DONE’. It’s NOT.

Make sure you are always improving and always engaging in your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

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8. Monitor your Personal SWOT Analysis’ Progress

This is my favourite.

I firmly believe that if anyone is going to get anything out of the personal SWOT analysis, they must practice this principle. So take all your findings from the personal SWOT Analysis i.e. your list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and Threats. Place them in a spreadsheet. Give yourself a target for each one you want to change.

Take action.

Then revisit this spreadsheet every 2-3 months.

9. Continue to Update

You may think: Isn’t this the same as monitoring my progress?

No, it’s not.

By monitor, I mean follow the things you’ve already found out about yourself. By update, I mean find new things out about yourself.

New opportunities could arise all the time. New weaknesses could be more detrimental. And if you don’t know about them, you can’t do anything.

So really you want to redo your personal SWOT analysis every 6-12 months.

And add your new findings to the spreadsheet you created while implementing the 8th principle.

10. Don’t procrastinate

This rule applies to anything in life. But I still want to mention it.

Don’t put your Personal SWOT analysis off until tomorrow. What if tomorrow never comes? Do it now, today, this hour, this minute.

Either get started with this post or if you know what you’re doing, just simply go for it.

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Personal SWOT Analysis Complete: Now What?

You highlighted the strengths necessary to complete your goal in your personal SWOT analysis. These are your competitive advantages. It’s what helps you stand out. Every business and person should know what their advantage is in any situation.

Select 3 major strengths that’ll greatly influence how and when you achieve your goal. You should highlight these strengths in cover letters or elevator speeches — basically, wherever necessary to complete your goal.

Keep these strengths in your mind while you move towards weaknesses.

With weaknesses written in your SWOT analysis, rate them. Which one is absolutely holding you back? And which ones are annoying, but minor inconveniences? You must root out the most impactful weaknesses and make a plan to counteract them.

Now, look at your threats. Hopefully, you were able to create opportunity from each threat listed. The opportunities are going to provoke you into action — they’re mini steps to complete your goal.

If you keep your eye on your weaknesses and monitor your steps towards goal completion, you’ll be in good standing.

No matter your goal, you’re now on track to get it done successfully.

Please leave a comment if you have any other principles or rules you think are important.

Image: Gustavo Frazao, natalia bulatova/Shutterstock.com