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Have you ever wanted to know your true strength? Maybe you’re tired of watching opportunities slip by — but don’t know how to grab them. Everyone has struggled with these issues at some point.
Any job interviewer is likely to ask you, “what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?” It feels like a trap. Be too braggy and the interviewer might hate you. Say the wrong weakness and watch this opportunity fly away. The experience doesn’t have to be so polarizing.
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is what SWOT stands for. It’s an acronym. Anyone who uses SWOT analysis is trying to pinpoint these four categories in relation to their topic. It’s short. Direct. Straight to the point and focuses on things you can change if you’re not satisfied.
The essence of SWOT analysis
Albert Humphrey is the creator of a SWOT analysis. He set out to find out why corporate planning failed during the 1960s and 1970s. Although SWOT analysis is born in the world of business — where it continues to be a necessary tool for business owners and analysts alike — its use doesn’t end there.
If you think about it, SWOT is generic. Not a bad thing. It means it’s applicable to areas outside of the corporate landscape. You could use it to decide whether to buy a dog or not. It might go a little something like this:
- What are the strengths a dog offers?
- What are the weaknesses in getting a dog (in my current living arrangement)?
- Are there current opportunities to get a dog?
- If I do get one, could it be a threat (to living situation/housemates/other animals in the vicinity?)
The beauty of the above example is this could be your entire SWOT analysis (pending answers) or it could just be the introduction. If you don’t want to dive deeper — or you’ve already got all the answers you need — stopping here is fine. But maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It may sound silly to use SWOT for such a mundane topic, but that’s what SWOT is capable of. You can up the complexity, change the setting or topic, and it’s still viable for use.
That might not be what Mr. Humphrey was aiming for with his discovery and usage of SWOT analysis. However, many people have had a positive experience with his analysis so maybe, that makes it okay.
What makes SWOT analysis important to you
We’ve clarified how SWOT analysis is what you make it. You can keep it simple or transform it into a 10-page extended essay. It’s your choice. But the true importance stems from your ability to do so something immediately with your findings.
Hundreds, even thousands, of analysis techniques exist. Each one has a purpose. It helps identify a problem and, sometimes, shows you how to fix it. SWOT leans more towards identifying the problem with solving coming later.
Once it’s done, you’ll have everything needed to start planning change. But think of it more this way.
Strengths: The good things. It’s the stuff that helps. It differentiates you from others. Likely, you’ll want to keep these strengths. Like if you’re a fantastic public speaker who can get a room laughing in seconds. You may start thinking about how you can use this strength in other aspects of your life, especially if everyone else around you hates talking in front of others.
Strengths might also be static. In the case of considering to buy a dog, one strength could be that the dog helps with your daughter’s depression. It’s a fact that animals can improve mental health. It’s a strength, but not necessarily one you can enforce into other aspects of life.
Weaknesses: The bad. The stuff you want gone or transformed into a strength (if possible). Perhaps your biggest weakness is your need to control every situation. You create plans. If they don’t go exactly as they should, it really throws you off.
This is a major weakness if you work in a hectic environment where every day is different. You might try to work on this weakness. Or you might realize this career path isn’t for you anymore. No one wants a weakness, but identifying them can provide thorough detail.
Opportunities: Compared to the rest of the analysis, opportunities are less likely to be influenced. In the case of SWOT, you’re looking to identify opportunities, then take advantage of them. You can also create opportunities (if possible). It’s not necessary to create though. Focus on finding and learning how to use it to your advantage.
Threats: Ever had something suddenly not go your way? The wedding cake arrive in shambles, turning the happy bride into a puddle of sorrow? Or a new business arrives in town, acting friendly at first until they start a campaign to reign in your customers? The people who delivered the cake are the threats in the first situation. The new business is the threat in the second. Threats may sound scary (and they can be!) but they’re also just a part of life. You don’t have to let them sneak up on you and ruin moments or businesses. Just being aware of something that could undermine your progress or event allows you to start thinking. What will the impact be? Can you withstand it? Is there anything you can do now to prevent the threat from affecting you?
SWOT analysis is a “identify and plan” type of study. It applies to all industries, markets, and people. Anyone can use it and uncover helpful information. That’s why it’s more important to use than you may ever have thought.