San Diego Union Tribune

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Is a Useful Career Tool

We all roll our eyes at the mention of a SWOT (Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats) analysis.

But SWOT is such a great way of organizing your group’s thoughts around what’s going well, what’s not going so well, what our competitors are up to, and what is just over the horizon facing us soon. A SWOT analysis works because it is simple to understand, administer, and it forces us to be so insightful.

So think… is your SWOT going to be for a company, a project, or a new venture? Why haven’t you used this tool to analyze your current career, or used the results to guide yourself into the unknown future of how you want it to play out? Have you thought about how you want your career to develop once you understand your strengths, weaknesses, or the opportunities out there? Do you know and understand the threats to your success? Let me help you understand each component of the four parts of a SWOT.

What do you do really well? Should you be doing more of it? Are you really good at sales, or very creative in the design area? Are you good at taking very complicated issues, breaking them down and explaining them to others? What do other people tell you that you do really well? You may, and I hope you do, have lots of strengths. So put them all on the list.

Weaknesses are always our least favorite. But like the fun of learning our strengths, we have to be aware of our weaknesses. Perhaps yours includes a bad sense of time management, or that you have not kept up with the newest technology in your industry. Possibly you are not comfortable networking, or hate the thought of sales. Wow, glad that’s over with! Now let’s move on to

Opportunities. With a little more initiative and focus, what great new opportunities await you out there? Let’s say the company you work for is growing very fast, or the company is on the verge of rolling out a major software product, feasibly a service that you helped develop. Perchance you just were awarded your MBA and you need to determine just what to do with it in order to further your career. Again hopefully there is a long list under opportunities.

Then the dear old Threats. Who or what might be working against you or the company you work for? Is it a fast-growing competitor, or a stale product line? Perhaps a co-worker is excelling in their position, making you look less effective, or there’s a boss you don’t get along with? Again hopefully there is not a long list of threats.

There you have it. What do you need to do to ramp up and maximize your strengths so they can fuel your career? How do you deal with your weaknesses? What do you need to start doing more efficiently? Maybe, get training to understand your job a little more? Possibly, make a stronger effort at “playing the game”?

By performing a SWOT exercise, at least you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, so you can do something about them and they are much less likely to broadside you when you least expect it.

The opportunities list is fun to work on. How do you attack each opportunity with a vengeance? Are you committed to working on the other three segments so that you can take advantage if each and every opportunity that you have identified? Plan your strategy and make it happen on your schedule. You will know when it is time to do a reality check to see how the SWOT issues have changed over time. Start with a clean slate. Know where you need to make adjustments, what to re-emphasize, and even what to let go of.