If a company wants to scale up its workforce, branch into a new market, or set quarterly objectives, it must first assess the risks and benefits of these changes. Much like creating a pros and cons list for a personal decision, a leadership professional will perform a SWOT analysis to examine the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
This analysis has been a crucial part of corporate planning for over 50 years, but did you know it’s also a great tool for your professional development?
A personal SWOT analysis helps you look critically at the value you bring to the workplace and ways to improve your performance. This tool is especially effective when making strategic career moves, whether you want to change jobs or receive the promotion you’ve been eyeing.
What’s a personal SWOT analysis?
A personal SWOT analysis is a self-assessment tool focused on outlining your professional strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and threats to your success.
Conducting a SWOT analysis is helpful when setting professional development goals. This insight offers a clear picture of where you shine, areas you can improve, and opportunities that lead to success. But the process is only effective if done correctly.
How to conduct a personal SWOT analysis
When learning how to do a personal SWOT analysis, start by dividing a sheet of paper or digital document into four quadrants (one for each SWOT section). Then, it’s time to ask the hard questions, using humility and self-awareness to respond without self-serving biases. You want your analysis to be as effective as possible, and that means being honest.
Unbiased assessments are hard to come by. A Businessweek survey asked 2,000 Americans, “Are you one of the top 10% of performers in your company?” Across all subgroups (job title, age, etc.) at least 80% of respondents answered positively. While confidence is encouraged, try to be as realistic as possible when conducting your SWOT analysis.
That said, you might be working to overcome insecurities at work. Don’t downplay your employee strengths and overfocus on your weaknesses. This type of unbalanced assessment can be demotivating, disheartening, and ultimately a form of self-sabotage.
To help you create a balanced and effective analysis, here’s how to fill out each of the four sections.
Start your analysis by writing down all your personal strengths.
This is an essential part of the assessment because writing down your strengths starts the whole process off positively, which might boost your self-image.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I naturally good at?
- What advantages do I have that others don’t?
- What would my boss or coworkers say are my strengths?
- What achievements (education, skills, etc.) set me apart from my colleagues?
- What connections or resources do I have that can help me achieve my goals?
Include strengths related to natural talent, work experience, and hard and soft skills. Take note of them all — you never know which proficiency will be the key to your success.
Now, it’s time to humble yourself (just a little) by examining your personal weaknesses.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my negative habits or personality traits?
- Are there areas where my education, training, or skills are lacking compared to my peers?
- Which skills do I want to improve?
- What do I avoid because I lack confidence?
- If I think about a time when I “messed up” at work, what did I do?
This part of your SWOT analysis encourages you to look honestly at yourself to make the changes and build the habits that will lead to your success. And, as a bonus, this exercise makes answering “What are your weaknesses?” easier in a job interview.
So far, you’ve focused on your individual work performance. It’s time to broaden your scope and look at career opportunities.
Consider potential growth within your industry, company, and current position. Are you currently poised for the career growth you want?
To find out, ask yourself questions like:
- What’s the current state of my industry? Is it growing?
- What new technology could help me achieve my goals?
- How could my network help me take the next step?
- What new skills can I acquire to increase my value as an employee?
- Are there professional moves (like a career change or lateral shift) that would help me reach my goals more efficiently?
Finally, address the potential threats that could get in the way of meeting your goals. These include external factors, like an unstable economy or competition from your coworkers, and internal struggles, like bad habits or a lack of education.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Who’s my workplace competition?
- Is my industry changing direction?
- Do technological advancements threaten my position?
- Do any of my weaknesses threaten my career success?
- What’s the current state of the economy?
23 personal SWOT analysis examples
It’s clear that a SWOT analysis is essential for strategic career planning. But what does this analysis look like in practice? Here are several examples to help you understand how to complete this self-assessment.
- I’m a creative thinker, which helps me solve problems for my team in original and effective ways.
- I work well under pressure and in a fast-paced environment.
- I’ve earned an advanced degree, demonstrating my willingness to work hard and my expertise in my field.
- I’m organized and detail-oriented.
- I’m personable and friendly, and I’ve built an extensive network of friends throughout my industry.
- I’m resourceful and always try to solve issues myself before bothering coworkers or managers.
- I ask good questions, which means I gain valuable and informative responses back and the listener feels I care about what they have to say.
- I sometimes lack the willpower to complete my projects, leading to procrastination and rushed work.
- I’m often late to work because I lose track of time or oversleep in the mornings.
- I previously had issues with a difficult coworker, and the disagreement made higher-ups see us both negatively.
- I don’t have as much AI technology experience as another colleague applying for the same position.
- I’m often too shy to speak up during team meetings.
- I have presentation anxiety, and this causes me to turn down valuable opportunities to share my expertise and put myself out there.
- My company isn’t reaching a critical market at the moment. I could draft a proposal for reaching that market and make a great impression on my boss.
- Technology advances like ChatGPT and other AI tools could help me become more productive at work.
- I could contact one of my mentors for career advice or a recommendation for the position I’m applying for.
- I could take an online course to build my skill set during my off hours.
- I could work with a career coach to improve my interviewing skills before I apply for a new position.
- As technology advances, my position may require more education or specialization.
- I often complete projects more slowly than my colleagues.
- My bad habits (procrastination, tardiness, etc.) could make recruiters and managers view me as unreliable.
- AI programs might make my job obsolete, so I should prepare for a career change if necessary.
- My industry is growing rapidly, and new talent fresh from college is always joining the company, increasing my competition.
After your analysis
Your SWOT analysis is like a roadmap, showing you the paths you can take for self-improvement. But having a map is only one step of your journey — now you need to chart your course.
After completing your assessment, make an action plan that helps you achieve your goals. Here are two ways of doing this:
Matching categories means using your strengths to correct your weaknesses. This is a great method for mitigating threats, as you use your skill set to improve overall performance.
Let’s say you listed “creativity” as a strength and “time management” as a weakness. Look for ways to use your creativity to manage your time more effectively. You might start bullet journaling to track your schedule and daily goals.
Spinning the negative involves turning threats into positives by being proactive. Recognizing career development threats early on means you can take steps to avoid them before they block your path.
If you listed “increased competition” as a risk to your position, consider taking some online courses or in-person seminars to pad your portfolio. This might set you apart from your colleagues and secure your job.
Final tips when performing a personal SWOT analysis
With a definition, guide, and examples in hand, you’re bound to conduct a good analysis. Make it great by following these tips:
Ask for help: While this analysis is personal, that doesn’t mean you need to go about it alone. And an outsider’s perspective might offer new insights.
Ask a trusted friend, coworker, or mentor to consider analysis questions with you, like what you’re naturally good at and whether your industry is changing. Their input offers you a more well-rounded and objective analysis.
Dig deeper: When considering your strengths and weaknesses, a couple things might pop up immediately. Maybe your parents have always ragged on you for being a perfectionist, or your friends regularly affirm your loyalty.
While these are great aspects to devote time to, you might be surprised what you find if you dig deeper, and this deeper dive might reward you with more fulfilling growth.
For example, you might discover that you tend to micromanage your direct reports. If you hadn’t taken your search a level further you mightn’t have stumbled upon this important improvement area.
Reward yourself with self-care: Conducting these analyses is hard and emotionally challenging work. You might not love the weaknesses or risks you stumble across, and it takes grit to continue forward, completing your analysis and working toward improvement. Reward yourself for all this hard work with some self-care, like a bath or some reading.
Leverage motivational techniques: Post-analysis, use techniques like creating a vision board, reciting positive affirmations, and journaling to help you reach your self-improvement goals. These tools will help you focus on your objectives and remind you of the finish line when you need more motivation.
Face the truth, find success
A personal SWOT analysis is an excellent tool for setting professional development goals. Whether you’re a new graduate starting your career, a seasoned professional climbing the ladder, or a worker looking to make a big change, this assessment defines your path forward.
Now all you have to do is take the first step on your roadmap.