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Yesterday a friend of mine said to me “I wish I could SWOT myself” to know how to advance my career. My answer: Why not?!
SWOT. Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats. Most of us have probably used this methodology more than once before, kicking off many (yearly) business plans with the well known four key questions to get an overall perspective on your business and organization.
When thinking about growing our organizations and businesses, we perfectly balance the factors that are and are not within our reach. Internal factors (strengths and weaknesses of our business, organization, plan) to be combined with an external dimension of opportunities and threats the market brings, or our competitors. The development of new technology, a new workforce generation entering the marketplace, etc.
Why not use the same methodology to take a picture of where in fact (today) you are yourself? Make your personal (business-)plan. Prepare yourself to become the best version you possibly can be. In work. And in life. See clearly how your environment (the opportunities there are as well as the threats you’ll simply have to deal with going forward) can impact you positively or negatively.
A personal SWOT can help you better understand how to play your strengths and how to manage your weaknesses, as well as uncover opportunities for growth. It allows you to eliminate the potential threats that could keep you from moving forward. Get to know what really suits your competencies whilst staying close to what you love doing the most.
What do you need to SWOT yourself? Simple. To perform a personal SWOT, first divide a paper into four quadrants and answer these 4 questions.
- What are your Strengths (natural talents and developed skills) and what sets you apart from anyone else (values, ethics, achievements, network, etc.)? Make sure you get a true and honest perspective. How do you see yourself? How do other people look at you? What would they mention to be your absolute strength? Take some time to ask around. And know that neither overconfidence nor too much modesty will truly serve your purpose. Be honest with yourself. And keep it close to yourself. This is an internal dimension.
- What are your Weaknesses, referring to the area’s where you yourself need to work on? Bad habits, a lack in knowledge or experience? What is your pitfall, based on your strengths? My guess is that often those pitfalls are your true weaknesses (as in too result oriented or too meticulous). Next to that, what are you uncertain about? And what would other people say to be your weaknesses? Again, stay within yourself. Anything that is an external factor (and out of your reach) belongs to the last two questions.
- Third question. What external Opportunities can benefit your career, your life? Think about changing markets and demands, growing economies, new technologies, your family, etc. What actual trends and external opportunities can serve you in advancing your career or in the overall pursuit of your life goal? Don’t forget to take into account the power of your connections and the stakeholders you have as well. What support, feedback (and feed forward) can they give you if you’d ask?
- Last but not least, what are the external Threats? These are the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face going forward in the direction of you reaching your goal. Think about those same changing demands and economies, the emergence of new technologies with growing skill or certification requirements as an example. Things that are not in your power though will impact your personal market value and could potentially create a gap you’ll have to conquer in the near future.
Once you’ve answered the four questions above, there is more than one way to work with the gathered information and thoughts. After all, we are not “SWOTting ourselves” just to have the SWOT. It’s a mean, not an end. People that have worked with me know I don’t like to use complex schedules and files. I’d rather have a specific list of smart action steps that we can work on, than a beautiful scheme that is too complex to work with. There are more than enough templates online if you prefer to use them. Below are two examples of how I like to proceed myself.
Option 1: Convert your weaknesses into strengths and the perceived threats into opportunities. Find a way to change all the negatives into positives. Questions that can help you are “how can this specific weakness serve me to be good at … ?” and “what new opportunities come with the threats I’ve defined?”. For this, I love using the famous brainstorm technique by Walt Disney. To start, allow yourself to dream without any limitations (entering the blue room). What would you do if you could not fail? And what if anything was possible? Then go back to a more realistic view.
Option 2: Match strengths with opportunities and weaknesses with threats as in “where do I take action?” and “what situations do I avoid?” Use your strengths to take advantage of the existing opportunities and to minimize the threats. Take advantage of those same opportunities to minimize your weaknesses. A schedule to be used below.
Bottom line the most important question is: How do I succeed, based on my own strengths, and in spite of my weaknesses? And how do I make the most out of the opportunities I’ve identified, whilst minimizing the impact of potential threats? And above all, what actions do I need to take myself to get there? Simple questions, though not an easy exercise when it concerns your own career and life.
Done the exercise and looking for an objective sounding board? Or want more guiding along the way? Contact me!
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Good luck! Sofie
About the author
Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself