How to Put Your SWOT Analysis to Work for You

A SWOT Chart created from orange and yellow post-it notes

It's Time to Reflect on your SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis, often used by businesses in strategic planning, is a great way to determine your next career step.  By now, you’ve created a SWOT Analysis with your “trusted advisors,” so  it’s time to look at it and analyze your results.

Reflect on Results

Put all the Strengths | Weaknesses | Opportunities |Threats together into one chart.  How does it look?  Did more than one person identify a similar trait?  Perhaps those observations should be weighted more heavily.  Are your results contradictory? This could mean that each of your trusted advisors knows you a little differently.

Take some time to reflect on your results –usually a couple of weeks.  Pull the chart out frequently and think about what it might be telling you. Now you’re ready for the next step.

Ask More Questions

Go back to your trusted advisors and ask additional questions or get clarification, if needed.  If your results already make sense, then go to the next step.

Consider Your Plan

Where you go next is up to you….and taking a new step is never easy. Your results might indicate you need further professional development or education. Or it might indicate that a sideways move or industry change is right for you.  Perhaps your results indicate that you are right where you need to be and change is farther off on the horizon.  Either way, it’s time to start sketching out some plans.

Get Help

No matter where you are, get some help!  If books are your thing and you are ready to jump into the job market, What Color is Your Parachute? Is a perennial favorite and is updated annually.

Join a discussion group on LinkedIn to see what’s happening in your professional area or in your city.

You might consider a career coach.  They are different than a job placement service and can help you further explore your future possibilities and plug you into networking opportunities you might not otherwise hear about.  My career coach was instrumental in helping me decide when the time was right to start my own public relations practice.

Implement Change

One step at a time. If you have made it through all these steps, then it’s time to map out your next move.  And those trusted advisors who helped you with the SWOT Analysis? They can help keep you on track as you chart your course to the next step in your career.

Related Posts: Don’t Be Surprised by This Year’s Annual Review.

Related Posts: Thinking about a Career Change? Think SWOT.

Thinking about a Career Change? Think SWOT.

Fly swatter laying in the grass

Not Swat, but SWOT!

No doubt you’ve made some resolutions about your career after your annual review.  If it’s time to evaluate your career path, why not start with a SWOT?

A SWOT Analysis is an acronym for a business analysis in which you evaluate Strengths –Weaknesses –Opportunities – Threats.  The concept is often credited to Albert Humphrey, who piloted a project at Stanford University in the 1960s with Fortune 500 companies to manage change.  However, according to a U.K.-based website called Marketing Teacher, the concept may have been introduced as early as the 1950s and have an entirely different author.

Traditionally, Strengths and Weaknesses refer to a company’s position or an internal analysis. Threats and Opportunities refer to market conditions or external factors.  The analysis is often done in chart form, with one square for each category.  It is considered a first step in a company planning its future.

This process is completely adaptable for personal professional growth.  That is, with some trusted professional friends.  Here’s how.

Start by thinking of your support network.  Who do you turn to when you have a professional dilemma or need to seek counsel on an ethical matter?  Who has watched and supported your career?  Think above and below where you sit on the career ladder.  Anyone who has mentored you would be good, but so might those you have mentored or have worked alongside.

Use only your most trusted professional friends and then ask them privately to share what they believe to be 2-3 items in each category.  You will obviously want to preface the request with some language to talk about how you are evaluating your career and considering future changes.  You might even supply a chart or use an online form builder like Wufoo  to put together your responses.

Once you have gathered your responses, read each one and take some time to evaluate them. It may be helpful to put them into one chart and see if some items appear more than once. Do you see trends in your career?

When I was considering a career change some time ago, I used this strategy to consider my options.  I asked four professionals for feedback.  While many of their observations were not a complete surprise, it is very beneficial to see how others see YOU.  There were some pleasant surprises. Two participants saw a future opportunity for me in a college classroom, a step I have since taken. Another pointed out that my current position was a threat to my future health, something I knew but was choosing to ignore at the time.

I didn’t use every piece of information I received right away, but over time, I have returned to these evaluations for guidance and direction.   Whether you are considering a career change, or need strategies for growth in your current position, a SWOT Analysis offers an outside-in look.

Next week, how to put the SWOT Analysis results to work for you.

Related Posts: Don’t Be Surprised by This Year’s Annual Review.

Related Posts: How to Put Your SWOT Analysis to Work for You.