Thinking about a Career Change? Think SWOT.

  • February 21, 2012
  • Fran Stephenson
  • 3 min read
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.