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When applied to businesses, institutions, and organizations the traditional S.W.O.T. analysis is an excellent tool to identify areas of Strength which could be used for strategic growth.

Such analysis will invariably disclose areas of potential Weaknesses, from which potential Threats may arise. The positivistic view of the S.W.O.T. analysis tool suggests that from identified Weaknesses and potential Threats, Opportunities for change and improvement may be identified and acted on.

The Problem

One of the most common challenges faced by individuals considering transitioning, whether as an occupation or career is not knowing where they should focus their efforts in their searching for employment.

Part of the dilemma is the fact that they were in the previous occupation for so long, that they develop a type of tunnel vision, and adopt a misconception that they aren’t proficient at anything else.

The under-valuation of their skills and experiences keeps them anchored to the same old same old with little hope of breaking the cycle of acceptable jobs and stepping up to exceptional careers!

The Solution

By applying some simple Q&A techniques, you can effectively construct what could be considered, a Map of You. Using the simple S.W.O.T. methodology, you can identify and then exploit your personal/professional expertise.

Imagine your work experience as a bicycle and your expertise gears. The higher your level of expertise, the faster you can go, with the least amount of effort! But you first need a diagram (Map of You) to know what gears (expertise) you have, if you want to be more efficient.

You don’t know what you don’t know.~ Unknown

The S.W.O.T. analysis tool, which has proven successful in business enterprises for decades, can easily be used to help you identify personal and professional Strengths and  Weaknesses, which may reveal Opportunities you may not have otherwise realized.

Although the technique applied is simple and straightforward, you must look at the S.W.O.T. analysis as a process. Because you control the information, how fast or slow you complete each section is strictly up to you. But once you’re done you will have a strong indication as to where you should focus future employment efforts.

[DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE.]

That said, it is considered a quasi-science because the process can be replicated and the results will be very similar.

The remainder of this article will discuss the process and provide critical questions that you must ask of yourself and answer truthfully if you want to develop a personal S.W.O.T. analysis that you can use.   

The Process

Much as the strengths in a business may be defined as actions, activities or characteristics that elevate the business entity above its competition, your individual personal/professional strengths reflect your skills and expertise that set you apart from others.

What’s interesting is that this “setting apart” is not limited to your industry. Your skills, expertise, and even character traits will be valued beyond your immediate network.

So how do you get a clear picture of what your abilities are? One of the challenges that restricts our ability to see our strengths is our own tendency to under value ourselves for fear hubris: seeming to be arrogant, prideful, or conceited. 

Most of us are very reluctant to call ourselves experts, or highly skilled. We are only slightly less reluctant to have friends, family, and associates refer to us in such a manner.

So in order to develop a reliable Map of You, through objectively identifying your strengths, you will need to set your sense of humility aside and truthfully answer the strategic questions without reservation.

Strength

The following are strength-based questions designed to help you identify your personal/professional strengths:

  • What are 3 to 5 things I do better than most?
  • What are 3 to 5 things for which others seek my assistance, advice, or input?
  • What are 3 to 5 skills that I frequently apply with relative ease?
  • Who are 3 to 5 friends, colleagues, or associates I could contact without reservation if I needed assistance?
  • What are 3 to 5 things others would say I’m very good at?
  • What are 3 to 5 resources I use regularly to resolve issues or problems?
  • What are 3 to 5 words or phrases that others would use to describe my work ethic?
  • What are 3 to 5 words or phrases that others would use to describe my moral character?

If you found it difficult, or possibly even a little uncomfortable answering these questions, know that you’re not alone! A recent article in Forbes echoed the notion that many of us see this sort of self-promotion as self-serving. However, in your personal S.W.O.T. analysis this is not the case.

Remember that the purpose for these questions are to help you  establish a baseline for developing your personal S.W.O.T. analysis.

After answering the strength questions, the natural flow is to examine your weaknesses. Where detailing your Strengths may have left you feeling less humble than you otherwise might, examining your  Weaknesses may cause you to feel more vulnerable than you might prefer.

Weakness

The following are weakness-based questions designed to help you identify your personal/professional weaknesses:

  • What are 2 or 3 competence-based weaknesses I have?
  • What are 2 or 3 confidence-based weaknesses I have (public presentations, public speaking, networking, etc.,)?
  • What are 2 or 3 information/knowledge weaknesses I have?
  • What are 2 or 3 of my educational weaknesses?
  • What are 2 or 3 of my personality weaknesses?
  • What are 2 or 3 of my training weaknesses?
  • What are my productivity weaknesses (lack of organization, unable to take/give feedback, procrastination, inability to say “no”, etc.,)?
  • What would others say are my obvious weaknesses?

It’s important to note that identifying your weaknesses is not intended to reflect your value, but rather illuminate some areas of interest for you to consider. It is widely (and erroneously) believed that resources and effort should always be expended to eradicate weaknesses.

The truth is that such actions should first be considered on a an improvement continuum:Improvement Continuum

For the purposes of the personal S.W.O.T. analysis the term Improvement is meant to represent strengthen, repair, or enhance.

Nearly every weakness could be improved, given time resources and effort – but that may not be the best use of your time, resources, or effort. For example, if you know how to type, but typing is not a significant component of your industry, then enrolling in a typing course may not be essential.

Similarly, there are many weaknesses that should be improved such as diet, exercise, time management, or inter-personal communications. The benefits may extend well beyond your initial efforts.

It is in the must improve areas of the continuum that change is critical for success. For example, in the education industry you must have a command of technology, or you will not be competitive. Similarly, in states such as Missouri law enforcement officers must have a valid peace officer standards and training certification.

In other words, the must improve areas leave very little room for negotiation.

Opportunities

Strengths and Weakness complement each other in the personal S.W.O.T. analysis, however opportunities can be found through a close examination of strengths and weaknesses as well.

Opportunities as seen through the perspective of business may more closely relate to furthering the success of an organization through a meticulously outlined and implemented strategic plan.

In the personal S.W.O.T. analysis, recognizing something you consistently did very well, but discounted it, may be a significant strength that sets you apart.

For example, the fact that you “have a head for numbers” is a strength not shared by much of the population. But if you were not previously working in the segment of your industry involved in accounting, this revelation could be an opportunity for you.

When examining the results of your Weakness analysis, you might recognize that others in your field struggle with the same, or similar challenges. If you were to develop a solution that worked for you, this might open up an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from others in your field.

For example, perhaps you’re a photographer, but don’t yet possess the highest quality equipment. If you are able to find ways for using everyday camera equipment and produce very good quality images, you may create an opportunity to train others for a fee!

So, approach the Opportunity component of your personal S.W.O.T. analysis from a slightly different perspective…one of identifying your competitive advantage:

  • What are 3 to 5 existing solutions to challenges in other industries that I can apply to mine?
  • What are 3 to 5 solutions to common challenges in my industry that I can improve on?
  • What are 3 to 5 skills that I already have mastery over that I can use to add value to my industry?
  • What are 3 to 5 of the most recent solutions used to relieve a pain point in my industry – can I update and re-package them?
  • What are 3 to 5 personal weakness I found solutions for? How might I share my solution with others similarly challenged?
  • What are 3 to 5 resources in use by similar industries, but less so, or not at all within my own?
  • What are 3 to 5 forum/community sources that I can connect with and develop a master-mind style workgroup?
  • What are 3 to 5 recurring issues customers and visitors express as pain points? How might Identify, categorize, and address these issues?

Opportunities, while often more challenging to identify and thus understand, are where the most innovative thinking can be found.

Threats

While seemingly obvious, Threats can be easily overlooked in the personal S.W.O.T. analysis, because many will limit their consideration to personal bodily harm, or disability. Although physical threat should always be a consideration, in this analysis it’s important to expand the possibilities.

The reality of working for a business, a government, or an industry is that you really have little to no control over what decisions are made in the senior levels. Nor can you control any natural hazards or occurrences including storms, fires, floods, etc.

As a result, your specific skill-set could become outdated by technology, or by lack of need. Consider for example the newspaper industry. The decline may have begun as far back as the introduction of new reporting from the front-lines of the Korean war. Rather than having to wait days for news of interest, the time was reduced to hours.

Today, thanks to the various advancements in technology we can get our news in seconds. So what happened to those employees whose skill-set was replaced by technology, virtually overnight?

Perhaps a transparent personal S.W.O.T. analysis would have revealed the possibility of this type of threat, and they could have been prepared for it.

The following are threats-based questions designed to help you identify personal/professional threats, including those to your industry itself:

  • What are 2 or 3 areas in my field that have seen an uptick in outsourcing?
  • What are 2 or 3 causes for businesses to outsource employment?
  • What are the top 2 or 3 innovations are forthcoming that could impact my industry?
  • What are 2 or 3 unique skills will I need to remain relevant in my industry?
  • What 2 or 3 natural or man-made events have had a measureable impact on my industry?
  • What are 2 or 3 indicators that my industry is not growing or expanding?
  • What are 2 or 3 internal or external physical limitations which could prevent me from being competitive in my industry (similar in nature to question 4)
  • If I were no longer able to operate in my industry, what are 2 or 3 other industries I could see myself in?

After you have completed the personal S.W.O.T. assessment you have the foundations for a dynamic resume!

From the Strength component, you can easily adopt your answer responses to address the most common interview questions:
– Why should we hire you?
– What are you exceptional at doing?
– How would you add value to the organization?

From the Weakness component, you can demonstrate that you’ve already identified your weaknesses and, where relevant, what measures you’ve undertaken to mitigate them.

From the  Opportunity component, you can share industry challenges that you identified and found solutions for. You will also demonstrate your expert knowledge of the industry, having considered pain point solutions for the customer base.

From the Threat component, you will solidify yourself as an authority on your industry because you would have taken the time and effort to identify potential industry threats. To be fore warned is to be fore armed.

If you found your this report useful in developing your personal S.W.O.T. analysis, we only ask that you leave an honest review in the comments section on our site at SoldierCop.

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Dr. Eugene Matthews