The SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool developed in the late 1960s to assess an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The tool provides important data on why some businesses fail while other succeed. It also creates a springboard for creating strategies to enhance and build upon successes and positives while mitigating the impact of areas of concern. The benefits of this analysis are not exclusive to business. The SWOT can be just as valuable as an individual assessment for those willing to engage in the process of self-reflection on their ability to accomplish personal and career goals. To begin, write down your goal. Below the goal, draw a large square and divide it into four smaller sized square quadrants. From left to right, starting with the top, label the first quadrant “strengths” and the second “weaknesses”. Be sure to leave room below these labels to add content. From left to right on the two bottom quadrants label the remaining two squares “opportunities” and “threats”.
Think about your personal characteristics that can have a positive impact on you accomplishing your goals. These traits and other internal factors are what you want to focus on in this area. Ask yourself “What do I do well?”, “What are my greatest assets?”, “What personal qualities do others compliment me on?”, and “What credentials or skills do I possess?”
In this quadrant you will want to focus on internal or personal characteristics that might have a negative impact on your ability to accomplish your goal(s). Questions to ponder for this section include “What are the areas I personally struggle with?”, “What do I need to work on?”, “Where am I lacking?”, and “What feedback have I received from others regarding areas for improvement?”.
The opportunities quadrant begins the reflection of external factors that impact your ability to accomplish your goal(s). With opportunities think about factors that will be helpful to you accomplishing your goal(s). Consider what prospects are available? Are there trainings or credentials that you can obtain? Are there connections you can pursue? Is there a void in an industry that your skill sets can fill? What external resources are available? What potential new avenues can you explore?
Threats are external factors that hinder your ability to achieve your goal(s). Ask yourself what obstacles are in the horizon? Are there sociopolitical factors that might create barriers? Are there constraints that might limit your options? Are there trends that might negatively impact you? Who or what is your competition? Are you impacted by financial or resource limitations?
Developing a Plan
Once you have completed the process of reflecting on the factors you generated during the SWOT analysis you now have a foundation for developing strategies to help you succeed in accomplishing your goals. One of the activities you can implement to create this plan is the USED strategy. Consider specific actions you can engage in to Use your strengths, Stop your weaknesses, Exploit or take advantage of the opportunities, and Defend against the threats.
The data you obtain about yourself from the SWOT analysis and USED strategy provide an opportunity for you to increase your self-awareness, identify external factors impacting your goals, and develop appropriate and relevant strategies to accomplish your goals. These tools can be used to assist you with your various aspirations. So again, the question is are you prepared for success in your professional and personal life?