How to use the SWOT analysis for Strategic Career Planning
As recruiters we are regularly approached by candidates who need help with their career planning. Some people know from an early age exactly what they want to become when they are older, others need more time exploring their interests, skills, personality and values to decide which path to take. This process can be complicated, where do you start? My colleague Pieter wrote about this topic in an earlier article. Thankfully there are great tools available to help you making a strategic plan to reach your career goals. One of them is the SWOT analysis, a marketing tool than can also be projected on the labour market. In this article I will discuss how you can use this tool to “find your bliss”.
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that can also be applied to career planning. After you have identified your career goals, this tool can help you organise, visualise and evaluate the many internal and external variables that influence making decisions about next steps in your career. It helps you examine your Strengths and Weaknesses (internal environment) and Opportunities and Threats (external environment).
To perform a personal SWOT analysis, answer the following questions:
Your strengths are internal positive aspects that you control and make you special compared to other people in your field of expertise.
- What do other people view as your strengths?
- What skills, abilities, knowledge, education, certifications or connections do you have that others don’t?
- What are activities that make you happy in your job and why do they make you happy? There is a strong correlation between what you like and are able to do.
- Which professional achievements are you most proud of and which of your qualities contributed most to this success?
- Do you have a strong network? Are there people in your network who can give you advice?
Weaknesses are internal negative aspects that you control and can improve (or avoid needing the skill in a next career step). Examining your weaknesses can be an uncomfortable task, to successfully make a SWOT analysis it’s vital that you see yourself as objective as possible. Other people tend to notice things about you that you might be blind to, therefor it can help you to ask people in your work field what areas you need to improve. Ask yourself:
- What do other people view as your weaknesses?
- Are there gaps in your education, skills, or training?
- Which activities make you insecure/do you avoid doing, and why do you dislike doing them?
- What are your worst work habits? (for example, are you often late, are you disorganized, do you have a short temper, do you have trouble prioritising, or are you poor at handling stress)?
Opportunities are positive external conditions that you do not control but of which you can take advantage of. Ask yourself:
- What does the market look like? Are there positive trends in your field that will create more jobs? (growth, globalization, new technology)
- Are there opportunities you could have by enhancing your education?
- Is there a need in your company or industry that no one is filling?
- Are there any new technologies you can learn that will help you do your job better?
- Has your company started any new initiatives you can participate in? Are there new projects you could participate in? Or is there an opportunity to take on more responsibilities in line with your career goals?
Threats are negative external conditions that you do not control but the effect of which you may be able to lessen. Ask yourself:
- Is your company or industry struggling in the current economy?
- Are jobs declining in your work field? For example due to Covid-19.
- Are you encountering any significant obstacles at work?
- What does the competition look like? Do they have something you don’t? (skills, knowledge, education, abilities?). For example, there is an Influx of foreign workers with a strong education and low income expectations.
- Is the demand for your skills declining?
- Are technology advances changing your job in a negative way?
When you have answered and written down the answers to these questions, the analysis gives you a realistic view of your situation and helps you evaluate and decide what path you want to take. You now know what strengths you can capitalise on and what weaknesses you will need to improve or avoid. You can then use this knowledge to take advantage of opportunities in line with these strengths and weaknesses and avoid or lessen threats.
I hope this will give you some guidance in your career planning. Of course the process doesn’t stop after making a SWOT analysis. You now know which direction you want to take, but what steps are needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be? A gap-analysis can help develop a practical plan (more about this in a following article). You should also make a plan how to market yourself, go to the next articles to read more about this topic:
- Looking for a new job opportunity? Update your CV!
- 5 tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile for recruiters
- 7 pointers how to prepare for your job interview
- Fake it till you make it: 10 body language tips for your next job interview
- How to answer job interview questions using the STAR technique
- Why you should keep track of your job search and some practical tips