Many people are kicking off the New Year with a career transition. Whether you are looking to advance in your current job or switch to a different career track, you might find it useful to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Consider Your Core Values
But before we jump into that, take a moment to assess your Core Values—what it is that matters to you in your current career. These should be broad ideals, not necessarily specific to your current job. For example, I like being able to make a difference. In my work as a video producer, I’m able to do this by telling important stories. But if I wanted to make a career shift, I could look at other jobs that don’t involve video, but still have making a difference as a core value. What are the values that make you tick? Jot down at least two.
Identify Your Strengths
Now, consider your strengths in two categories—those that help you in your chosen field, and those “soft skills” that could help you advance in any career. For example, if you are a video editor, your strengths might include being able to learn a new editing software quickly. This strength can go in both columns, because your ability to upskill and apply new capabilities to improving your job is a talent that you can apply to any job. Another strength might be the ability to complete work under tight deadlines. In other words, you are good at time management. This is a soft skill that can apply to multiple careers. Make a two-column list of your top 5 strengths and identify which are unique to your current job, and which can be applied more broadly to other work opportunities.
Define Your Weaknesses
I like to think of these as personal challenges to overcome. Mine include being impatient with people who might take longer than I do to come to a decision. What are your challenges? Some common ones include Imposter Syndrome—feeling like you aren’t the expert you really are in your chosen field. Or perhaps you are risk-averse. This can be a strength, particularly if you are in a field such as accounting. But if you are an entrepreneur, not being willing to try new markets or products can be an obstacle to success. Identify at least 5 of your top weaknesses or challenges. Consider what tools you might have for overcoming those challenges. Strategies can include finding a mentor in a particular area of interest, joining a professional organization in order to transition to a new market, or taking an online course to improve your skills.
I know, it’s out of order for the acronym. But I like to list threats before heading to opportunities. Threats can exist within your organization. Or they can occur outside, in the economic ecosystem. Occasionally a single threat can affect both. I think we can all agree that the Coronavirus created a massive external threat that affected many internal business systems, including funding and staffing. More common threats might be managing your time when a company has a heavy meetings culture. Or working in a field such as energy that is going through a major transformation, which could eliminate your job. List your top three threats.
Now you see why I wanted the Strengths, Weaknesses, and Threats listed first. You can now be thinking about opportunities that maximize your strengths, help you avoid or conquer threats, and give you the chance to overcome your weaknesses. Relocating might be a solution for a market that is saturated with too many employees with your skill set.
If you’re someone who likes to use apps to visualize your work, here are some tools to use for your SWOT exercise:
You might also enjoy Jim Collins terrific book Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.
Whether you write them on a napkin or make a jazzy chart, stay focused on your Core Values and then assess your SWOT. It’s a great way to kick off a successful New Year.
Amy DeLouise is a digital media entrepreneur who often leads business workshops and has authored a number of business and digital media courses on LinkedIn Learning.