In the same way a SWOT analysis is used to analyse companies in the business world, this same basic model can be used as a powerful tool for personal and professional development. If you're not familiar with the term “SWOT Analysis”, or if you’re in need of a refresher, SWOT stand for:
Just as in business your personal and professional life will have strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, too. A personal SWOT analysis is useful as it will help you to evaluate your career goals and plan your professional development. It helps you to identify your internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats) that affect your success. You can use this technique to assess your current situation, explore new possibilities, or make strategic decisions for your life and career.
It’s also an effective way of viewing your personal life and you may uncover new insights about your situation that you’ve never considered.
1. Identify your strengths.
Businesses have strengths, and so do you. What are your strengths? These are the positive traits or skills that you have or that others recognise in you. They can be related to your education, experience, personality, network, or achievements. Are you great at influencing people and in social situations? Are you amazing when it comes to learning new languages or at being creative?
Some more examples of strengths are:
- Excellent communication skills
- Expertise in a specific field or domain
- Creativity and innovation
- Leadership and teamwork abilities
- Problem-solving and analytical skills
- Adaptability and resilience
To help identify your strengths, you can ask yourself:
- What are you good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What are you proud of?
- What do others compliment you on?
You can also ask for feedback from your colleagues, managers, mentors, or friends. They may have a different perspective or notice something that you overlook.
* What are you better at than nearly everyone else you know? Make a list and don’t quit until you’ve considered every possible strength you may have.
Develop a plan to maximise and utilise your strengths. How can you utilise those strengths? Is there a profession that’s tailor-made for you? If you’re facing a tough decision, which option takes the greatest advantages of your strengths?
* Create a plan for growing your greatest strengths. You’ll be more effective if you have one of two amazing strengths, even if you have many weaknesses, than if you’re merely average at everything.
2. Identify your weaknesses
What are your weaknesses? These are the negative traits or skills that you lack or that others criticise you for. They can be related to your knowledge, performance, behaviour, attitude, or habits. Again, make a list. Most people don’t want to think about their weaknesses, but you don’t want to be like most people. What are those things that you don’t do as well as most other people?
Some examples of weaknesses are:
- Lack of confidence or self-esteem
- Poor time management or organisation skills
- Difficulty in dealing with stress or conflict
- Resistance to change or learning new things
- Procrastination or perfectionism
To identify your weaknesses, you can ask yourself:
- What are you really not great at?
- What do you dislike doing?
- What are you ashamed of?
- What do others complain about you?
You can also ask for feedback from your colleagues, managers, mentors, or friends. They may have constructive suggestions or advice on how to improve.
*Develop a plan to alleviate your weaknesses. Avoid your weaknesses as much as you can. When developing a course of action, stay away from your weaknesses. If a weakness can’t be avoided, then it’s necessary to address that weakness and improve in that area.
3. Define any opportunities
These are the positive situations or trends that can help your personal growth, advance in your career and exist in your environment or industry. They can be related to your market, customers, competitors, technology, or regulations. What are the greatest opportunities in your life? Maybe you have significant financial resources and can invest your money better. Or, perhaps you have a lot of free time that you could be using more effectively. Do you have friends or family members who have connections?
Some more examples of opportunities are:
- A new project or role that matches your interests and skills
- A training course or certification that enhances your qualifications
- A networking event or conference that expands your connections
- A market gap or demand that creates a niche for your product or service
- A change in policy or regulation that favours your business
To define your opportunities, you can ask yourself:
-What does the job market look like for someone with your skills and experience?
- What are the current or emerging needs or trends in your field?
- What are the gaps or problems that you can solve or address?
- What are the resources or support that you can access or leverage?
- What are the events or activities that you can participate in or benefit from?
You can also do some research on your industry, competitors, customers, or potential employers. They may have information or insights that reveal new possibilities. Develop a plan to leverage those opportunities. Given your opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses, how can you best take advantage of those opportunities?
4. Uncover any threats in your life.
What are the threats in your life? These are the negative situations or trends that exist in your environment or industry. They can be related to your market, customers, competitors, technology, or regulations. Is it debt? Do you work for a company that’s struggling? A bad relationship? A health issue? Are you close to someone that is breaking the law? Do you have a boss that dislikes you?
Some more examples of threats are:
- A new competitor or substitute that challenges your position or value proposition
- A technological change or innovation that makes your product or service obsolete
- A customer dissatisfaction or complaint that damages your reputation or loyalty
- A market saturation or decline that reduces your demand or profitability
- A change in policy or regulation that restricts your business
To identify your threats, you can ask yourself:
- What are the current or emerging risks or challenges in your field?
- What are the strengths or advantages of your competitors or alternatives?
- What are the expectations or feedback of your customers or stakeholders?
- What are the personal issues or activities that can harm or hinder you? In other words what are the things in your personal life that are likely to reach up and bite you someday?
Develop a plan to neutralise those threats. How can you eliminate, or minimise, these threats? Address the largest threat and work your way down. Dealing with these issues will go a long way toward enhancing your peace of mind. It’s the threats in life that cause anxiety and keep us awake at night.
5. Create an overall plan of action
The final step is to create an overall plan of action based on your SWOT analysis. This is where you use the information and insights from the previous steps to formulate strategies and tactics for achieving your goal.
An overall plan of action should include:
- A clear and specific goal that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)
- A list of actions or tasks that are necessary and sufficient to accomplish your goal
- A timeline or schedule that assigns deadlines and priorities to each action or task
- A budget or resource allocation that estimates the costs and benefits of each action or task
- A monitoring and evaluation system that tracks your progress and results
To create a plan of action, you can use the following framework:
- For each strength, identify how you can use it to exploit an opportunity or counter a threat
- For each weakness, identify how you can improve it to seize an opportunity or avoid a threat
- For each opportunity, identify how you can pursue it to enhance your strengths or overcome your weaknesses
- For each threat, identify how you can prevent it to protect your strengths or minimise your weaknesses
You can also use a SWOT matrix to visualise and organise your plan of action. A SWOT matrix is a table that shows the relationships between your SWOT elements and your strategies.
Here is an example of a SWOT matrix:
| | Strengths | Weaknesses |
| Opportunities | SO strategies: Use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities | WO strategies: Improve your weaknesses to take advantage of opportunities |
| Threats | ST strategies: Use your strengths to reduce the impact of threats | WT strategies: Improve your weaknesses to reduce the impact of threats |
A personal SWOT analysis is a powerful tool for personal and professional development. It helps you to assess your current situation, explore new possibilities, or make strategic decisions for your life and career.
Analyse your life the way a business strategist would analyse a company. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then, formulate a plan for your life that takes all of these items into consideration. By following these five steps, you can perform a personal SWOT analysis and create a plan of action that leads you to success.