SWOT analysis: your year-end career review

man reflecting on his careerStarting to think about your New Year’s resolutions and goals?  The end of a calendar year is a great time to reflect on your career aspirations and your progress—and to set yourself up to make career goals for the coming year.

There are lots of great ways to conduct a DIY year-end career review, but one method that works for many people is a SWOT analysis. If you’re not familiar with this process, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and the analysis includes looking at internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) as well as external factors (threats and opportunities).

You can conduct a SWOT analysis on paper, on computer—or even mostly inside your brain.  The analysis consists of answering four main questions. You can do this activity all at once, jotting down your ideas as you go, or you can take a full day to think about each topic and then record your answers.  Get started by moving in order through the questions:

What are my internal strengths that help in my career?

Identifying your own strengths can be hard, but it’s critical to know what you’re good at in order to plan how to advance in your career.  Your career strengths include a mix of personal assets and workplace achievements. Are you great at getting along with a range of people?  Are you uber-organized? Have in-demand technical skills?

What are my internal weaknesses that hinder my career progress?

Your weaknesses are also likely a mix of personal and workplace skills. Are there certain work tasks that you find yourself commonly avoiding? Do you have trouble staying organized—or focused? Do you have trouble learning new systems or technologies? Listening to others’ ideas? Don’t be alarmed if you come up with a long list of weaknesses—that just means you’ll have more to work with when you get to your “opportunities” analysis!

What are the external threats to my career advancement?

In SWOT, the O(pportunities) comes before the T(hreats), but in your analysis, it’s helpful to identify threats to success first. Then, you can include addressing them in your list of opportunities. Think of your threats as qualities of your environment—including co-workers and others—rather than your own personal qualities. For instance, do most people in your field have higher levels of education than you? Are other people in your workplace better at networking than you are?

What are my opportunities to improve my career?

One way to come up with a list of opportunities is to start with your lists of weaknesses and threats. For instance, if you lack a particular technical skill, then taking a tutorial is an opportunity for success. If others have higher levels of education that you, then getting started in a part-time degree program can be an opportunity.  And not all opportunities are about advancing your skills or credentials.  Prioritizing career networking is a great opportunity for almost everyone, as is committing the time to set career goals each year.

Your list of opportunities is your biggest takeaway from your career SWOT analysis. It’s the perfect place to start thinking about your 2018 career goals.

Happy goal setting—and Happy New Year!





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