A SWOT analysis – an acronym for strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats – has long been heralded as a helpful tool to audit and analyse within business. By focusing on those four areas, companies are usually able to identify and address any internal or external challenges at play. They can be performed both quickly and cheaply (a SWOT doesn’t require the expertise of an external consultant), hence the appeal.
But what would happen if we performed a SWOT analysis on ourselves? According to Designed Alliance co-founder Marlo Zarka, addressing our own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can be an invaluable self-improvement technique. “The SWOT analysis exercise ignites an enhanced awareness of what one brings to the table in a balanced light of both advantages and challenges,” says Zarka. “Organisations roll out elaborate schemes to remain competitive as well as innovative. Why wouldn’t individuals want to achieve the same level of excellence for themselves?”
Let’s get started…
What are your strengths?
What do other people see as your strengths? What do you do better than anyone else? It’s important when answering not to feel hemmed in by your current position. Even if you’re a retail manager at a snowboarding company but you make the best lemon meringue pie you’ve ever tasted, write it down. It might not seem relevant now but it all could click into place further down the track.
“List all of your strengths, even the ones that have been dormant for a while. And pay particular attention to the things that you have that your peers don’t — how are you different, unique and special?” recommends Caroline Smith, copy and commissioning editor at Mind Tools.
What are your weaknesses?
We often go out of our way to avoid performing in areas we feel less confident in, so acknowledging when these instances occur is a good place to start when trying to identify our weaknesses. Perhaps you repeatedly try to wriggle out of public speaking, or you find yourself delegating the same tasks because you don’t feel competent doing them yourself? This isn’t about jumping down a rabbit hole of negativity; it’s an opportunity to address any issues that might be holding you back.
What are your opportunities?
Now that you have addressed the internal factors at play, it’s time to focus on the external. Is there a rise in demand for a skill that you possess? Or a shift within the industry you could capitalise on? If identifying opportunity is proving to be a struggle, look back at your list of strengths. Do these open up any opportunities? What if you eliminated your weaknesses, would that open up any doors?
What are your threats?
What has the potential to prevent you from achieving your goals? This could be a declining industry, evolving technologies that you’re unprepared for, a direct competitor – or even yourself. Write them all down.
Performing your SWOT analysis is futile unless you follow through on your findings. As well as acting on the opportunities and strengths you’ve already outlined, your objective should now be to turn any negatives into a positive; turn your weaknesses into strengths and your threats into opportunities.
“SWOT analysis can fail to be effective if it is simply treated as a ‘laundry list,’ without any tie-in to how the elements identified in the analysis can be put into play for the individual carrying out the assessment,” Zarka reminds us. “For example, how can the identified strengths move the needle in the endeavor to achieve a key goal? Or how can one navigate a potential threat once it is identified, so as to ensure no ground is lost?”