In my post, How to Conduct A SWOT Analysis for your business I dealt extensively with what SWOT analysis is and its history. I told you that it is a useful planning tool used by individuals and companies in planning and strategizing. From the post recall that I said SWOT analysis can be used:
(a) In Your Business to set your business apart from competitors in your market or industry or location.
(b) In Your Personal Life to grow your career and make a distinction of yourself from other applicants or colleagues in your profession.
That post dealt with using SWOT in business, this post is about using it to analyze one’s personal life.
How To Conduct A Personal SWOT Analysis
As an individual you have to understand your make up in order for you to make a lasting impact in life and your career. This can be achieved by conducting a personal SWOT analysis. It allows for the identification of traits that makes you stand out and areas you are lacking in conjunction with external factors that can aid or hamper your success.
Unlike SWOT for business that involves research and data collection, personal SWOT involves basically your deep honest thinking. From thinking you will uncover opportunities existing that you never knew existed.
A useful SWOT analysis will separate you from the rest of the pack as an employee, applicant, or entrepreneur. In seven simple steps here is how to conduct a personal SWOT analysis:
PREPARE FOR THE EXERCISE
You have to be ready for the exercise at hand. This is a serious business and should be embraced with all seriousness. Be ready to be objective, factual and realistic (it is not time to day dream – when setting goals you can day dream). For effectiveness find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed or interrupted because your full concentration is needed. I recommend a library or your home in the middle of the night away from the TV and any form of disturbance or distraction. Now get four sheets of paper and label them as shown below:
IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS
On the first sheet of paper, write all the traits that set you apart from others i.e. those qualities that you possess which make you better than people around you. Here shun modesty and be objective with what you put down. For example, if you have the ability of holding a conversation with someone more than others is a strength if you are in media or marketing. You can answer these questions to help you with your strengths:
- What do you possess that you think others lack e.g. qualification, skill set, certification or connection?
- What are those things you do better than others?
- What are those things that people identify as your strength?
- What connection with important people can you leverage on that others don’t have?
- What are your past achievements that are worth noting?
- What are your resources, talents or abilities?
- What values separate you from others?
- What are the things you do naturally that others can’t e.g. singing, drawing, painting etc?
IDENTIFY YOUR WEAKNESSES
Next pick the paper with the heading ‘Weaknesses’ and write down those things you cannot do well or areas that need improvement. These are things that set you at a disadvantaged position to others. The questions listed below can help you identify your weaknesses:
- What areas do you see yourself playing second fiddle to others most of the time?
- What do people point out to you as your weaknesses?
- What traits of yours are working against you in your field of study? E.g. being a shy person would be your weakness as a Marketer.
- What are some personal habits that grew with you that could hamper your career? E.g. are you a persistent latecomer, disorganized individual, bad mannered person etc?
- Does your education and skills training make you feel less confident? For instance do you feel inferior because you attended a Polytechnic instead of a University?
- What area of your education are you weak?
- What activities or tasks do you avoid at all cost and would like to delegate or outsource to someone else?
IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE
Write down all the opportunities in the external environment in the paper labeled ‘Opportunities.’ These are those factors around you that help you succeed. For example if you are surrounded by influential people, your success will come from your ability to use your strength to get what you want from them. Use the questions below to identify the opportunities around you:
- What new development exist in your company or around that you can leverage on?
- What new technology is available that can help you achieve? For instance, with the internet – a new technology, leveraging on its usefulness will make you succeed as a Marketer.
- Who are those in your network that are resourceful who can add to your value?
- What are those important things your colleagues or competitors are not doing? Can you take advantage of their undoing?
- What are the identified areas in your company or industry that needs overhaul?
- What are trouble spots in your company or environment that you can capitalize on?
IDENTIFY THREATS AROUND YOU
Take the last paper – ‘Threats’ and jot down potential threats that you noticed around you. These are factors beyond your control that affect your performance. Consider these questions:
- What challenges do you face at work or in your environment?
- Who are your competitors? Are they close-by (colleagues) or occasional (candidates at interviews)?
- What technological change is threatening your job? For example the job of a typist trained in the use of the manual or electric typewriter will be threatened by the introduction of computer-based typing.
- What areas of your weaknesses can become threats as time go by?
- What government legislation could affect you adversely? E.g. when the government decided against placing HND and B. Sc graduates at the same level in the civil service.
DESIGN THE IE MATRIX
Create the Internal/External Matrix shown below. After that, lay the four sheets side by side and critically examine your lists. Re-order each of your lists according to importance. Now transfer the refined items in each list to its category in the IE Matrix you designed.
Your action starts from reviewing the truths uncovered by the analysis. Look for ways of solving the problems identified before they become big problems. For instance the typist mentioned above can after this analysis, register for a computer training program to upgrade her knowledge. You can also answer the following questions to help with your action.
- How can I take advantage of the opportunities using my strengths?
- How can I surmount the threats with the use of my strengths?
- How can I minimize the effects of the threats?
- How can I capitalize or leverage on the opportunities?
- What training or self development do I need?
- Can I turn some of my weaknesses into strengths?
After these probing questions and more, take decisive actions to overcome the effects of the threats and capitalize on the opportunities while maximizing your strength in the process.
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