Personal SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is the examination of your (or your organisation’s) situation by looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It has been used by businesses for many years as a strategic planning tool, because it helps to give you an all-round view of the organisation.
SWOT analysis are however, equally useful on a personal level as a way to identify areas for development, and as part of career discussions. Its simple format, and easy-to-apply structure mean that it can be used very easily without support.
A quick summary of SWOT analysis
SWOT analysis is a way of looking at your situation by identifying:
Strengths, or those areas where you have an advantage over others, or some unique resources to exploit;
Weaknesses, or areas where you or your organisation may be weaker than others, and may find that others can do better than you;
Opportunities, or possibilities that you can take advantage of to help you achieve your goals and ambitions; and
Threats, or things that may prevent you or your organisation from making a profit or achieving your goals.
There is more about the process in our page on SWOT Analysis.
Personal SWOT Analysis
A personal SWOT analysis is very similar to one for business, except that you focus on yourself and your goals.
Our page on SWOT analysis explains that one of the advantages of a SWOT analysis is that the framework is very flexible. You can therefore use it in a wide variety of circumstances.
A personal SWOT analysis, however, may be more useful if you focus on a specific goal or problem that you want to address. This is because we all have a number of very diverse goals. The skills and attributes that may help us towards one goal may be irrelevant, or even a weakness, in another context. A threat in one context could be unimportant in another.
The SWOT Process
1. Identify the goal that you want to achieve
It is important to be as specific as possible. Be clear about timing, that is, when you want to achieve your goal, and also how you will know that you have achieved it (your success criteria).
If you have not yet identified any goals, you may find it helpful to read our page on Setting Personal Goals.
Thinking specifically about that goal:
2. Identify the personal strengths that will help you to achieve it, and the weaknesses that could prevent you.
It is often helpful to consider knowledge, skills, experience, resources and support that you have available. If you list these headings separately, you will remember to consider them all.
These areas are generally internal, that is, they relate to you personally, and the resources and skills that are available to you. They are, therefore, things that are generally under your control.
TOP TIP! Kick-starting your self-analysis
If you find this process difficult, you may want to take our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment, to give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses. This may be a useful starting point for further thinking.
3. Identify any personal opportunities that could enable you to achieve the goal, and also that you will be able to take advantage of when you have achieved it
Opportunities are generally external, relating to the environment and those around you, rather than you yourself. They include things like:
- Promotions and financial incentives; and
- Events that are likely to happen at work or outside, such as someone going on maternity leave or sabbatical, that might mean you have a chance to do something new.
In identifying opportunities that might open up as a result of achieving your goal, consider both short- and long-term benefits.
4. Identify any threats
These are external things and events that are worrying you, or that might happen and prevent you from either achieving your goals, or taking advantage of the benefits.
5. Review and prioritise
Finally, as always with development activities, and anything that looks like strategic thinking, it is a good idea to review your analysis. Ask yourself:
- Is this recognisably me?
- Is there anything that I have forgotten?
- Which areas are most important in each of the four categories in the analysis?
Try to highlight one, or at most two, things from each of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you think will be most important in achieving (or preventing you from achieving) your goal. Those areas will be your priorities for action.
Using a Personal SWOT Analysis
Our page Learning from Mentoring suggests that a personal SWOT analysis is a useful tool in working out what you want to get from mentoring. It is, however, much more widely applicable, and you can use it to help you to analyse any personal development or learning situation.
Going through this process for a particular goal and/or problem that you face enables you to identify which areas are really bothering you, and where you most need to focus your attention.
You can use the process for each and every goal, but it may be more helpful to use it only when you find a problem particularly challenging. It is, effectively, a way of ordering your thinking, and helping you to see the problem in a slightly different way.
Phone a friend?
A personal SWOT analysis can be done on your own.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that a business SWOT analysis is stronger if it draws on evidence from outside the organisation, such as independent market research, or views from customers.
In the same way, a personal SWOT analysis is likely to be more powerful if you draw on the views of others.
If, for example, you are part of a learning group at work, or at college or university, you can agree to go through the process for each other in turn. You can even gather evidence from each other’s colleagues to support the analysis.
If you are doing this by yourself, you may want to ask friends and colleagues their views on your strengths and weaknesses, or ask them to comment on your first draft analysis and suggest additions.
A Final Thought...
Like any personal development process, a SWOT analysis is not something that you want to do every day. But if you are finding a particular problem is very intractable, or that you are really struggling to know where to start with a goal, it may be a useful way of ordering your thinking, and giving you a different perspective on the problem.