Leveraging SWOT Analysis throughout Your Career
Have you ever thought, "Where am I going with my career?" or "What areas should I focus on?" During the interview process, how many times have you been asked, "What is your biggest weakness?" or "What is your greatest strength?" Now think through starting at a new company, in a new role, or on a new team. Were there times you felt you lacked skills that would help you succeed? Alternatively, were there opportunities to add a tool or technology to your skill set that would add overall value to your project/team? If you have found yourself in any of these situations, these are great opportunities to implement SWOT analysis techniques!
If you are unfamiliar with SWOT, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Not only does conducting a SWOT analysis tremendously help you during your job search process (specifically with interviewing preparation); it is a great aid to use throughout your career as you are evaluating your areas of improvement, professional obstacles, and overall goals and skills development.
Start with a simple table outlined below:
There are two major scenarios where we recommend you conduct a SWOT analysis, for interview preparation and overall skills development.
How can you conduct a SWOT analysis as a key interview preparation technique?
As you are reflecting on the job description and how your background/skills align, take a few minutes to complete a SWOT analysis. Outline the following against the job:
- What are my main strengths relative to the role? What are the key requirements they are asking for that I am proficient in? What responsibilities/projects are mentioned where I have had similar experience?
- Do I have any weaknesses? Am I lacking any skills, technologies, tools, certifications, etc. that the position is asking for? Do I not have experience in that industry?
- What opportunities exist for me to overcome my weaknesses or further differentiate myself? Do I have any relevant recommendations or non-proprietary examples of my work that I could provide?
- What are other potential threats to my candidacy? Is there extensive competition? What else might prevent me from getting this job?
Step 1 is to complete the matrix and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Step 2 is to then put on your strategy hat and think through the following:
- How will I communicate my strengths?
- How will I overcome my weaknesses?
- What opportunities exist to develop my weaknesses and/or mitigate any threats?
If you are lacking experience or knowledge of a technology or concept, do something about it! Find a relevant MeetUp group and go to a meeting. Identify training courses and take them. Especially if you are a programmer, see how you can play around with a programming language in your home environment or find an open project on GitHub or GitLab that you can contribute to! If you will be relocating, express your interest on the phone interview and in a follow up thank you email. Ensure the Manager knows what steps you are taking and why you are moving (e.g. you have family in the area, you are looking to get out of the cold weather and have identified the two towns you want to live in, etc.)
Example #1 – SWOT Analysis for Interview Preparation
Imagine you are interviewing for a SQL Server Developer role. Here is how you might outline your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats against the role.
- 8 years of SQL Server Development, 2008 R2 and above
- SSIS and SSRS expert
- T-SQL knowledge
- Limited exposure to Informatica
- Limited database design experience
- No Agile experience
- Former co-worker works there
- Upcoming SQLSaturday event
- GitHub project utilizing .NET technologies
- Heavy competition
- You will be relocating for the position
Example #2 – SWOT Analysis for Interview Preparation
You are interviewing for a Team Lead role at a large company, but have never held a Leadership title nor worked in the industry the company is in.
- Experience with all technologies and tools listed
- Have mentored 4 individuals at current company
- Last two companies have been large environments
- No 'Team Lead' or 'Manager' title
- No relevant industry experience
- Getting Masters in Management discipline
- Taken four leadership courses at current company
- Could join local PMI association (Project Management Institute) to gain additional leadership knowledge
- No in-person interview
- No insider knowledge of the organization; no relationships with anyone who works at the organization who could put in a positive word
How can you do a SWOT analysis for career planning purposes?
First, you want to evaluate your current situation and fill in your strengths, weaknesses/improvement focus areas, opportunities you want to leverage for developing those focus areas, and any threats that could prevent you from achieving your development goals. This is also a great exercise to perform after a performance review with your Manager.
Example – SWOT Analysis for Skills/Career Development:
Assume that you are in a junior role and looking to advance your career and knowledge.
- Solid SQL development skills
- Heavily involved in local SQL community
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Minimal custom development
- Minimal scripting experience
- In-demand skill set
- Multiple technical MeetUp groups
- Lots of online training
- Upcoming hackathon
- Internal and external competition
- No formal internal mentorship program
Once you get feedback, and have an idea of what areas to develop so you can further contribute to your team, manager, project and/or organization, you can easily create a 'Training and Development Plan.' Adopt a "growth mindset" and consistently revisit target improvement areas and dedicate time so eventually those weaknesses may turn into strengths!
Example T&D Plan based on above example
T&D Plan – Junior Developer
- Attend one MeetUp group meeting a month, either SQL Server User Group, Business Intelligence Group or Artificial Intelligence Group
- Take one relevant Pluralsight course a quarter
- Sign up for one MSSQLTips webinar a week
- Read one MSSQLTips article a day
- Identify an informal mentor and schedule a coffee; make a goal to have a quarterly coffee to discuss trends in the space, different channels for learning, and discuss pet project
SWOT analysis is a great tool for CPI (continuous process/personal/professional improvement), and view weaknesses as opportunities for professional growth! Completing a SWOT analysis can help you in two major areas: interview preparation and overall skills development.
- For each job you interview for, take time to do a SWOT analysis against your resume. Once you have identified weaknesses, think through how you will combat those in an interview!
- In your existing role, do a SWOT analysis on a regular basis as part of your career planning game plan. Create a training and development plan, identify and utilize resources, and then work to gain experience with those desired skills.
- Choose 1-3 skills at a time to learn/enhance, and be diligent by dedicating 2-4+ hours a month, planning and blocking off time.
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