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SWOT analysis

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Introspection is generally the order of the day at plonkee money. Both times I’ve done Myers-Briggs tests I’ve come out as *as introverted as it’s possible to be* on the introvert-extrovert scale. Which I think is just fine, but other people think is wierd.

Anyway, enough about me. Well, except to say that I wrote a few days ago about how I wasn’t sure if a recession was a good time to re-evaluate your career or not.

I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking. It’s always a good time to re-evaluate. It’s just that it’s not always a good time to act. Sometimes the re-evaluation is going to lead you to the realisation that you need to sit tight for a while, or put up and shut up.

SWOT analysis

One framework that you can use to re-evaluate is to carry out SWOT analysis. Now, as far as you and I are concerned, this is definitely a geeky engineer tool.

When I was at university, I studied mathematics (and only mathematics, the English specialise very early). When I applied for my post-college jobs, went for quite a few of graduate trainee schemes which require formal assessment centres. It’s not such a great feeling actually to first encounter SWOT analysis in an assessed group exercise and be going *what on earth is that?* (thinking politely of course, because it’s best behaviour time). Most of the other people in the group were engineering students and knew exactly what it was, I attempted to absorb by osmosis, rather than admit that I didn’t have a clue. (No, I wasn’t offered that first job, not sure why :| )

Fortunately, understanding what SWOT analysis is and how to do it, is fairly straightforward, if you posess common sense. SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Applied to yourself and your career, you look at your own internal characteristics and skills (strengths and weaknesses) and external forces (opportunities and threats).

Get a piece of paper and a pen (or however you prefer to brainstorm) and think about the following ideas.


What is it that you can do well? What skills have you developed? What personal qualities do you have?

It’s difficult to think of all the possible skills that you might possess, so I’ve found a few resources that might help you with the brainstorming phase:

In trying to do this, it’s helpful to have the most up to date cv you have to hand, plus any other notes on what you’ve done at work, but don’t forget that you are more than just a corporate slave. What strengths have you gained from your other activities?

Because at work we have to keep up to date cvs on file, it’s fairly easy for me to pick out the key strengths I’ve developed there. But outside of work, I’ve also developed skills in web related stuff (ok, so the blog thing isn’t amazingly difficult but still, it’s a skill), there’s also the writing and public speaking that I do for a community organisation, skills in music (not sure how that might help, but no idea is a bad idea at this stage).


What are you rubbish at? What limiting factors do you have?

Speaking personally, I’d say that I’m fairly lazy (I work better under pressure), not amazing at the whole attention to detail thing and I’m basically tied to working within commuting distance of my house. Amongst other things.


This requires creative thoughts. Is there anything that you know about already? Potential for promotion at work? Or an internal transfer? A business venture someone told you about? Ideas that you’ve picked up from your blogging colleagues? (Not that I’d ever steal ideas, of course). Could you leverage your hobby into paid income - full or part time? Is there anything you can sell? Do you have children who could you could send down the mines?

Ok, maybe not the last one. But think outside the box. Getting the most of out having to generate an income, means that you need to consider more than just a full time job. Perhaps you could go into business for yourself. Or work a couple of part-time gigs.


Now is the time to wallow in despair and despondency and think of all the bad things that might go wrong.

What are the risks to your current job? Is your industry in decline? Is your whole neighbourhood looking a bit shaky? Do some of your skills need upgrading? Do any of you opportunities have obvious downsides? Does your small business have too many competitors? Are you in a crowded niche?

Be as honest as possible in this section, there’s no point in doing this if you’re going to hide your head in the sand over something. If wishes were horses,…

the magic

The final bit is the magic. If you look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats all together, you’ll usually be able to match some things up, see how you can mitigate against the threats and generally find some reasonable actions to pursue. This might include a radical career change, but is far more likely to involve some kind of incremental improvement.

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4 comments for “SWOT analysis”

  1. This sounds like a tremendously helpful framework. I’ll have to carve out a bit of time to give this a try this weekend.

    Posted by E.C. | March 6, 2009, 6:16 am
  2. The problem with SWOT is potentially more serious than just wasting time. Because it mixes idea generation with evaluation, it is likely to reduce the range of strategies that are considered unless managed effectively. In addition, people who use SWOT might conclude that they have done an adequate job of planning and ignore such sensible things as defining the firm’s objectives or calculating ROI for alternate strategies.Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by meeting room | March 6, 2009, 8:02 pm
  3. We do SWOT Analysis on a yearly basis. I think this kind of process makes us a better group. They actually conduct team building activites after having this session, and the great prize that we get from SWOT Analysis is our bonus!:) From here, they can see how hard working we are.

    I liked the article. Thank you. Now I am thinking of trying the process to myself for a change.

    Posted by San Diego Team Building | May 14, 2009, 9:26 am

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