In anticipation of my first annual performance review—at my first full-time job—I recently had to fill out my first self-assessment and email it to my boss. As expected, this was a somewhat awkward endeavor. Women are notoriously uncomfortable talking about their strengths and achievements, and I, unfortunately, count myself in that category. Weaknesses and failures were even more challenging. And really, what major failures or successes could I have accumulated in just six months?
Ultimately, though, the self-assessment was such a positive exercise, one that I realized I should regularly be doing on my own. We each need to understand our strengths and weaknesses not just so that we can communicate them to our bosses at review time (yes, critical), but also so that we can consistently put ourselves in situations that play to our strengths, and work to improve on everything else.
For those unaware a SWOT analysis is a tool used by individuals and companies to assess their —strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s a simple tool that is perfect to use when thinking about your personal career goals and development: Where are you right now, and what do you need to do to get where you want to go? Sit down with yourself every three months or so and ask yourself these questions, and be brutally honest with your answers.
While strengths and weaknesses are about you, threats and opportunities are the external component of the SWOT quadrant, meaning they focus on outside influences and factors. With opportunities and threats, Forbes contributor Lisa Quast advises thinking about threats first, and then opportunities as a remedy, and I could not agree more. She gives this example of a threat—”Colleague X is much better at presenting in front of groups”—followed by an opportunity—”Take a speech class or join a program, seek out opportunities to perform in front of audiences.”
Repeat this assessment every few months to make sure you are using your strengths, capitalizing on those opportunities, improving on weaknesses, and keeping threats at bay. While you should be keeping an eye on your peripherals, don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to colleagues or competitors. Rather, focus on rounding out your strengths and playing to them as much as possible. With regular personal SWOT analysis, you will be primed to take on the next big career opportunity that comes your way.