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How To Conduct A SWOT Analysis

By Kelsey Manning Kelsey Manning

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.

Enter, the Young Einsteins personal SWOT analysis tool.

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.

Strengths: What Do You Excel At?

  • What are the types of problems that others seek your advice or help with?
  • What are the three compliments you most often receive? (Actually documenting any praise you receive helps tremendously.)
  • What achievements are you most proud of, and what qualities helped you achieve them?
  • Examples: positivity, team player, efficiency, ability to juggle many projects without becoming frazzled, time management, great education, a broad network, hard skills like coding or copyediting, etc.

Weaknesses: What Could You Improve?

  • What would your closest friend, family, boss; colleagues consider to be your biggest weakness?
  • What tasks do you typically avoid because you don’t feel confident doing them?
  • What personality traits tend to rub others the wrong way, or may be holding you back professionally?
  • Examples: disorganized, poor at dealing with stress or handling criticism, lacking a particular skill, don’t work well with others, etc.

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.”

Threats: What Situations Might Threaten You?

  • Who is my biggest competition for a promotion or specific job, and what do they do well?
  • Do my colleagues have a higher education level, certifications that I need, more experience, or anything else that put them ahead of me?
  • How secure is my current position at the company? Conversely, is my position a dead end?
  • Examples: a changing technological landscape, changing job responsibilities, layoffs in your department, etc.

Opportunities: What Opportunities Exist That You Can Benefit From?

  • How can I improve in the areas that I am lagging behind my colleagues?
  • Are there opportunities within my company for funded classes or further education?
  • Are other companies hiring people with my skill set? Are there other job opportunities I should be looking into?
  • Examples: there is a major industry conference next month that I should attend, next month my company is offering skills classes that could benefit me, I have savings to hire a public speaking coach, etc.

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.


Kelsey Manning

Kelsey Manning

Kelsey is a freelance writer and Notre Dame graduate who is passionate about great books, great fashion, and great careers. She is an Advertising & Promotions Coordinator at HarperCollins, designing book ads and paraphernalia for everything from To Kill A Mockingbird to Bad Feminist. She also works for former Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Kate White and writes regularly for Young Einsteins, Levo League, and The Gloss. Her work has appeared on Refinery29, Fast Company, TIME, Business Insider, Forbes, and more.

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