Comparing your strengths and weaknesses to the job requirements will identify gaps and help you prepare to be the best candidate for the position to which you aspire.

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An effective process many companies use to assess themselves and their competitors and formulate their strategies is an analysis called “S.W.O.T.” But this exercise isn’t just for businesses; it also can be helpful for job seekers and those who are looking to climb the career ladder.

After you’ve defined your career aspirations and goals (see my previous post on how to do this), the next step is to understand more about yourself and your external environment. This is where the S.W.O.T. analysis is helpful. It stands for:

S = Strengths (internal)
W = Weaknesses (internal)
O = Opportunities (external)
T = Threats (external)

This process captures information about your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats. The key to completing your S.W.O.T. analysis is to treat your career as a business and yourself as a competitive product.

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Strengths
To help you understand your strengths, picture yourself as a competitive product in the marketplace. A personal strength is an asset and can be used as a way to differentiate yourself from others when interviewing or trying to obtain your next promotion. Examples: Strong project management skills; ability to improve or re-engineer processes; experience presenting to large audiences; proven successful sales abilities.

Weaknesses
A personal weakness is a liability or an area of opportunity for growth. These are attributes you could improve upon to increase your future job opportunities. Examples: Disorganized; uncomfortable speaking in front of groups; tendency to procrastinate; poor listener.

Opportunities & Threats
When thinking about these, I find it easier to begin with the threats. Try comparing yourself to people you’ll likely compete against for that next job or promotion. Then, as objectively as possible, judge your threats and determine possible ways to overcome them. Here are two examples:

Threat: Other candidates have college degrees, but I don’t. Opportunity: Go to night school and finish my bachelor’s degree.

Threat: Colleague X is much better at presenting in front of groups. Opportunity: Take a speech class or join a program such as Toastmasters, and seek out opportunities to present in front of audiences.

The purpose of the personal S.W.O.T. analysis is to identify actions you can take to best meet the requirements of the job or promotion you are seeking. Comparing your strengths and weaknesses to the job requirements will identify gaps and help you prepare to be the best candidate for the position to which you aspire.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.