Most of you would have learned about the SWOT analysis tool, widely used in businesses to examine strengths and weaknesses of internal environments, and opportunities and threats in external environments.
Randall S Hansen and Katharine Hansen applied this handy tool to the job search process in an article, “Using SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning”. As it turns out, it works just as well for job seekers as it does for companies seeking direction for their business!
Give it a try! Begin by answering the questions in Table 1. Your analysis should provide you with insights into some of the factors and aspects of your career planning that you can capitalise on, improve or analyse further in Table 2.
- What are your advantages?
- What do you do well?
- Why did you decide to enter this particular field?
- What were the motivating factors and influences?
- What have been your most notable achievements?
- What are your success attributes?
- How do you measure your success?
- What knowledge or expertise will you bring to the company you join that may not have been available to the organisation before?
- What could be improved?
- What do you do badly?
- What should you avoid?
- What are your professional weaknesses?
- How do they affect your job performance? (These might include weakness in technical skill areas, leadership or interpersonal skills.)
- Think about your most unpleasant experiences in school or in any past jobs and consider whether some aspect of your personal or professional life could be a root cause.
Opportunities in Your Career Field
- Where are the promising prospects facing you?
- What is the “state of the art” in your particular area of expertise?
- Are you doing everything you can to enhance your exposure to this area?
- What formal training and education can you add to your credentials that might position you appropriately for more opportunities
- Would a postgraduate or another graduate degree add to your advantage?
- How quickly are you likely to advance in your chosen career?
- Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
- changes in technology and markets on both a broad and industry-specific scale
- changes in government policy related to your field
- changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.
Threats in Your Career Field
- What obstacles do you face?
- Are the requirements for your desired job field changing?
- Does changing technology threaten your prospective position?
- What is the current trend line for your personal area of expertise?
- Could your area of interest be fading in comparison with more emergent fields?
- Is your chosen field subject to internal politics that will lead to conflict?
- Is there any way to change the politics or to perhaps defuse your involvement in potential disputes?
- How might the economy negatively affect your future company and your work group?
- Will your future company provide enough access to new challenges to keep you sharp- and marketable- in the event of sudden unemployment?
Some factors that you may capitalise on to your advantage:
- Work experience
- Education and extracurricular activities
- Strong technical knowledge within your field
- Specific soft skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, leadership skills)
- Personal characteristic (e.g. strong work ethic, self-discipline, ability to work under pressure, creativity, optimism, a high level of energy)
- Good contacts/successful networking
- Interaction with professional organisation.
Some factors that you should improve upon:
- Lack of work experience
- Low GPA, wrong major
- Lack of goals, self-knowledge or specific job knowledge
- Weak technical knowledge
- Weak skills (e.g. leadership, interpersonal, communication, teamwork)
- Weak job-hunting skills
- Negative personal characteristics (e.g. poor work ethic, lack of discipline, lack of motivation, indecisiveness, shyness, too emotional)
Some external factors that you can utilise to your advantage:
- Positive trends in your field that will create more jobs ( e.g. growth, globalisation, technological advances)
- Opportunities you could have in the field by enhancing your education (further studies)
- Opportunities you could have through greater self-knowledge, more specific job goals
- Opportunities for advancement in your field
- Opportunities for professional development in your field
- Career path you’ve chosen provides unique opportunities
- Strong network
Some negative external conditions, the impact of which you may want to control:
- Negative trends in your field that diminish jobs (downsizing, obsolescence)
- Competition from your college graduates
- Competitors with superior skills experience, knowledge
- Competitors with better job-hunting skills
- Competitors who went to school with better reputations
- Obstacles in your way (e.g. lack of advanced education/training you need to take advantage of opportunities)
- Limited advancement in your field, advancement is cut-throat and competitive
- Limited professional development in your field. So it’s hard to stay marketable
- Companies are not hiring people with your major/degree
Note: The SWOT analysis table is adapted from the article, ‘Using SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning’.
DEVELOPING A STRATEGY
Do you now have a better idea about the career path that best suits you? The next step is to leverage the information you have gained through the analysis to develop a winning career strategy.
Determine your career objective
- What is your ideal job?
- What are some other positions you could accept?
- What is your five- and 10- year career goal?
Develop marketing strategies
- What are the companies and organisations you’re going to target to obtain your objectives your ideal job?
- How will you communicate with these firms?
Develop an action programme
- According to marketing principles, marketing strategies should be turned into specific action programmes that answer a number of questions including: What will be done? Who is responsible for doing it?
- At the end of the day, you should have learned the most basic things about yourself, namely, your strengths and weaknesses. Such understanding of your “internal” self will definitely benefit you, whether in your daily life, personal goals or career plans.
by Randall S Hansen and Katharine Hansen