A SWOT analysis is a strategic business tool that can be applied equally powerfully to individuals. You can use it to help your review of where you are now and where you could be. It consists of a simple framework to organise key information on a single page.
Divide a blank page into four quarters. In each quarter, consider one of the following:
- your strengths - your unique selling points
- your weaknesses - potential areas for personal development
- opportunities for career development in the external environment that you could take advantage of
- threats to your career development in the external environment - outside your control, to take into account when planning.
Your strengths set you apart from your peers and are the features you can build on when planning your development or marketing yourself to new employers. Balance your self-perceptions with feedback from others, such as your supervisor, line manager, friends or relatives.
- your experience
- your skills (see the skills audit or look at the Research career builder )
- your qualifications
- your specialist knowledge
- personal characteristics (eg enthusiasm, dedication)
- your network.
Your weaknesses are negative features within your control. Again, balance your self-perceptions with feedback from others. Your appraisal or career review may raise issues you could include here. Your development plan can be aimed at making improvements in these areas if they would enable you to reach your career goals. Insight into your weaknesses can also help rule out areas of work for which you may not be suited.
- skills (look at technical, research, general transferable and career management skills).
- gaps in experience
- gaps in knowledge
- personal characteristics (eg low energy, poor motivation).
Opportunities for your career development are positive economic, social, scientific and technological trends impacting on the labour market that provide opportunities for you to exploit. These include:
- advances or growth in your discipline that provide opportunities to use your specialist research skills
- opportunities for research funding
- opportunities for training and development so that you remain employable
- opportunities for advancement or promotion
- opportunities to collaborate with others in the same or different disciplines
- opportunities to transfer your research skills to another area
- opportunities to use your transferable skills in a new employment domain
- opportunities for self-employment.
Look at more information about exploring opportunities.
Threats to your career development are negative external conditions that may inhibit the availability of opportunities. While these are beyond your control, awareness of them allows you to plan so that you reduce the effect or overcome by, for example, developing yourself in preparation for a work area that is thriving. Examples include:
- obsolescence of your specialism as new developments in technology or changes in commercial interest occur
- competitors - better qualified, more experienced, more skilled, better able to market themselves
- economic tightening leading to fewer jobs or development resources
- obstacles, eg lack of flexible working opportunities, discrimination, lack of childcare
- globalisation leading to geographical redistribution of work away from your current base.
A SWOT analysis can help you decide where to focus your career development effort. It will also help you determine what information you need before making decisions and give you pointers to areas that you can address in your career development planning.
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