What is a personal SWOT Analysis? First things first — ‘SWOT’ is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The SWOT Analysis began its life in the ’70s as a planning tool for analyzing a professional project or business venture. Unchanged in its format, it’s still used today to help businesses focus their thoughts, analyze their progress, and strategically shape their decision-making.
But it’s more than just a business tool: a SWOT Analysis is a useful development exercise that can help you identify and evaluate your own personal goals. Here’s how to do a SWOT Analysis on yourself and put the results into action.
How to use a personal SWOT Analysis
Thinking of a career change? Preparing for a job interview? Listing everything down in a SWOT diagram will clarify your thoughts and help shape your application or resume. It will also help you identify the unique strengths that distinguish you from your competitors.
Plus, a SWOT Analysis has the added bonus of being really easy to do without the need for prior training. It’s simply four squares — two up, two down, labeled clearly. Take a look at the 2×2 diagram below. You can whip it up by hand, or if you want a more organized, professional look, use a diagramming tool (we offer multiple templates for it in Cacoo).
A word of warning…
Be aware that personal biases will shape your answers when creating a SWOT diagram. Even if you’re asking a colleague about your strengths and weaknesses, they may have their own biases both for and against you. There’s also no obligation to verify any statements or claims, meaning you could theoretically claim anything.
Backing up statements with examples or involving one or two external opinions is a great way to help minimize this issue and create a rock-solid analysis.
How to start
Are you one of those people who hates talking about themselves? If not, lucky you — you should find this a total breeze. But if you are, don’t fret; you’re not alone. There’s nothing scarier than a blank page, especially when you have the daunting task of talking about yourself.
Properly knowing your strengths and weaknesses is no easy task, so don’t think you have to do this yourself. Find a colleague you trust, book a quiet room, and ask their opinion. Better still, if there are a couple of people you trust, get a second person’s opinion for a truly complete picture.
Keep in mind: not everyone has the gift of gab. Some people express themselves better through writing, so it’s a good idea to offer people the option to write down their thoughts via email or over a messaging app. This gives your colleagues the opportunity to express themselves in a format they’re most comfortable with, which in turn gives you the added bonus of having more thoughtful, complete answers. Win!
Defining your SWOT challenges
Let’s begin your personal SWOT Analysis. First, separate your diagram into four sections. Then, using all the information you’ve gathered, start writing out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
This is where you get to really show off. Remember to make it as personal as possible. What skillset can you bring to the company or role?
Even better, what makes you unique? For example, if you’re a designer, having a degree in art and design probably won’t set you apart, but having an award is pretty special.
- Think of everything you excel at, including specialist skills and knowledge that benefit the organization.
- List your professional skills and qualifications, including certifications.
- Recall your key achievements, such as successful projects and campaigns.
- What other personal skills do you have? For instance, are you calm under pressure? Are you a great leader? A patient listener? If you have examples to back up these claims, then all the better. And remember, these examples don’t necessarily need to be actions performed in the workplace. If you did something awesome like rescue a kitten from a tree, then don’t keep it to yourself!
- Do you have great industry contacts or leads? Write that down, too.
At first glance, this is the least fun part. After all, no one really likes to think about what they’re not good at, right? But it doesn’t have to be a self-esteem-crushing exercise. Listing your weaknesses actually has the potential to be the most beneficial section of a personal SWOT Analysis, not to mention the most motivating.
The trick is to be as completely honest as possible. This doesn’t mean being unnecessarily hard on yourself; it just means being truthful. The goal here is self-improvement. For every weakness, think about a way in which you could overcome it.
- List all your professional bad habits. For example, do you struggle with group participation? Do you need to brush up on your public speaking? Or, could your organization skills do with a little TLC? Remember, no one is good at everything, so don’t feel bad about listing three, four, five, or ten areas for improvement. It just shows you have a good degree of self-awareness. Own it!
- Think about your professional qualifications and where you want to go. Are there any skills you don’t have that, if gained, would really strengthen your career?
Now, it’s time to think about external influences. Your list of opportunities could be personal or within the wider industry.
- Look at how the industry is developing. Are there influential people you think are worth keeping an eye on? Or, perhaps, there’s a new technology or service you feel could benefit you or the business.
- Are there opportunities within the business that aren’t currently being exploited? For example, a more efficient way of running a project?
- Perhaps there’s a new job vacancy you think you’d be perfect for.
- Are there any training courses that would make you stronger at your job? Refer back to your weaknesses section to inform your answers here.
For this final part of the SWOT Analysis, you’ll need to identify any external obstacles standing between you and your vision of success.
- Are any of your peers holding you back? Is there someone on the team who is making your job harder? How could you approach this problem constructively?
- Compare yourself to your peers. Are you being overshadowed by a more vocal or ambitious colleague? What can you do about it?
- Are new processes or technologies pushing the industry forward, and your lack of training means you’re trailing behind? Think about how you can fix this.
Personal SWOT analysis examples
When you go to the SWOT template in Cacoo, it’ll look like this:
Fill it with as many personal points as you can think of to really create the full picture and get the most out of the exercise. When you’re done, your personal SWOT analysis might look a bit like this:
Turn your personal SWOT Analysis into actionable goals
Once you finish the grid, it’s time to use the results to create a realistic plan. By comparing the squares vertically and horizontally, you can draw meaningful conclusions to shape your self-improvement strategy.
1. Look for opportunities that align with your strengths.
Evaluate potential opportunities through the lens of your personal strengths. If you have the chance to pursue a goal that’s well-suited to your abilities, this opportunity should be at the top of your list of priorities.
Write down a list of steps you must take to reach that goal. Do you need help or approval from someone else to make it happen? What resources do you need to achieve your goal? If there are external influences involved in your decision, compile research to help make your case and explain why you’re the right person for the task.
2. Consider the threats to your opportunities.
No matter how much you’re committed to making a change, not all decisions are under your control. Weigh the threats you listed, and consider how they could hinder you from pursuing an opportunity. Opportunities with few or no threats are the best ones to pursue first. In the meantime, think about how you can minimize threats to other opportunities, so you can still take advantage of them in the future.
3. Use your strengths to overcome weaknesses.
Not all weaknesses are fixable, but in many cases, you can downplay them. At this point, you should be narrowing your opportunities into a more actionable list. Looking at your weaknesses, do you see anything that could directly interfere with your ability to pursue an opportunity? If not, you’re in great shape!
But if your weakness will have an impact on your opportunities list, look for ways you can use your strengths to overcome them. For example, can you use your specialized skills to move into a role where you don’t have to spend as much time doing tasks you aren’t good at?
4. Identify where weaknesses and threats overlap
While weaknesses are internal, threats are external elements that could pose a risk to your success. When they overlap, these factors have the potential to create big obstacles. The more you learn to manage them, the better you’ll be at keeping your goals on track.
Make it a priority to work on weaknesses that make you more vulnerable to external threats. Even if you can only make progress a little at a time, any self-improvement makes you better equipped to recover from setbacks. Brainstorm possible problems that could arise from combined weaknesses and threats, and outline actions you can take to address each situation. That way, you’ll feel more prepared if things go wrong.
A personal SWOT Analysis is a great way to organize, prioritize, and plan your personal development. It’s not without its limitations, and its simplistic format means further in-depth analysis may be required. But as a quick and easy, no-training-required development tool, it’s extremely helpful and definitely worth your time.
Simplify the process with an easy-to-use diagramming tool, and you’ll be achieving your greatest goals in no time.
This post was originally published on November 13, 2018, and updated most recently on February 14, 2022.