SWOT: The #1 Secret to ''Serious'' Career Growth

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The recent announcements from General Motors and Ford Motor Company have underscored that good job performance alone does not ensure professional growth or success over the long-term.

These developments, when viewed in conjunction with the continuing trend of corporate outsourcing and offshoring, illustrate that business people are a commodity unto themselves. As such, just as with business owners and executives, those with serious aspirations need to analyze both their macro and micro environments with a "Self-SWOT" analysis to assure their advancement in today's volatile business climate.

For decades, SWOT analysis has been a basic, straightforward model providing strategic direction to organizations worldwide. By assessing a business entity's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, SWOT analysis serves to maximize a business's chance for success.

In the same manner, individuals should perform a Self-SWOT analysis to identify intrinsic qualities (strengths and weaknesses) that may help or hinder them in the workplace, as well as external issues (opportunities and threats) that may work for or against them as they attempt to climb the corporate ladder.

Conducting a Self-SWOT analysis with regularity is, in my opinion, the single most effective "power tool" one can use in optimizing one's career. Once complete, the results will help the professional identify, hone, and leverage beneficial qualities in the workplace, and minimize obstacles that must be overcome to achieve desired results relative to one's career.

A word of caution, though: while the Self-SWOT exercise, itself, is of fundamental importance, it's not enough to simply identify one's inner strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. Rather, the strategic application of that key learning is what will positively affect one's success in the workplace.

With this in mind, here are some basic questions one should ask oneself in a Self-SWOT analysis, and then some tips on how to parlay the results into tangible business success:

  • Core competencies, experience, education?
  • Personal competitive advantages amongst peers?
  • Financial status (risk tolerance)?
  • Networks: personal and professional affiliations through which to make connections, contacts, and garner support?
  • Reputation, philosophy, and values?
  • Gaps in mission critical skills?
  • Gaps in competitive strength?
  • Reputation, presence, and image?
  • Vulnerabilities: cultural, attitudinal, behavioral?
  • Location and geographical?
  • Timely developments and trends (personal, company, industry)?
  • Peer/superior vulnerabilities?
  • Technology development and innovation?
  • Support system(s): peers, family, personal, other?
  • Tactical developments, information, research, and findings?
  • Effect of corporate culture/politics?
  • Personal limitations and obstacles (e.g., geography, etc.)?
  • Sustaining/cultivating skills through ongoing practice/education?
  • Anticipated/possible/likely changes to business landscape?
  • Insurmountable competition (peers, etc.)?
Once Your Self-SWOT Analysis Is Complete:
  • Carpe Diem. Core strengths and opportunities should be immediately capitalized upon and, ideally, should be matched, or paired up, to optimize the potential for success.
  • Turn Weakness into Strength. Rather than simply downplaying weaknesses, one should attempt to actually convert them into strengths.
  • Turn Threat into Opportunity. Similarly, every attempt should be made to convert threats into opportunities.
About the Author

John McKee, founder and president of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, is the author of Career Wisdom - 101 Proven Strategies to Ensure Workplace Success and 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot.  He can be reached at 720-226-9072, john@businesssuccesscoach.net, or through his websites at www.BusinessSuccessCoach.net and www.BusinessWomanWeb.com.
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