How to Complete a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is one of the simplest, yet most effective techniques to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. While this is commonly used for business strategies, completing a SWOT for your personal development can quickly help you determine where you need further training, as well as boost your confidence. There is no point rushing off to book yet another training course if you are unsure how a new course or degree will help your future. Conducting a SWOT will help you get to grips with what you can already do well and areas where you can improve.

So, how do you complete a SWOT analysis on yourself?

STEP ONE: Brainstorm of your dream job

First, think about the bigger picture. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? Do you want to stay working at the university, or do you want to manage a large team of your own? You don’t have to come up with a title or concrete job plan just yet. Instead, take the time to think about what ingredients of the job appeals to you the most. Write your wish list in terms of what will give you the most satisfaction. Your list will act as your anchor as you run through the SWOT analysis.

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STEP TWO: Complete the SWOT analysis grid

To fill in the SWOT analysis grid, start by identifying your strengths. Keep items to a minimum of 5 to 10 and be precise. The intention is to provide an outline of your unique attributes and use the Threats, Opportunities and Weaknesses (TOWs) to provide a guideline to your strategic plan.

STEP THREE: Identifying your Strengths

Your strengths are you biggest assets in improving your position in the world. Then thinking of your unique qualities, use the following questions as a reference. The more out of the box thinking you do, the better your chances to really appear as a standout candidate.

  • What advantages do you have that others don’t?
    Perhaps you live in a metropolitan where there are more job opportunities or you are the first to have graduated from college

  • What do you do better than anyone else?
    Think of skills that do not necessarily fit into international relations. Perhaps you can draw really well, or make music. What other talents do you have that you may have overlooked because it doesn’t fit in an international relations career?

  • What personal resources can you access?
    For example, does your family have connections you can leverage? Perhaps you are good friends with your old tutor or have a friend who can get you invited to events. Maybe you can get in touch with places you volunteers in the past and put together a list of recommendations of your previous work. Try to think outside of the box.

  • What do other people see as your strengths?
    Here is a good opportunity to gain feedback from people you trust. Ask them what job they see you do and why. Such feedback may open you to opportunities you may not have thought of.

  • Which of your achievements are you most proud?
    This doesn’t only have to be awards you were given. Think of people who praised you in the past and for what purpose, projects you have completed or tried to finish. Good examples can even come from your family life. Think of genuine examples that can help build a story about your personal characteristics and aptitude.

  • What values do you believe in that others fail to exhibit?
    How you see the world and your role in it can be a big strength. Perhaps you believe in always being honest and truthful, and find ways to protect people’s character in spite of their dishonesty. How you engage with people can be a major source of strength.

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STEP FOUR: Identifying your Weaknesses

It isn’t in our nature to focus on our faults so identifying a solid list of weaknesses may be tricky. However, by understanding your weaknesses, you can manage and eliminate threats that might otherwise hurt your ability to move forward. You can use the following questions to aid your thinking when reflecting upon your weaknesses.

  • What tasks do you usually avoid or procrastinate?
    When you find yourself procrastinating, very often this is a sign that you do not enjoy that particular task. What do you find difficult to do? This can be as mundane as doing house chores.

  • What will people see as your weaknesses?
    This is another opportunity for you to learn how other people see you. When asking about your strengths, gain a balance by asking about your weaknesses too.

  • How confidence are you in your skills training and education?
    Be objective and assess if you are more book smart or street smart. How do you pick up new skills and retain knowledge?

  • What are your negative work habits?
    Maybe you sigh often when writing a difficult paper or flood your colleague’s inbox with questions that can be answered in person. Whatever your habits, consider whether these are negative to the health of others.

  • What personality traits hold you back in your field?
    Reflect on past experiences that let you feeling uncomfortable. Think of why you left our last job or the people you worked with, and whether any of these situations is a reflection on yourself.

  • What do you want to change about yourself?
    Be objective. Perhaps you want to lose weight or get fitter, or not focus too much on your personal appearance because it is costing you too much money.

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STEP FIVE: Identifying your Opportunities

Reflecting on your strengths, do any of your points open up opportunities? Similarly, can you open up opportunities by eliminating some of your weaknesses? Here are some questions to help aid your thinking.

  • How can you take advantage of your current market?
    This is quite relevant to international relations. For example, by your government is being ridiculed for some of its recent decisions. What can you do about it? How can you help?

  • What network of strategic contacts do you have to help or offer you good advice?
    Talking to others about your strengths and weaknesses can open up new opportunities. Perhaps a friend or colleague can offer advice on your next steps.

  • What trends do you see in global affairs, and can you take advantage of their mistakes?
    Seeing patterns and trends will help you assess where your best fit is on the longer term.

  • Is there a need in the global market that no one is filling?
    Think outside of the box by examining how your skills might be needed in areas you never considered before. Perhaps your existing job may give you an opportunity to shape a project that better aligns to your personal interests.

  • What new skills can you acquire to give you a competitive edge?
    Look at how some of your weaknesses can be turned into new skills. Take this opportunity to develop a rough training plan to increase knowledge.

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STEP SIX: Identifying your Threats

Performing a threats analysis will provide key information in areas you can improve and tap into. Identifying threats can illustrate what you can do about things and help put problems into perspective. At the end of the day, nothing is impossible and there is always a solution. You simply need to learn what to prioritise first.  Fixing negative traits is the first step to eliminating threats. You can use the following questions to help aid your thinking. 

  • What obstacles do you currently face?
    These obstacles can be internal (such as your fears) or external (such as your family). Figure out what is stopping you from achieving your goals and what plans you can put into place to remove these as threats to your success.

  • Who are you in competition with?
    Look at the type of people that dominate your field or the type of newcomers who take up jobs that you are chasing. Do you see any common threads and what can you learn from them?

  • What is being demanded from you by others and do these activities align with your goals?
    In other words, do the activities enforced by other people negatively impinge on your time? Perhaps picking your sibling up from school conflicts with a course you want to attend, or doing chores on a whim stops you from completing personal tasks. How can you better manage your time when demands are coming from other people? This is a great opportunity for you to come up with an effective action plan.

  • What criticism could you be receiving behind your back?
    Receiving feedback from others gives you a great opportunity to turn negative comments around. For example, perhaps your constant procrastination makes others think you’re lazy. How do you intend to change their minds and keep focused on your goals?

  • Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
    Ignoring your weaknesses can hurt your future prospects if left unattended. For instance, your tardiness can make your appear uncommitted to your job and leave a bad impression on your employer. What can you do to mitigate those risks?

  • What obstacles are preventing you from achieving your ultimate goal?
    Looking back at your ‘perfect job’ wish list, consider what is stopping you from achieving them. What can you do now to ensure that you have the opportunity to work closer to home with higher wages? What skills will you need to pick up to bolster your resume?

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STEP SEVEN: Reconfigure SWOT to an Action Plan

Once you have completed your analysis, you can start to build a strategic plan to help you pursue new opportunities. The simplest way to do this is to match your answers from the strengths and weaknesses grid to the opportunities and weaknesses grid. The aim here to develop an outline for your action plan. To keep your plan achievable, I recommend that you pick 1-2 items to focus on and create a more developed plan. You can always come back and work on your other areas at a later stage. Your action plan will start to look like a math equation.

Let’s start by building an action plan on merging one strength and one opportunity from the example list.

EXAMPLE #1

STRENGTHS:
Can pick up languages very quickly
+
OPPORTUNITIES:
Pick up podcasts to drown out noise from home
=

PLAN #1: Download podcasts in Arabic on topics that I can use for work. That way, I can pick up new vocabulary and also drown out any noise at home that may be distracting.

 

EXAMPLE #2

WEAKNESSES:
Get upset too quickly when someone says something negative about me
+
OPPORTUNITIES:
Learn to be diplomatic in my responses with other people to avoid confrontation
=

PLAN #2: I need to understand why I get so upset so quickly. Instead of shouting back in defence, I should try to understand their feelings and see if I can approach them with a more level-head without snapping and responding emotionally


EXAMPLE #3

STRENGTHS:
Raised in a large, dysfunctional family so I’m used to chaos
+
THREATS:
Learn to say no to things I can’t commit to and offer alternative suggestions  (even if it isn’t welcomed)
=

PLAN #3: Family feel entitled to my time and ask me to do things on a whim. I can try to carve out time for my family between 4-6pm where they can give me chores etc, then after this time, excuse myself to finish projects. I have to protect my time more

 

EXAMPLE #4

WEAKNESSES:
I feel very irritated when people don’t listen to me
+
THREATS:
Ask a friend to pick up Maryam twice a week so that I can fit in the new Security Studies course at university
=

PLAN #4: I need to explain why I need extra time to do other things. It will help us all and I can still pick Maryam up part-time. Perhaps I can offer to do one of their chores at any time to make up for it

At the end of the exercise, you should come up with at least eight mini action plan on how to reduce your weaknesses, eliminate future threats, and take advantage of opportunities provided to you by your analysis. Use this as a stepping stone to improving yourself and your future prospect.

You can download this exercise from the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy, or simply turn to page XXXX of the Diplomatic Planner. If you need further assistance in completing your SWOT analysis or action plan, you can always take up one-to-one Diplomatic Career Coaching where we can provide you personalised advice that suits your needs and schedule. Don’t forget, as a Grassroot Diplomat member, you can get 20% off the Diplomatic Planner. Simply type in “MEMBER18” at the Grassroot Diplomat shop checkout.