How to Use SWOT Analysis to Plan Your Career

How to Use SWOT Analysis to Plan Your Career

A career represents an individual’s metaphorical journey through learning, work, and other aspects of life. Planning and making decisions about careers can be cumbersome and complicated; it entails strategic planning, organizing, and making tough choices. It is possible to have an array of options when deciding on a career. How do I ensure that I am taking the right career path? Is this a common question often asked by individuals? How do I organize and evaluate all the information? How do I determine which options are most attractive? Are further questions asked? However, you should not wait till graduation before you begin to plan your career. Rather, it should start from your first day in college or the University; you can even start planning your career path from high school. Find something you are good at, and passionate about, and get down to work.

There are many tools that can help you plan your career. Such tools are designed to assist you with the assessment of a particular subject matter(s), as well as provide techniques essential for overcoming challenges that exist in the work endeavor. You should keep in mind your education, qualifications, skills, experience, expertise, and abilities when you want to plan a career. You should avoid being a square peg in a round hole. A good example of the aforementioned tools is the SWOT analysis. This tool is one of the “go –to-analytical tools” in business, work, and other facets of life; it enables you to draw and make logical conclusions and decisions when trying to plan your career. Thus, this article will focus on the meaning and scope of SWOT analysis, and how it can be adopted and used to plan a career and set professional goals.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT is an acronym that denotes Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is an analytical framework used for appraising interventions, setting professional goals, and determining a career path. Also, you can use SWOT analysis to create an effective performance evaluation or design a product. SWOT analysis enables you to look at all available angles of a decision, objective, or plan. It enables companies and individuals to deal with an ever-changing and competitive market.

SWOT analysis offers clarity to an individual’s approach to a variety and sequence of challenges, as he/she prepares for their professional journey. Relatively, analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats enable you to come to terms with the advantages and disadvantages of a particular career path.  In fact, when used properly and adequately, the SWOT analysis framework enables you to come up with informed decisions, and to develop and plan career strategies that suit your skills and expertise.

A major feature of SWOT analysis is that it takes into consideration, positive and negative factors; it also pays attention to internal and external factors that affect an individual. Internal factors are factors embedded in you, such as what you are good at and what you cannot do for example. In contrast, external factors are those factors beyond your control; they are imposed by an outside force, the environment, or work setting respectively.

The key to creating a standard SWOT analysis is by drawing a box with four squares. The four SWOT components (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) should be placed in each of the squares. Subsequently, make a list of all the variables in each category using the squares. You can include as many items in the squares as you need to form a thorough conclusion. When using SWOT analysis to plan your career, ensure that you remain as honest, sincere, and professional as possible, especially when acknowledging your weaknesses and strengths.

Using SWOT Analysis to Plan your Career

As an individual trying to start a career, knowing the potentials you have is important; knowing your limitations is equally vital. Also, knowing potential hitches and chances for growth is arguably more important. Therefore, follow these steps when creating a SWOT analysis to plan your career;

  • Separate internal factors from external factors
  • Consider your personal and professional strengths and qualifications
  • List your weaknesses and areas you could improve on
  • Identify professional opportunities in your career
  • Understand threats and risks in your career path
  • Make an informed decision

Separate internal factors from external factors: The first step in carrying out a SWOT analysis is to understand the difference between the internal and external factors that influence an individual’s ability or activities; separating one from the other is equally paramount. While internal factors comprise all your strengths and associated weaknesses, external factors are opportunities and threats presented by the environment, other people, and life in general. In summary, internal factors relate to an individual’s qualities and experiences. On the other hand, external factors involve circumstances beyond an individual’s control. For example, you may have experience and qualifications working on HIV/AIDS-related projects, which is an internal factor. However, getting a job in a Governmental or Non-Governmental agency is an external factor because it is not entirely up to you.

Consider your personal and professional strengths and qualifications: Strengths are traits that make a person different and set them apart from others. Strengths encompass your certifications, work experience if any, expertise, skills, and abilities as well as extra training. When using SWOT analysis to plan your career, make sure to include additional strengths you possess such as your ability to work cross-culturally, the ability to adapt to harsh work environments, the ability to relocate, or your professional network connections.

In relation, soft skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making are also strengths to consider when using SWOT to plan a career. If you wish to map out a clear career path, listing your strengths will be an extra benefit.

List your weaknesses and areas you could improve on: A weakness is an area an individual can improve on; identifying your weaknesses when using SWOT to plan your career enables you to create an effective analysis and help you know where to improve. Make a list of things that put you at a disadvantage compared to others; being honest when drafting such a list is important. Examples of weaknesses include fear, needing additional experience for a particular career, needing limited hours while you attend school, and needing additional education, certifications, or technical skills. Other weaknesses can be your inability to relocate, limited professional network, and lack of confidence.

When you review your weaknesses, you have a clear picture and understanding of where to learn more, improve on or adjust respectively.

Identify professional opportunities in your career: Opportunities are external factors that can improve your situation. When creating your list of opportunities, consider resources, market trends, and anything else that could help you. Also, consider professional opportunities where you can apply your skills and experience. Review job listings and company expansion announcements to determine if there are a lot of openings in your area. Look at areas that offer occupational growth that fit your strengths. In addition, opportunities in a particular career path can include openings for improved connections and mentorship. Below is an example of opportunities for an individual that wants to plan his/her career in teaching;

You are passionate about teaching; analysts and researchers predict that there will be an increase in the need and demand for teachers by 30% in the next 5 years. Many schools offer reimbursement if you take courses related to your subject, and there are career advancement options such as becoming a departmental head. These two factors are considered opportunities in the teaching field.

Understand threats and risks in your career path: Where there is an opportunity, there is an equal or underlying threat. There are advantages to understanding potential threats in your career path; it gives you the chance to minimize risks and even turn them into opportunities.  When you want to make a list of threats, consider factors and events that put you at a disadvantage. These factors might include a limited job market, increased competition from highly qualified candidates, technological advancement, and a change in policies. Other threats that may affect your career are organizations favoring contract employees instead of full-time workers.

Make an informed decision: Once you’ve made a list of the four SWOT analysis components, review and compare all the elements. If your strengths and opportunities outnumber or outweigh weaknesses and threats, your chosen career path could be an excellent path to pursue. On the other hand, if you find there are more negative aspects (weaknesses and threats), consider how you can improve the situation by learning additional skills and getting extra certifications for instance, before proceeding with planning your career.


The time and effort spent on SWOT analysis when planning a career are to enable individuals to come to terms with what they are good at, where to put in more effort, and where to spend time adjusting or correcting. Also, knowledge of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a particular career path enables individuals to make informed decisions aimed at getting the best outcome for themselves and their organizations at large. Finally, using SWOT analysis to plan your career enables you to stand out in your workplace; because you have covered both the good and the bad.

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