By Don Goodman
Once a year, smart corporations will go through a strategic planning session to set the direction for the future.
The executives review their mission, vision, and results, and tweak their priorities and execution plans accordingly.
I am a firm believer that you should also perform this analysis on your career at least once a year.
And, now, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing many of us to reconsider our work and perhaps re-focus our careers, strategic planning makes sense for us.
A powerful tool used in strategic planning is S-W-O-T analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
SWOT analysis is usually applied to business opportunities or military situations. Applying SWOT analysis to your current job and your career will provide benefits from the insights you have gathered and, most importantly, enable you to develop an actionable career plan.
First, analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Then, analyze your external environment -- the opportunities and threats in your world.
You may want to solicit the input of friends and family in this process. Learning what others see and think about us can be very helpful. Create one large list with 4 big blocks or 4 separate lists or a wall section covered with sticky notes divided into 4 groups -- whatever works best for you.
The first part of the process is to analyze your strengths. This is NOT the time to be modest!
When you create your list of strengths, keep these things in mind:
Start by making a list of your strengths, particularly the ones you enjoy, and the ones your employer seems to value most highly:
These are excellent indications of your strengths.
Take a look at the economy as a whole. Some parts of the economy are usually growing while others are declining. Do you see anything interesting in the parts of the economy that are growing?
Search Indeed, Google for Jobs, or LinkedIn to see how popular your skills are -- how often they are mentioned in job descriptions for jobs open now.
I knew a woman who, for 10 years, had supported her company’s proprietary product-tracking application.
She was great at her job, and her internal customers loved her for her expertise and responsiveness, But, no other company had such a customized application, and moving into a similar role in another firm would be difficult.
So, she had to decide whether she wanted to take the risk of counting strictly on this company for her career, or bolster her marketable skills in others to secure her future.
After some thought and analysis, she took courses in project management, became a Certified Project Management Professional, and moved on very successfully to a career in project management.
"Hard skills" are typically those technical skills which you gain through training, like knowing how to program in a computer language. "Soft skills" are those you gain through experience, like leadership.
Think about both your technical as well as your soft skills.
These are the strengths that help make up your value proposition.
It is vitally important that you also consider company politics in your assessment, so review the strength of your relationships with people who can influence your career.
Draw what I call a "Politics Chart," which is like an organization chart but details the key influencers that can affect your job. Do the same analysis for your peers and staff.
This is extremely important as we all know competent people who did not succeed because they were not aligned with the right people.
This list is more difficult to do. Being totally honest with yourself is essential for this section, without being too self-critical.
Take a hard look at yourself, and list the areas where you can improve. Consider positions you would like to have, and identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you are lacking.
Here again, consider your business relationships, and look for areas where important relationships either don’t exist or need bolstering. Consider:
Often input from your family and friends can provide a valuable outsider’s perspective both of you and your skills and weaknesses and also your environment.
Add these to your list.
Now to the fun part, which can also be rather eye-opening. Consider the possibilities that surround you.
Like the people, mostly women, who were excellent typists in the 1990s saw the need for typing skills disappear as computers and word processing software became much more common and reliable, look at where the demand for your strengths may be increasing.
Let your mind wander:
Focus on areas of the business where you can contribute and gain a better position, perhaps in a different department or location. Or, possibly in a different company or profession?
Have you acquired skills or knowledge that are scarce and in high demand?
Look both within, and outside, your company. Many people discover real opportunities that are available which they had never considered before.
Add these to your list.
Now think about all the things that can go wrong. This is where you can let your internal Gremlin (the little voice in your head that tells you the sky is falling) run wild, and list everything that comes to mind.
Consider negative aspects of your current work or job, such as:
Since we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we have new insight into potential threats.
Add these to your list.
Now that you have your lists, make a plan.
If you have never done this, try it! It is a proven method to build actionable plans that will lead you to success.
Analyzing your options with a focus on your opportunities as well as the threats you face will help you make a rational decision on what career is the best fit for you in the future, or at least for the next step in your career. Take the time to do the SWOT analysis, and you will head in a direction that will help you find the best opportunity for your next job.
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. Don graduated from the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program.