By Don Goodman
Once a year, smart corporations will go through a strategic planning session where 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.
A powerful tool used in strategic planning is S-W-O-T analysis:
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’ve gathered and, most importantly, enable you to develop an actionable career plan.
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.
The first part of the process is to make a list of all your strengths. In particular, consider what skills, knowledge, and abilities you have that makes you indispensable to your employer.
Also, consider the demand for these skills in the marketplace.
I knew a woman who, for the past 10 years, had supported her company’s proprietary product tracking application. Although she was great at her job and her internal customers loved her for her expertise and responsiveness, 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 (she took courses in project management and moved on, by the way).
Think about your technical as well as your soft skills. Do you know web analytics, and how to optimize web sites? Understand Sarbanes-Oxley reporting requirements? Are you a Six Sigma Black Belt?
Additionally, are you great at motivating teams? Are you the one that the executives call upon to use your diplomacy skills to facilitate tricky work sessions and drive consensus among various stakeholders? 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. How is your relationship with your boss? How about the people who influence your boss? Have you drawn 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 didn’t succeed because they were not aligned with the right people.
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. 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.
Now to the fun part, which can also be rather eye-opening. Consider the possibilities that surround you. Let your mind wander. Is your boss or another manager nearing retirement or getting ready to move on? Are there new projects or initiatives being considered? Focus on areas of the business where you can contribute and gain a better position, perhaps in a different department or location.
Look both within, and outside, your company. Have you acquired skills or knowledge that is scarce and in high demand? Many people discover real opportunities that are available which they had never considered before.
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 such things as a shift in management, budget cuts, downsizing, outsourcing, mergers, acquisitions, your health, and even someone getting promoted to a position you wanted.
Now that you have this list, make a plan. I like to start with the opportunities because many times people have uncovered positions that they would really like and hadn’t considered before. So, identify where you would like to be, then review the strengths and relationships you can leverage to get there, and the weaknesses you have to consider - or overcome - that could hold you back.
Prioritize your biggest threats, and make a plan to neutralize them. If you have never done this, try it! It is a proven method to build actionable plans that will lead you to success.
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.