By Eric Dean JD MBA MA MA LPC CADC

To create plans for how we are going to achieve our goals, we need to know our starting point. SWOT Analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, is a tool used by organizations and people to evaluate their current positions.

SWOT analysis can help elucidate information that would otherwise be hard to uncover and provide a baseline assessment for evaluating progress. Here are a small sample of questions to think about when filling out each category:

Strengths

What are you good at?

What do those who know you personally think you are good at?

What do your co-workers think you are good at?

What helpful resources do you possess or have access to?

Weaknesses

What do you think are some areas you could improve upon?

What do other people who know you personally see as your challenges?

What do your co-workers see as your weaknesses?

What have you struggled with in the past?

In what do you lack confidence?

Opportunities

What are some resources that could be beneficial to you?

What else could you be doing right now to improve your career?

What might you be able to do in the future to improve your career?

Threats 

What are some risks to achieving your goals?

What are some internal barriers to reaching your goals?

What are some external barriers to reaching your goals?

Here is an example of what a SWOT analysis could look like for John in evaluating his career:

Strengths
  1. I communicate in a kind and respectful way, which allows me to build strong relationships with others
  2. My peers have commented on my ability to express myself clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing
  3. By nature, I am intellectually curious and enjoy learning which has allowed me to expand and update my skillset
Weaknesses
  1. I can act impulsively without thinking through my actions and consequences
  2. I can take on too much responsibility which lowers the quality of my work product 
  3. In the past I have struggled to maintain a work-life balance, causing anxiety and stress
Opportunities
  1. I am doing a presentation at a conference next month in front of 100 people, which will allow me to make a name for myself and network
  2. I have been and remain open to constructive feedback from others on how I can improve at work and in other situations 
  3. My company offers paternity leave which will allow me to spend time with my family and have meaningful experiences
  4. My company offers free online classes on a wide range of topics
Threats
  1. Taking on too many projects could lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout, which will negatively impact my work and other areas of life
  2. There is a high level of economic uncertainty which puts me at risk for being laid off, furloughed, or demoted.
  3. Some of my job duties are being automated, which decreases my job security

After you have completed the 2 X 2 matrix, look at the relationships between the categories. For example, John is intellectually curious and enjoys learning (Strength #3) which could be used in conjunction with the opportunity to take free online classes through his company (Opportunity #4), in order to mitigate the effects of automation on his job security (Threat #3). When everything is in writing it is easier to see our gaps and how we can leverage our strengths to take advantage of opportunities and manage threats. Also, keep in mind that an item could be both an opportunity and a threat. For example, doing the presentation next month in front of 100 people (Opportunity #1) could also be perceived as a threat by John if he does not think it will go well. 

Doing the SWOT analysis enables you to create an optimal strategy for creating and achieving your goals. Since our lives are constantly changing, it is best to do a SWOT at regular intervals. If we know what we are working with, then we can focus more on what we are working for.  

If you would like to talk to a licensed therapist, reach out to Symmetry Counseling. We offer a wide range of mental health services and can meet with you in-person or through online counseling in Chicago and beyond.