Take Your Personal SWOT Analysis: Know Yourself to Sell Yourself

Human Resources Expert, Kim Giangrande SPHR, GPHR, of Intuitive HR, created the following SWOT Analysis just for RESET members. Take some time to carefully work through the following — it is a critical component of your Reset Toolkit!

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When things get bad in the movies they always call in the SWAT team.  It stands for Special Weapons and Tactics.  Well, to be unemployed in this market requires special weapons and tactics too.  In this case our weapons are the things we bring to the table that employers will want.  Our tactics are the things we will do to stand apart in this sea of candidates to ensure we end up on top.  In business many companies use a SWOT analysis.   In this case it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  This type of simple analysis structure give you the guidance to look at both internal and external factors that will create or jeopardize our success.

Well, it is time to take your search seriously and create your own Personal SWOT analysis.  Before you contemplate investing the time in doing this analysis first be sure you are ready to be honest with yourself, truly honest.  When we first lose a job we spin many stories of why that is.  It is very easy to identify what was wrong with the company, the job, the boss and the co-workers.  Now, its time to look inside and identify and accept what your own contributions are.  No one is perfect, we all have things we are great or pretty terrible at.  This tool is for you, so be honest.  What is the worst that can happen?  You make positive changes that lead to a new opportunity?

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Lets start with the easy part, our strengths.  It is best to break this into two categories.  First is Job Factors.  These are the things that you do in your role; your skills and abilities.  The second category is Competencies.  These are qualities or characteristics that are important for the role; your behaviors and style.

When you look at Job Factors create a list of questions that make sense for your role.  Start with some basic things and break them down a bit.

  • What are you great at?  When you reflect on your career and all of the work you have done.  What are the things you know you are really good at.  Why are you great at this?  Do you think you are better than your competition?  Why? Are there other things outside of this particular role, certain skills you have mastered that could help you with a new role?
  • What do others say you are great at?  Even trivial things that you don’t think will matter should be noted here.  Perhaps others note how organized you are or how well you write.  While these might be skills you don’t consider your strengths, if others noticed them they just may be strengths.
  • List your experience.  This tool is for you so list everything.  I often meet students that leave out things they have done on summer internships only to discover that they have experience with supervising, managing finances or developed ideas for that employer that helped improve the organization. Others leave out volunteer work because it was unpaid.  That is downright silly.  I work with some intense not for profit organizations that could give any major corporation a run for its money; put it on the list.  Everything you have done is part of your story.  The key is learning how to market that story to make things truly relevant.
  • Credentials: List education, training classes, courses, certifications, awards, achievements, memberships…you get the point
  • Now do the same for your Competencies.  Why do people like working with you?  What makes you good at what you do? Are you a good listener, strong leader, dependable.  Think about what makes you, you.  What makes you unique?

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Now for the fun stuff.  This is the time for some genuine soul searching.  Remember, this analysis is for you.  It is important pre-work for your job search.  This first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. This is true of our weaknesses too.  Even if you think it is a habit you can’t change, list it.  For example, I am a talker.  I know it.  I often remember after the fact that I need to shut up!  It is important for me to list this, and know this if I am job searching because I need to balance this with being a listener.  Reminding myself of this before and during important meetings is crucial to my success.

Not knowing your weaknesses, is a weakness.  Not admitting your weaknesses is a weakness.  Identifying and acknowledging your weaknesses is a step toward self awareness.  People who are self-aware are much more enjoyable to be with.  They likely have a much better chance of achieving success too.  If you want to be able to sell your story, you need the whole story.

Again, you will start with Job Factors and then move on to Competencies.

  • What do you struggle with? Are their tasks that you don’t perform well or areas you received criticism about?  What do your past reviews say?
  • Do you lack experience, credentials or skills?  What are they?  Why is this a weakness?
  • Why do people get frustrated with you?  What are the things you get in trouble for?
  • What do you struggle with?  When do you struggle? Why do you struggle?
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The world is your Oyster. What you want is in your reach if you are willing to do the work to get there.  There are many opportunities to consider during your search. Each of these could offer you stepping stones to the next thing.  Every step along the way is a step closer to happiness; so keep stepping.

  • Networking: What are your networking opportunities.  Where can you meet people that can help you advance in your career?  Do you know how to network effectively?  There is an art to doing this well.  Learn it.
  • Take Classes: I have met professionals that don’t seek credentials or certifications unless their employer will pay for it.  Take your future in your own hands and figure out how to get the credentials you need.  The Department of Labor offers money to qualified people who are looking for work.  There are many other outplacement services that provide classes.  Research and find them.
  • Volunteer: I have heard many unemployed people say they won’t volunteer because they need to get paid.  Well, employers like to hire people who are working.  While that might not seem fair, it is what it is.  Volunteer work is work.  It is experience, it creates references and it feels good.
  • Consulting:  Is this an option for you?  Do you have former bosses or colleagues that need project support?  Can you take on a few projects while you search?
  • Job Postings:  Find the job posting sites that are right for your career path.  Be creative.  Only apply for jobs you are genuinely qualified for.
  • Social Networking:  Let Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn be tools in your search.  Be sure to have well updated profiles and look for opportunities regularly because new things are added everyday.
  • Market Trends: Are there new things happening in the world that might be well suited for you?  Many people leave their jobs and start entirely new paths based on new trends.  Examples are selling energy or green initiatives.  My husband left his corporate job and decided he preferred landscaping and plowing and the life that offers him.  He makes a bit less money but he is so much happier.  We all are.

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Threats are the things that are getting in your way of achieving your goals.

Threats and fears can sometimes be synonymous.  In this section, capture both.  What are your perceived threats and what are you afraid of.  Before I began consulting, I was paralyzed by the fear of doing it for about 2 years.  Initially, it caused me to take another full time job.  My threat was my fear.  Once I finally got over my fears I found my path to a much happier and lucrative life.

  • Competition:  What are you up against?  What do the people competing with you have that you don’t?
  • Resume: Is it ready?  Will it work for you?  Does it stand out and truly define who you are and what you have done? Does it highlight your achievements and show your strengths? Does it align with the job? Do you have variations for different roles?
  • Job Market:  What is the market in your area like?  Are there other locations that would be better for you based on your expertise?
  • Money:  Do you have resources to support you during your search.  Can you generate some income during this time to alleviate the pressure?  Needing money is a threat in your search for several reasons.  First, this fear may subconsciously impact your interview skills and decisions.  Trying to find part-time, per-diem or contract work to supplement may help.  Take what you can get until you find what you want.  However, if you don’t have to, don’t settle. Another reason this can be a challenge is you may need to incur some expenses to be effective in your interviews.
  • Interview Skills:  Are you prepared?  Do you know how to shine in this session?  If not, can you seek help?
  • Image:  In the job market you need to be at your best and that includes looking your best.  Is your image helping or hurting?  Take time to take care of yourself.
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