How to Use a SWOT Analysis to Advance Your Tech Career

A career in technology is exciting and rewarding because it is fast-paced, always changing, and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement. Whether you are in development, med tech, IT, engineering, or any other tech field, a future climb in your chosen career path is often directly connected with the actions you take right now.

The challenge, however, may not be in doing what it takes to advance your career, but in deciding which direction to take. For example, if you are considering which direction you want to take in your IT career, you could pursue a promotion in operations, or you could go for something more on the management side. Both are positions you may enjoy. Both have different educational and experiential requirements. You’ve got to pick one in order to start working toward your goals, and that may be the biggest holdup of all.

There are plenty of career coaches and other job assistance services you could pay to help you make a decision, but a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a logical approach to finding your best next move, and learning what you can do to ensure success. Looking for SWOT examples online can help you understand the mechanics of putting one together, and this article will help you with some tips for your first SWOT analysis. In the end, we will examine how to use your results to advance your tech career.

The Original SWOT: A Business Planning Guide

The SWOT analysis is one of the most popular tools businesses use to create long-term plans and evaluate growth strategies. It reveals specific characteristics of the company, its competitors, and the industry landscape, both contributing to and hindering success. The results are then used to create a plan to move forward making the most of strengths and opportunities, while minimizing threats and fortifying weaknesses.

While a SWOT analysis has been a business tool since the 1960s, it is also an excellent resource when making personal decisions and career moves. Far more comprehensive than a list of pros and cons, a SWOT analysis gives you the insight to see the nuances that may contribute to outcomes, and the power to be proactive about solutions.

Creating A Personal SWOT

There are three very important keys to creating a personal SWOT:

  1. Time
  2. Objectivity
  3. Honesty

This is not a quick fix solution, but rather a longer-term planning guide for your career goals. Being such, it will require an investment of time and serious thought. You will need to walk away from your SWOT for a day or two at a time per category to clear your mind before coming back to it with a fresh view. So do your strengths, then give it time before you do your weaknesses, and the same for opportunities and threats. Just remember that it is in your most relaxed states that you sometimes gain the most insight

Objectivity and honesty may be the hardest parts of this exercise because you have to answer questions about yourself. And not just the easy questions like “what do you like on your pizza?”. Questions about your strengths and weaknesses are much more personal and difficult to answer. Do your best to look at things objectively, and ask trusted friends and family for help.

The Questions

The questions you answer in your SWOT analysis will give you insights into the internal and external factors affecting your success, the challenges you may face in achieving your goals, and areas where you need some work. This questionnaire will get you started, and you should add any other questions you think may be pertinent to your particular career options.

Answer each of your questions on post-it notes so you can move things around as needed. Give the people who are providing input post-it notes as well. Write down every answer that comes to mind, and sort every note into its proper category.

Once you have everything where it should be, you can start eliminating points that are not related to your career move. For example, if your friend says one of your strengths is your smile, it may not be particularly helpful in deciding your next job. Though if they said your strength was your friendliness, it may have an impact on your final decisions.

Get all of your points into a SWOT template so everything is nice and organized. Then walk away. Let it rest. Ideally, you will wait for at least a week, but you should at least give it a couple of days.

The Answers

Just taking time to look at things logically and objectively may give you all the answers you need. It is possible you won’t even need to come back to your SWOT once you have finished. Regardless, it is a good idea to revisit the SWOT even if it is just to confirm your hunches.

There are a couple of ways you can evaluate your results. You can take a cross-concept approach, looking at where you may use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities and where your weaknesses make you vulnerable to threats. You can also look at things more head-on and find where you can shine in a job interview, what education or experience you still need in order to get the job you want, where the opportunities are, and what may hold you back.

Ultimately, it is best to look at how each of the quadrants in your SWOT affect each other, to give yourself the most complete view of the prospects ahead in advancing your tech career. This will help you figure out which roles are most suitable to you, and which steps to take in order to achieve your goals as quickly and directly as possible.

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