The Personal SWOT Analysis

Many people are familiar with the classic SWOT analysis, the 2×2 matrix with its four elements of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Interestingly enough, know one really knows the origins of this essential tool. Although often credited to Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey who used it back in the 1960s and 1970s, he does not claim to have created it and does not know its origins. Others credit it to Harvard Business School professors George Albert Smith Jr and C Roland Christiensen who were using it in the early 1950s, but like Humphrey they also do not know where it came from. Whatever its origins, this tool that is commonly used to analyze a product, place, or industry, can also be used as a career development tool when applied to an individual.


Conducting a personal SWOT analysis is all about becoming more self-aware of both the strengths you want to leverage to their fullest as well as the weaknesses that might otherwise get in the way. It can then go on to help identify opportunities that you might otherwise have missed, as well as threats that could derail you.

Below are the kinds of questions you want to consider for each quadrant of the matrix:


  • What are your positive traits?
  • What sorts of things are you better at than others?
  • What do you think sets you apart from other job candidates?
  • What do other people identify as your strengths?
  • What kinds of personal resources can you access?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • What values or ethics do you hold that tend to be lacking in others?
  • What kind of connections do you have in various networks?


  • What do you see in yourself in the way of negative traits or work habits?
  • What have others identified as negatives for you?
  • Which tasks do you tend to avoid and for what reasons?
  • In what areas do you wish your education and skills were better?
  • Can you identify any personality traits that you think are holding you back?
  • What resource limitations constrain you, if any?


  • How do you view the state of the economy?
  • Are there new technologies you could learn that would be helpful to you?
  • How do you view the state of your industry?
  • How robust is your network of contacts?
  • What are the most important trends shaping your industry?
  • What do you see competitors not doing that you could do?
  • What are the needs in your company or industry that are unfilled?
  • What do your customers and vendors say they need that they aren’t getting?


  • What sorts of things at work qualify as obstacles to your development?
  • Are there colleagues who seem to compete with you for projects or roles?
  • What seems to be the overall direction and health of your industry?
  • Which of your weaknesses have the potential to hold you back from advancing?
  • How is your job changing, if at all?
  • What technologies are on the horizon that could affect your job?
  • Are newer professional standards coming into play that you don’t meet?
  • What’s the level of competition for the kind of work to which your most suited?
  • Are there personal obligations that could affect your career development?

By giving those sorts of questions thoughtful, reflective answers, you’ll get a very clear picture of what you need to do in order to proactively move your career forward, whether that means growing within your current company or possibly making a career switch. Either way, an individual SWOT analysis is a very personal take on a classic tool that deserves your attention.

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March 4, 2015   Updated :June 10, 2015   career, career development, SWOT, SWOT analysis   

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