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6/2/13 - How To Evaluate Your Resume Strengths & Weaknesses (SWOT)


How To Evaluate Your Resume Strengths & Weaknesses (SWOT)

When speaking about a SWOT Analysis, this is a way of doing some serious self-reflecting and figuring out what your internal as well as external strengths and weaknesses are. Think of it as a pro and con list about you!  SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. While we are hesitant to use the word “weakness” as it is very negative, using the word “shortcomings” doesn’t make as catchy an acronym (SWOS) as SWOT!

Here are a few ideas when it comes to constructing your SWOT:
Internal Factors:7 Strengths - Internal positive aspects that are under control and upon which you may capitalize in planning for a new career. These would include:

Work Experience
  *  Education, including value-added features
  *  Strong technical knowledge (e.g. hardware, software, programming languages)
  *  Specific transferable skills (e.g., communication, teamwork, leadership skills)
  *  Personal characteristics (e.g., strong work ethic, self-discipline, ability to work under pressure, creativity, optimism, or a high level of energy)
  *  Good contacts/successful networking
  *  Interaction with professional organizations

Weaknesses - Internal negative aspects that are under your control and that you may plan to improve. These will include:

  *  Lack of Work Experience
  *  Low GPA, wrong major
  *  Lack of goals, lack of self-knowledge, lack of specific job knowledge
  *  Weak technical knowledge
  *  Weak skills (leadership, interpersonal, communication, teamwork)
  *  Weak job-hunting skills
  *  Negative personal characteristics (e.g., poor work ethic, lack of discipline, lack of motivation, indecisiveness, shyness, too emotional)

Opportunities - Positive external conditions that you do not control but of which you can plan to take advantage. Here are some opportunities to list:

  *  Positive trends in your field that will create more jobs (e.g., growth, globalization, technological advances)
  *  Opportunities you could have in the field by enhancing your education

Field is particularly in need of your set of skills
  *  Opportunities you could have through greater self-knowledge, more specific job goals
  *  Opportunities for advancement in your field
  *  Opportunities for professional development in your field
  *  Career path you’ve chosen provides unique opportunities
  *  Geography
  *  Strong network

Threats - Negative external conditions that you do not control but the effect of which you may be able to lessen. These include:
  *  Negative trends in your field that diminish jobs (downsizing, obsolescence)
  *  Competition from your cohort of college graduates
  *  Competitors with superior skills, experience, knowledge
  *  Competitors with better job-hunting skills than you
  *  Competitors who went to schools with better reputations.
  *  Obstacles in your way (e.g., lack of the advanced education/training you need to take advantage of opportunities)
  *  Limited advancement in your field, advancement is cut-throat and competitive
  *  Limited professional development in your field, so it’s hard to stay marketable   *  Companies not hiring people with your major/degree

To further refine the SWOT, here are some other questions to ask about yourself:

What are your advantages?
What do you do well?
Why did you decide to enter the field you will enter upon graduation?
What were the motivating factors and influences?
Do these factors still represent some of your inherent strengths?
What need do you expect to fill within your organization?
What have been your most notable achievements?
To what do you attribute your success?
How do you measure your success?
What knowledge or expertise will you bring to the company you join that may not have been available to the organization before?
What is your greatest asset?

What could be improved?
What do you do badly?
What should you avoid?
What are your professional weaknesses?
How do they affect your job performance? (These might include weakness in technical skill areas or in leadership or interpersonal skills.)
Think about your most unpleasant experiences in school or in past jobs and consider whether some aspect of your personal or professional life could be a root cause.

Where are the promising prospects facing you?
What is the "state of the art" in your particular area of expertise?
Are you doing everything you can to enhance your exposure to this area?
What formal training and education can you add to your credentials that might position you appropriately for more opportunities?
Would an MBA or another graduate degree add to your advantage?
How quickly are you likely to advance in your chosen career?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and industry-specific scale
Changes in government policy related to your field
Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.

What obstacles do you face?
Are the requirements for your desired job field changing?
Does changing technology threaten your prospective position?
What is the current trend line for your personal area of expertise?
Could your area of interest be fading in comparison with more emergent fields?
Is your chosen field subject to internal politics that will lead to conflict?
Is there any way to change the politics or to perhaps defuse your involvement in potential disputes?
How might the economy negatively affect your future company and your work group?
Will your future company provide enough access to new challenges to keep you sharp -- and marketable -- in the event of sudden unemployment?

Explore your own self-perception of your strengths, but also put yourself inside a prospective employer's head as you consider your strong points. Avoid false modesty, but also be brutally honest and realistic with yourself. Start out by simply making a list of words that describe you; chances are many of these characteristics compromise your strengths.

One of your greatest strengths can be that you love the work you do. Learning to "follow your bliss" should be a critical component of managing your career. Some people know from an early age what kind of work will make them happy. For others, nailing down the self-knowledge that leads to career fulfillment comes from a process of exploring interests, skills, personality, learning style, and values.

In assessing your weaknesses, think about what prospective employers might consider to be the areas you could improve upon. Facing your frailties now can give you a huge head start in career planning.  As humans, we find it relatively difficult to identify the areas where we are weak. But this assessment helps to identify areas where we may need to improve. If you identify a skill that you know is in your chosen field, but you are weak in that skill area, you need to take steps to improve that skill. Past performance appraisals and even your grades and teacher comments from school provide valuable feedback.

Doing a SWOT will not only help to guide you toward a specific career that you will enjoy, it will also give you an idea of how to market yourself so that you can get that dream job that you want. From this analysis, you will have a road map that shows you how to capitalize on your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses. You should then use this map to take advantage of opportunities and avoid or lessen threats.  After you've analyzed your strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities, you should use that information to plan how to market yourself.

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