Updated: Apr 15
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been curating my articles to be in line with what I believe are the most important considerations for someone that wants to succeed in their professional - and personal - lives, in an uncertain and ever changing marketplace. Whether it’s courage and fear while making tough decisions, sharpening your figurative blade to make yourself as competent as you can with any idle time you might have, looking at how to find new customers during a time of crisis, what to do when your revenue is drying up, the best leadership skills to navigate a crisis or how to maintain customer relationships during tough times, there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of inspiration during these unprecedented times. You might, however, notice that the majority of that content - with a few notable exceptions - is directed at organisations, or managers and executives within organisations that have a lot of influence to change policies and operations rather quickly.
This article is a little different, because what we’re talking about is how you, the individual, can leverage a tool normally utilised with organisations as a whole for your own personal and professional development. I’ve said it time and time again over the past few weeks, but now is an almost unprecedented opportunity to work on these skills with any idle time that otherwise might be used on something unproductive. If, in the worst case, you’ve lost your employment altogether, these are perhaps more significant than ever before, because you need to do everything in your power to improve yourself, out-compete your competitors and become the most employable applicant on those future applications through some determined, hard work on self improvement.
Now, moving forward. A SWOT analysis is a common technique used by organisations to outline their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They’re not mutually exclusive, and as you run through the process, you’ll see how your strengths can play to your weaknesses, how your threats could be potentially transformed into opportunities, or at the very least, your weaknesses and threats will give you an issues list that you should be working on right away. Whichever formula you want to use to analyse the data, it’s a learning exercise that is particularly relevant in today’s day and age.
Up first, map out your strong-points- where you believe you outperform colleagues and competitors, the things that you’re confident doing, and perhaps most significant of all, the things you do that you derive pleasure from that keep you motivated at work. In the context of professional development, you should look at this part of the list to see which of your virtues you can consolidate, improve upon, and continue to ‘sharpen the blade’ that are your strongest points you can offer your employer in the future, or yourself as a sole trader. Don’t be afraid to seem a little egotistical in the process- there’s no shame in analysing yourself for strengths.
What strengths do you possess? What’s a skill, certification, education, connection or personal interest that you can leverage further?
What can you do better than anyone else?
What resources do you have access to that give you a competitive advantage?
What do other people perceive as your strengths?
What are your achievements that you’re proud of?
How do your values and morals support your vision for the future?
How can you leverage your personal and professional network to achieve big things?
Looking inward at your weaknesses can be a confronting exercise, no doubt. However, it’s one of the most transformative things you can do to improve your technical, professional competencies. If something remains truly confronting, this is probably something in your subconscious urging you to turn it around. Everyone’s situation is a little bit different right now, but if you’ve got any more idle time than usual, or you’re looking for a break from your normal work activities, map out your weaknesses so you’ve got a clear picture of what needs to change in the near future.
What do you lack confidence in?
What tasks do you normally avoid in your day-to-day professional life?
What do you think outsiders see as your weaknesses?
What education, skills training or professional development do you lack?
What are some of your negative work habits?
Could you be better organised? More communicative? More of a team player?
Are you overwhelmed or over-stressed easily?
With the most confronting part of the whole process behind you, now you can turn to what opportunities are presenting themselves that you can take advantage of. With radical shifts in how the world does business, this pandemic has also opened a number of doors for organisations and professionals alike to leverage as they move into the future. You should be keeping all your possible options as wide as possible as you look to how you can capitalise, and turn weaknesses into opportunities for your professional development, or your organisation. You need to be using this time to make yourself as employable as possible, and looking to potential opportunities is a vital part of this process.
How can technology help you?
What are the opportunities in your industry? Is it growing? How can you capitalise? Has it shrunk? How can you jump in at a low-point and capitalise as it improves?
What opportunities are there in your professional network to help and assist you with advice?
What are the management trends in your industry or employer? How could you take advantage?
Are you competitors failing to capitalise on an opportunity? This is an area you can punish them for neglecting.
Is there a customer need or expectation that isn’t being addressed? Could you propose an idea to your employer or an industry figure?
What are the most common complaints or friction points that customers are mentioning?
The final part of this process requires you to analyse threats in your professional landscape, and perhaps for your employer, too. Mapping these out also adds a helpful sense of perspective, scale and urgency for the things that need to be addressed as soon as possible, and what can become a project of yours to work on in the background.
What is the state of your industry with recent events?
How competitive is this industry?
Within your own organisation, are your colleagues competing against each other or working together?
Is the nature of your work - and the wider organisation - changing to something less desirable for the customer?
Have there been decisions made that will impact customers negatively?
How likely is technology or a competitor leveraging technology to disrupt your fundamental core offering?
Could some of your weaknesses transform into a threat for yourself, or your organisation?
To wrap this up, remember that the name of the game right now is to make yourself as sharp as possible, to add as many parallel competencies into your arsenal as possible, and show either yourself or your employer that there’s few more competent and committed workers out there than you.
This is your time- so take advantage of it.
Thanks, as always, for your time,
Kobi Simmat - Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.