Personal development planning is all about creating a long term goal for your career, and then planning how you’ll get there.
Before you can know what it is you want to do in the long term, some serious reflection is in order.
- What are you good at?
- What are you not so good at?
- What opportunities are available?
- Are there factors beyond your control that could impact your goals?
By using a classic business tool, the SWOT analysis you will gain a solid understanding of where you are now, and where you would be well suited to go with a high chance of success.
In business, SWOT Analysis uncovers the Strengths and Weakness of an organisation, and the Opportunities and Threats facing it. Just as this is useful for organisations, it is very powerful when you apply it to your own situation. Knowing your strengths can help you focus your efforts on the things you are good at. Understanding your weaknesses will help you to know what to avoid, what to improve and where to get help.
Together, your strengths and opportunities help you identify potential long term career goals. Your weaknesses and the threats you face are things that need to be managed, mitigated, or planned for to ensure your goals remain achievable.
The goal is to uncover what sets you apart from most other people. What do you and others see as the qualities that make you stand out?
When thinking about your strengths, don’t limit yourself to just work skills, think of all the experiences you have had, and the opportunities you’ve had to grow and develop. This includes your education, aptitudes, personality factors, and interests. Answer the following types of questions to complete your strengths section:
- What are you really good at?
- What skills do other people recognise in you?
- What do you do better than most people you work with?
- What do you get recognised or rewarded for?
- What, about yourself, are you most proud of or satisfied with?
- What experiences, resources or connections do you have access to that others don’t?
Remember to ask your friends, peers and family to give you ideas about your strengths as well. We tend to downplay our own strengths, so this is a great way to get more ideas. It’s also a real boost to your self-esteem when you learn what others think you do really well.
Write down the things you are not so good at, or the areas where you can improve your current performance. List your weaknesses so that you can reduce them or manage them, so they don’t stand in the way of your goal achievement.
When you do this, don’t “beat yourself up” about weaknesses: We all have them. The trick is to recognise them and manage them appropriately. Don’t be too self-critical. If you’re fair and forgiving about other people’s weaknesses, make sure you forgive yourself your own too.
You can also ask your friends, peers and family to give you ideas about your weaknesses as well. Just be open minded and kind to them when you hear things that you might not want to hear!
Complete your Weaknesses section, use the following questions to guide you:
- What do you try to do that you just can’t seem to master?
- What do you do only because you have to in order to satisfy job requirements?
- Are there one or two aspects of your personality that hold you back?
- What do other people most often identify as weaknesses for you?
- Where are you vulnerable?
- Where do you lack experience, resources or connections where others have them?
Unlike the Strengths section, don’t feel compelled to list every weakness you can think of. Limit yourself to the ones that can have an impact on your career satisfaction.
Turn your attention to the outside and identify the things that you can build on, or take advantage of that will improve your chances of success. Set time aside to brainstorm and uncover new and innovative ideas that may not have occurred to you before.
In what ways can you maximise your strengths?
- What opportunities are open to those who do these things well?
- What would you love to do that you’re good at
- How can you minimise your weaknesses? If your weaknesses no longer held you back, what could you do?
- Where do you see the most potential growth for yourself: Within your current company, in a different company, a different industry, or different career all together?
- What trends are having an impact on your current career or one you are thinking about pursuing?
Analyse the things that stop you from reaching success. Although threats can’t be directly controlled, they can be planned for. That is why it is so important to identify as many of them up front as possible. The more you know about them, the less likely you are to be “blindsided” by something unexpected.
You might feel that you would rather avoid looking at threats, thinking it will cause undue worry and stress. The reality is, you will encounter more anxiety if you don’t think about potential threats and be prepared for them should they occur.
A threat loses much of its sting when it is managed and prepared for. Ask yourself the following types of questions to uncover these potential hazards:
- Do you have weaknesses that need to be addressed before you can move forward?
- What problems could your weaknesses cause if left unchecked?
- What setbacks might you face?
- What obstacles have other people overcome when they’re trying to get to where you want to go?