SWOT Analysis Helps Career Decisions

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If you're redundant, unemployed or keen to make a change to your career your first action is to examine what you can offer an employer. Explore your skills, knowledge and experience. Next think hard about what it is that you want to do with your life from here onwards. It is wise to investigate your options before making judgements about which of them suit you best. There are basically three choices: 

  • Get a job just like your last one where you know that your skills fit
  • Get a job that uses the same skills as your last one but in a different area  (e.g. changing from Science Research to Health and Safety Officer or Patent Agent)
  • Change your career entirely (e.g. academic to tax inspector)

Whatever you do it will eventually involve making a decision. Decisions are complex because there are numerous pros and cons to be considered. SWOT analysis is a valuable tool that can be extremely helpful when making an important career decision. It stands for: 

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

If you find you have two or more options to choose between, hopefully in the form of multiple job offers, complete a SWOT analysis for each option and then carefully compare the results. It's specifically designed to aid your decision.


Start by analysing your strengths, and what you have to offer to each career option. That may not be easy if you have just had a very negative experience but everyone definitely has strengths. If you find it difficult, discuss your strong points with a friend or someone who is independent and unbiased. They may appreciate your strengths much more than you do. 

When considering a new job the strengths relating to taking it might be: 

  • The job is just what you're looking for and it feels ideal and worthwhile
  • Your skills, including technical skills and also generic skills such as teamwork, leadership, initiative, organisation, verbal and written communication, and how they relate in some way to the needs of the position you are considering
  • You know the people who work there and feel you would fit in and very much enjoy working with them
  • Your knowledge of that type of job is good
  • You possess relevant qualifications that fit those demanded in the advertisements for this type of position
  • Knowledge of the industry and possibly contacts who could be valuable
  • The location of the workplace is convenient
  • A higher salary is offered or there is the prospect of one within a short timescale
  • Training you could receive would develop your professionalism
  • There are opportunities for career development 
  • You can continue to live in the same location, not having the expense of moving house. Alternatively, the opportunity to move to another place may be a strength
  • You have heard that they are a good employer
  • Generous annual leave is offered
  • The job has convenient or flexible working hours


Having assessed the strengths of taking up a particular option now consider its weaknesses. These might include:

  • The job is not one that will motivate you in the medium to long term
  • It offers a lower salary or uncertain salary progression
  • Your qualifications don't quite match the job requirements or you may need to invest time (and possibly cash) in extensive training to make progress in this type of work
  • You will need to move house - involving financial expense and the effort of making new friends in a new location
  • Time will have to be spent on training, including possibly another course of study to increase your professionalism in this field
  • The potential new employer doesn't seem financially sound
  • The hours of work are inconvenient, inflexible, longer
  • The employer is recruiting for a specific position and career progression seems limited
  • The staff are not particularly friendly. You are not sure how relationships would develop


  • You have been unemployed and this gives you a step back into employment
  • The new job has the potential to provide a springboard into other more interesting or better paid jobs after a year or two. Perhaps it is a route to your ideal job.
  • It presents an opportunity to move into a different industry; perhaps from the private to public sector or vice versa
  • It could improve your quality of life  
  • The vacancy will give you experience which is a required precursor for something else you want to do or achieve later
  • You want to move house/location and this is a golden opportunity
  • This employer will give you the training you need to progress your career
  • This is a chance to increase your income


  • If you remain unemployed for a long time there will be a significant loss of earnings
  • Going into a job where you have to complete a probationary period, rights such as redundancy pay will be much lower than before
  • Moving away may cause problems with family and friends
  • Getting into an unfamiliar industry/area of work is outside your comfort zone
  • The expense of a new home while not being certain about your medium term prospects
  • Uncertainty about the team you will be working with and how you will relate to the person you report to
  • Lack of confidence about changing your career into a different field

Naturally this analysis is a very personal matter and the items that are important to you depend on what you value most. Your lists will vary depending on your motivation to do a particular job and the factors that each specific opportunity presents. Examining the results of a SWOT analysis, either when comparing one area of work against another or two job offers, can be extremely helpful in sorting out your priorities and making a decision.


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