While typically a technique used to enhance and analyze business strategies, a SWOT analysis can also help nurses assess and develop more awareness of aspects in both their personal and professional lives.
The SWOT acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. While these four categories cannot completely address every aspect of your career, they offer a framework in which you can deeply examine the growth of your career and how both internal and external forces impact it.
For nurses with previous careers in the business world, you may have already taken part in a SWOT analysis to determine a business strategy or direction. Overall, it’s a useful resource for taking a 360-degree look at any aspect of your life and can be especially helpful when assessing your nursing career.
A SWOT analysis does not have to be a singular event. Rather, since you, your life, and your nursing career develop over time, the results will likely never be the same twice. Archiving your results for comparison over the years can offer valuable insight into your career trajectory and the ways in which your goals and aspirations have changed.
Completing a SWOT analysis
As a nurse, you know the state of the nursing profession is constantly evolving, and as this occurs, your career will evolve with it. According to Forbes, creating a personal SWOT analysis can not only motivate you but also help you adapt your career to future workforce changes. The article identified three practices that will give you the most effective outcome when completing the analysis:
- Be straightforward. It’s easy to not address certain aspects of your career, especially if it’s an area you don’t focus on too often. However, the more honesty you exhibit with this process, the more meaning you gain from the results. For example, if you have a strong attention to detail with charting or strong communication skills with patients, these will be areas to highlight in your strengths.
- Seek feedback. Before you begin, it can be helpful to seek constructive feedback from a few people you trust, Forbes said. They can help you identify aspects you may have overlooked or weren’t aware of. In addition, it helps to choose people from both your professional and personal life — whether mentors, nurse managers, colleagues, family members, or friends. Everyone has a unique perspective to share.
- Consider digital. For some, using pen and paper to complete this process is their go-to, but it can be better to use a digital format, according to Forbes. With digital, you’ll have more space to elaborate and edit your thoughts while also having the advantage of structuring your analysis in a readable, easy-to-follow way.
Examining your strengths offers an inventory of what moves you forward in your career. These strengths can be personality traits (e.g., being highly organized, efficient) or skills you’ve mastered throughout your time as a nurse. As you think through these areas, consider what sets you apart from others. Examples could include your excellent communication skills, your strong critical-thinking abilities, your ability to work well under pressure, or accreditations you’ve obtained.
But keep in mind that strengths can also be external factors that empower you (e.g., a wonderful home life, a supportive group of friends, a hobby you’re skilled at). Externally or internally, your strengths prop you up, empower you to keep moving forward, and add value to your life. So don’t overlook how these aspects influence your career.
As with strengths, your weaknesses may be internal (e.g., disorganization, lack of focus) or external (e.g., conflict with your spouse, a chaotic home environment). Your weaknesses may be distractions, or they may actively prevent you from accomplishing the next step. Understanding your weaknesses is paramount.
It can feel disheartening or overwhelming to acknowledge your weaknesses. However, this aspect is just as essential as your strengths are to this process. Don’t be afraid to recognize your challenges or limitations. If you’re having trouble narrowing down your weaknesses, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions like, “Are there parts of my education or training that need development?” or “What skills or traits could I improve on?”
Opportunities come in various guises. An opportunity might be a colleague who offers to be your mentor, while another might be the chance to speak at a nursing conference. Opportunities may be big or rather subtle. However, your job is to recognize them and take advantage of those that will serve you most.
But how can you identify an opportunity? According to Monster.com, thinking about elements like attributes you want to see in nurse leadership, what you envision your next role will be, or what your ideal work setting involves are helpful ways to shape what your opportunities could look like.
Threats are an unfortunate aspect of life, and there are many that can impact your career, especially in nursing. Challenges including workplace bullying, lack of work-life balance, short staffing, and no opportunities for growth are real threats nurses face. Elements like these are what you would want to include in this section. By listing out all potential threats, you can plan what the next step in your career can look like.
In addition, it’s important to remember that threats aren’t only external factors. While threats aren’t quite weaknesses, some weaknesses can become threats. For instance, stressful situations like a divorce or selling a home can affect your ability to focus on your professional development, and a negative personal habit could be perceived as a threat as well.
You can utilize the SWOT analysis for any aspect of your life. By using this tool to examine your nursing career, you’ll establish what’s standing in your way and who and what is on your side. The SWOT analysis can help you move forward in your career while giving you the determination to turn threats into opportunities and weaknesses into strengths.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in March 2021 and has been updated with new content.
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