How do you predict the outcome of a behavior, project, or idea?

A few days ago, an executive career-coaching client came to a session with an interesting PowerPoint presentation. It was a proposal to a potential employer. My client hoped the company would gain a better appreciation of his expertise and ability to transfer his skills to their industry sector as well as demonstrate a talent for addressing their specific challenges and opportunities. It was very effective. His outline was based on the SWOT template.

SWOT is a way of looking at the many dimensions of a problem and the decision making process to predict outcome. It has been an important part of corporate-think since the 1960s.

As I looked at the basic model, I realized how versatile it could be and how applicable it was to creating a career strategy or job search program.


S stands for strengths. You would be amazed at how many people cannot acknowledge or identify what they contribute, or even list the qualities, talents or mindsets they bring to the table. I encourage everyone to keep a running list based on self-evaluation, comments and praise of others, and updated comparisons with your competitors. Never know when you might have to sell yourself in a performance appraisal, market yourself in an interview for promotion or employment, or occasionally give yourself a pat on the back.

W is weaknesses. The SWOT model is a bit dated in its term (I prefer the word challenges) and very sexist (refers to “the man”) in its examples. While the language is dated, the idea of acknowledging where you fall short or need more assistance can prevent misguided, ego-driven decisions from being made. When on an interview, I suggest coaching clients describe a challenge they were able to overcome, and describe how they tackled it, rather than admit to current deficiencies.

O is opportunities. While many people can see the future of their firm, company, or organizations, they are not always sure as to what it means for them. Some of the most successful people I know are always prepared for opportunity and leap at it as soon as it appears. Others are able to see options in almost everything. If you are a “P,” or Perceptive type, on the Myers-Briggs, you know how easy it is for you to be mentally flexible and see, as well as embrace, new ideas.

T is threats. A somewhat dramatic, but nonetheless descriptive, term is threats. Who or what could sabotage your dreams, ambitions, or goals? Are they internal demons or external saboteurs? How can you spot such people or situations early enough to execute a prevention or rescue plan? People who can predict the workplace climate often spot the clouds rolling in before others and dress accordingly.

Think of the many ways you can apply this SWOT model—career strategies, job interviews, home life hurdles, and personal predicaments. Simply ask yourself, “What successes have I had in the past? What weaknesses must I overcome or get some support? Which opportunities are right in front of me or must I ferret out?” And finally, “Who or what poses a threat to it all?” Try it. You will be pleasantly surprised how reliable and easy the model is.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.