Use this analysis tool to strategically plan your next career moves.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Rhoda Redulla’s book Fast Facts for Making the Most of your Career in Nursing (Copyright © 2020 Springer Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission. The book is available at springerpub.com/fast-facts-for-making-the-most-of-your-career-in-nursing-9780826173140.html. Use code REDULLA25 to receive 25% off the list price and free ground shipping in the United States.
A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is a strategy commonly used in strategic planning for organizations. SWOT is also applicable for self-assessment and personal and professional goal setting (Tables 2.1 and 2.2). An important aspect of doing a SWOT analysis is purpose. Why are you doing it? Are you looking for a new job, new accomplishment, or just looking for change (Martin, 2015)? As you respond to these questions, think of your career goals.
First, think of your strengths, not only in your current role or organization, but overall. Include accomplishments that you have not even thought about recently. Martin (2015) recommends asking yourself these questions:
• What are you good at naturally?
I have a colleague who is naturally inclined to enjoy process maps, fish bone diagrams, and root cause analysis. You can make a good guess on her professional role. She works as a nurse coordinator in quality and patient safety. Another former coworker is passionate about sharing her skills with others and always volunteers to orient new members of the team. She now works as a clinical instructor in a local community college. How about you? What do you love doing? Include these on your “strengths” list.
• What skills have you worked to develop?
Whether it is psychomotor, communication, or leadership skills, a few things will stand out as you reflect on your strengths. In clinical care, an example that easily comes to mind is the nurse who has exceptional skills in IV line insertion. As a new nurse, she may have embraced every opportunity to insert an IV and even volunteered for them. She took extra workshops to improve her skills. You could be an advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) expert and have sought special training to be an instructor.
• What are your talents or natural-born gifts?
Do you have talent in creative thinking? Writing? Are you particularly skilled in presenting data using graphs? Think of your natural talents and include them in your strengths box.
This is your opportunity to think of areas you need to improve on and things that will potentially put you at a disadvantage in your career.
• What are your negative work habits and traits?
It could be constantly being unprepared when working with a group. Another could be making dominating conversations during meetings. A single occurrence of these may be tolerated, but when these become a habit, it will produce a negative mark on your reputation.
• Does any part of your education or training need improving?
Do you recall your manager recommending a course or a training program for you? Do you find yourself frequently asking a peer to do a specific task for you? Perhaps that’s a knowledge or skill gap that can be effectively addressed in a quick workshop.
• What would other people see as your weaknesses?
The Johari window is a self-awareness tool that prompts you to reflect on your personality using four quadrants. One of the quadrants is “unknown to you, known to others.” You will be surprised on what others observe in you that you may not be totally aware of.
For an organization or a company, reflecting on opportunities includes looking at new competition or potential areas of growth. See how these apply to your own self-evaluation.
- What is the state of the economy?
Whether the economy is going strong or not gives a good indication of opportunities for promotion, general increase in compensation, or the reverse—possible loss of positions or funding for positions. In some cases, you have to put effort in maintaining your position. Some program-based jobs are funded through grants. When the grant money runs out, the organization can try to figure out a reassignment for you, or you can lose your job completely. One organization received funding for a substance abuse clinic for 5 years. At the end of 5 years, the local government agency that provided funding could no longer sustain the program. The organization attempted to keep the program going for a year and eventually closed the clinic.
- Is your industry growing?
From 2016 to 2026, a 31% growth in overall employment has been projected for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019). For nurse practitioners, some specialties have better opportunities than others. For your field and specialty, do you know how it is growing?
- Is there new technology in your industry?
During our weekly leadership meetings, we are always talking about new mobile applications in providing care, new devices, or new software to use in generating reports. It is easy to feel lost in these conversations if you don’t keep yourself up to date. You don’t have to learn each system, but at the minimum, be familiar with the ones that you would potentially use in your role.
- What is the state of the economy?
Table 2.1: Example of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the frontline clinical nurse
Table 2.2: Example of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the nurse manager
Threats include external elements that impact your achievement of your goals.
- Is your industry contracting or changing directions?
This question is prompting you to delve deeper into the opportunities you identified, except that you are looking at it from the perspective of your goals. An example is the movement to encourage nurses to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Many organizations are no longer hiring nurses without a BSN degree. How about intensified use of robots in surgery or application of artificial intelligence? Predictive models in artificial intelligence can determine the likelihood that a patient will undergo a specific health event or develop a chronic illness. Nurses will need to learn how to manage these types of information.Another possible threat is when the industry or your organization opts to getting some jobs outsourced. Still another threat is when the organization stops hiring agency nurses.
- Is there strong competition for the types of jobs for which you are best suited?You could be a great fit for the critical care environment, but openings in your local area are limited. Or you have exceptional experience as an educator in nursing informatics, but there is typically just one or two allocated positions for the entire nursing department.
- What is the biggest external danger to your goals?
Is there a possible merger in your healthcare system that can potentially eliminate some positions? Is there a new policy that would deter you from being qualified to the next level of position?Reflecting on these questions helps you identify the next steps in your career and set goals, whether short term or long term (Dority 2017).
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. 2019. bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/mobile/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm.
Dority. Career check-up with Dr. Elaine Foster: Part 1. August 4, 2017. americansentinel.edu/blog/2017/08/04/career-check-up-with-dr-elaine-foster-part-1/
Martin M. How to do a personal SWOT analysis. Business News Daily. October 10, 2019. businessnewsdaily.com/5543-personal-swot-analysis.html