As professionals, whether it be in marketing, SEO, Social Media or any other area, we are all (or should be) continually striving for improvement. The world in which we work and operate in is constantly changing and the speed at which it does so increases every day. This makes our professional, and personal for that matter, development efforts harder and harder to keep up on if we’re not careful.

A way to battle the increasing velocity is to write your goals down. A 1979 study done by the Harvard Business school suggested that people who write their goals down were 95% more likely to achieve them than those that did not. There are surely a lot of reasons for this, but the bottom line is that’s a number I am not going to argue with.

One way I do this is to use the SWOT formula, traditionally used in a business setting for projects and other initiatives, on myself. For those unfamiliar with this model, it’s designed to help you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the subject of your analysis. In my mind this is the perfect model to use in monitoring and developing a plan for professional development. Here is a model of the standard way to set up a SWOT analysis:

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis

As you can see you’ll take a look at (and most importantly, document) what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (to improvement) are. By using the diagram you can see that there are internal and external factors helping you to identify your areas of control.

I usually start with the opportunities area. That’s where I focus on areas that I have exposure to but need to improve on. The rest of the fields would center around that. Often, my opportunities field is filled with areas I would like to learn more about as well. This is a great way to help move towards goals you wish to achieve and identify all of the threats and strengths that will either work for or against you.

I personally do this on a quarterly basis. This gives me enough time to work on the plan I develop from the SWOT and hopefully achieve some success to reflect on. In my mind, any more frequently and you are just setting yourself up for frustration. Who needs more of that?

Once you’ve got your SWOT analysis done with your goals in mind write up a plan for how you are going to overcome the identified threats, maximize your opportunities and leverage your strengths.  Include in this plan milestones along the way, measurements you’ll use (remember SMART goals?) and specific strategies for your accomplishments.  In time you’ll find you are likely keeping a faster pace towards accomplishing your goals and overcoming the obstacles along your way.

So. That’s how I use a SWOT analysis to further my professional development goals. Do you do something like this? I’d love to hear how you measure and keep track of your growth!

I should add this post was inspired by a conversation I got into with Lyndit on Twitter :) So – for that I thank you!