The SWOT analysis essay and the four questions we are (really) asking – Tracy Gojdics, Director & Class of 2007

SWOT image

One of the application essay questions asks applicants to analyze their career using the SWOT technique.   As a student you’ll become quite comfortable with SWOT analyses, but as an applicant it can be a bit confusing.  The information below is provided to help you as you think about to write for this required essay question.   We’ve taken the S, W, O and T and translated them to the four questions we are really asking.   I hope this helps as you contemplate your essay.   Upon completion you’ll not only feel better about having the essay done, but you’ll have a great career analysis to boot!

 

 

1.    S = your strengths.   Your strengths = what are your competitive advantages?

You will want to convey what you think your 3-5 competitive advantages/strengths are in thinking about your career and where it is today.  Be sure to explain each.

Ex:  I am a skillful negotiator.  I have negotiated numerous important contracts for my organization, which have resulted in lower costs and increased services from our vendor partners.   While negotiating contracts is part of my job, it is also something I enjoy doing and have mentored others in my organization through the negotiating process.

2.   W = your weaknesses.  Your weaknesses = What do you need to improve?

The admissions committee isn’t looking at your “weaknesses” so much as they are looking for whether or not you know what you need to improve as it relates to your career.   You should discuss 3-5 areas for improvement.

Ex:   I’m not a strong public speaker.   Giving presentations is something that I have been working on for the past year as I am sometimes asked to give presentations to various groups.  I get very nervous and am not super comfortable presenting, but recognizing this I have enrolled in a corporate class on giving better presentations.  

3.  O = Opportunities.    Your opportunities = how can you enhance or advance your career?

Unlike strengths or weaknesses, opportunities come from your external environment. You might think that “getting an MBA” is the answer we are looking for, but you’d be wrong.  Advancing your career means being proactive.  How are you being proactive with your career?  Discuss 3-5 things you are doing or could do to enhance or advance your career.

Ex:  Attend targeted association meetings.   Because I am interested in Product Management I have attended several speaker events and workshops through the Product Management Consortium.  Attending these events has also broadened my professional network.  

4.  T = Threats.   Threats = what could derail your career?

Just as with opportunities, threats come from your external environment.   The economy may always be a threat, but how is it a threat?  What else might be a threat?  Think about your product or service, your competitors, your customers, the global landscape or your industry as a whole.  These are just a few ideas to help get you started.  List and discuss 3-5 things that have or could derail your career.

Ex:   Our customers decide to go with another provider.  As budgets get tighter and margins begin to shrink, many of our corporate customers are talking with multiple vendors and are no longer willing to stay with our company just because that is what they have been doing.   The competition is fierce and losing customers would mean deep cuts to our organization and my unit in particular.