A big part of networking is about letting other people know what skills you have and the kind of person you are. So what exactly are you good at and what sort of person would you say you are? These may feel like difficult questions to answer, but the process of doing so will help evaluate your skills and their importance to effective networking.
Right now, you may be unsure how to accurately define what you're good at but there are a number of models that can help you. None of them are perfect but each one will help you think more about what you have to offer and how to relay that information to others. SWOT analysis is one such model that you may have encountered before. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and these headings are often used by businesses to assess the competitive position of a product or service.
The findings from a SWOT analysis typically help marketers develop new sales or marketing strategies, but this same analytical approach can also be used as a personal tool to help with your networking strategy. Carrying out a SWOT analysis of yourself will help you see your own talents as strengths, and then use these to seek out opportunities and drive your career or business goals forward. Likewise, taking time to analyse your weaknesses will also help you begin to manage these and identify how they might become problems for you in the future.
To get the best out of a SWOT analysis, try looking at your strengths and weaknesses from another networker's point of view, in other words, what you can offer others. By seeing yourself objectively through the SWOT framework, you can start to nurture and emphasise the talents that really set you apart from others and that will help achieve your vision. So how do you go about completing a SWOT analysis? Start off with your strengths first.
Acknowledging what you're good at may not be an easy task for everyone so consider asking yourself the following questions; What do you do well or better than anyone else? What are your greatest achievements? What do colleagues or friends and family say you're good at? Do you have any useful connections or resources you can draw on? Once you've identified your strengths, it's time to consider your weaknesses. Again, depending on your mindset you may find this tricky. If you're struggling ask yourself whether there's any training you need or what tasks you find difficult or avoid doing. What do other people say are your weaknesses or bad habits?
Once you've established your strengths and weaknesses, you need to consider what opportunities might arise based on these or might hinder professional or business development. This is the opportunities and threats section of SWOT. To consider your potential opportunities, ask yourself; Is there scope for growth in anything you identified? Are you doing something that others aren't? Can you utilise any of your current contacts and resources? What are your ambitions or goals?
And for the reverse of this, consider the business or career implications of your weaknesses. How might these weaknesses become threats and hold you back or cause you problems? Is there anything that could cause barriers to achieving your goals? Are there any wider factors that could turn into threats? Consider your competition: are any of these threats? Would there be any relevant professional standards you can't currently meet? Completing a SWOT analysis on yourself will give you a much clearer picture of your own personal and professional direction and any potential opportunities worth exploring.
Your findings will also form the basis of a long term plan in which your network will play a vital role. A strong network will also give you the right contact and support from a wide range of people at different stages in their career, and in different positions within their industry. It really is about who you know. And knowing the right people at the right time can significantly speed up your business growth or career development. Being clear about what you do well is fundamental to how you connect with people who are relevant to your goals.
Remember, knowing your strengths is important for networking situations. The SWOT analysis tool can help you clarify exactly what it is you can offer others and vice versa.
- How to recognise your strengths
- How to identify what might be holding you back
- A planning model that could help your future direction