SWOT Analysis in a Job Interview

Raju writes:
I want to know for a interview, what should a candidate tell about SWOT analysis?

The Career Doctor responds:
First let me give a quick explanation of a SWOT analysis for those
 who don’t know the term. A SWOT analysis is a strategic tool used by businesses to help examine their current situations and plan for the future. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis focuses on the internal and external environments of an organization (or job-seeker), examining strengths and weaknesses in the internal environment and opportunities and threats in the external environment.

Using_a_SWOT_Analysis_as_a_Key_Career-Planning_ToolIf done correctly, a SWOT analysis can be a great tool for self-awareness, planning, and preparation. For job-seekers considering a career portfolio, a SWOT analysis makes an ideal addition.

How can you use the information from a SWOT analysis in a job interview?

Let’s take the SW first. You need to be able to show the employer your strengths, not only from your vantage point, but also from the needs of the employer – show how your strengths match with the employer’s needs.

You also need to know your weaknesses because a favorite interview question is “what’s your greatest weakness.” Identify your weaknesses,

but don’t stop there; make a plan to turn your weaknesses into strengths – or at the very least, neutrals. Finally, you need to be able to capitalize on
the opportunities within your career field while recognizing and overcoming the threats.

There is so much more you can do with a SWOT analysis. Please read our article, Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning, published on Quintessential Careers.

How Should Exotic Dancer Portray Her Past?

Anonymous writes:
exotic_dancer_-_Google_SearchI am 30 years old and for the past five years have worked as an exotic dancer to put myself through college. I am gradating with honors this summer and want to get a “legitimate” job now; however, I don’t know what to tell potential employers about what I’ve been doing for the past few years (afraid I’ll be stigmatized). Help!

The Career Doctor responds:
Sometimes the Career Doctor feels a little like Dear Abby and wonders when people are pulling a prank on him or whether the email is legitimate. . . for sake of my answer, I will assume your email speaks the truth. You should be proud and feel a sense of great accomplishment rather than feeling afraid – you’ve done a great thing in working to put yourself through school!

First, some questions for you. What jobs did you hold before the exotic dancing – where they more “legitimate,” as you put it? Did you complete any projects/internships/co-ops while in college?

Second, some advice for you. I would advise trying a chrono-functional resume. On your resume, I would list your education first, since that is the most recent event happening in your career and your best selling point. Of course, state that you are graduating with honors – and add any other honors you’ve earned. Then, as with any chrono-functional resume, I would concentrate on the transferable skills you’ve attained from all your school and work experience. Finally, I would list your actual work history, but come up with a more tame title for your job – perhaps just dancer, perhaps entertainer or performer. You might be able to think of a better job title. Be aware that many employers don’t like any type of functional resume, and you may have to revert to a chronological version if the chrono-functional isn’t working for you. I suggest you spend some time with the Quintessential Careers: Resume Tutorials, where we provide a more detailed explanation of chrono-functional resumes – along with samples.

You should do great. Just remember to have the poise and confidence in the job market that you’ve had for the past five years in accomplishing all that you have.

How to Handle a Relocation Cover Letter

relocation_3Delia writes:
I am planning to move back to California from Utah to be closer to my family. How do I address that relocation in the cover letter without it seeming as though there are professional problems?

The Career Doctor responds:
Why do you need to say anything? In your cover letter – or in the interview – you simply need to say you are relocating for personal reasons. But with people on the move all the time, changing geographic locations should not be an issue.

Now, get focused on the more important issue: your strategy for finding a new job before you relocate. Start contacting those in your network – especially back in California – and let them know you are relocating and looking for a new job back in California. Then, get on the Web and do some research on the types of jobs, companies, industries where you want to work.

Resources to Help Sharpen Career Focus

sharpen_focus_-_Google_SearchMike writes:
Are there any good books out there for someone who has no idea what they want to be when they grow up? I got a BS in sport science because I enjoyed sports, and it was a fun major, but now that I’m out of school I bounce between jobs that pay the bills. It is frustrating not knowing what I want to be while I work jobs that I don’t really enjoy.

The Career Doctor responds:
There any number of good books and good Websites to help you out, but before I discuss those, can I take a shot and offer some of my own advice? I want you think what it is about sports that you like so much. If it’s the actual playing of the games, perhaps you should look into breaking into coaching – perhaps first volunteering, perhaps going into a graduate program as a graduate assistant. If what you like is more on the business side, you should consider sports marketing and promotion. I suggest you also conduct some information interviews with various people in the side of the sports industry that interests you. What are information interviews? They’re interviews you conduct not to get a job, but to learn more about careers in a certain field – and to build your network. Learn more in this section of Quintessential Careers: Informational Interviewing Tutorial.

What about your old college/university? I would speak with the career services staff there about jobs for people with your degree – and – I would contact former professors or the head of the sports science department and ask about jobs/careers for your degree path.
Then again, maybe you don’t want to have anything to do with sports as a career. In that case, I would recommend the following books and Websites.

For books, you might try Career Tests: 25 Revealing Self-Tests to Help You Find and Succeed at the Perfect Career, by Louis H. Janda (Adams) or Career Adventure: Your Guide to Personal Assessment, Career Exploration, and Decision-Making, by Susan M. Johnston (Prentice-Hall).

For Websites, you might find some helpful ones listed at Quintessential Careers: Career Exploration.

What to Say, Ask in a Networking Situation

Sally writes:
What are the most important things to communicate when networking?

NetworkingQsThe Career Doctor responds:
Be sure to tell every contact you come across – in a concise way – exactly what you want to do and what you can offer. (Some would call this communication an elevator speech or pitch.) Then, ask every contact two questions:

  • What advice can you give me?
  • Who should I be talking to?

Think about providing mutual benefit, thinking not only of what your contacts can do for you, but what you can do for them. Also keep your contacts up to date on your progress, and thank them for even the smallest bit of help they give you.

Learn more in The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking.

Learning More about Political Analyst Jobs

Anonymous writes:
political_analyst_-_Google_SearchI have a BA in political science and soon will complete a MA in political science. My chosen career path is to become a political analyst. I can find no resources for that field. Can you to direct me to anything helpful? Also, how would you suggest I go about entering the field?

The Career Doctor responds:
As I tell all my visitors who are still in college, your best source for career information and contacts is the professors in your school – and, specifically, in your political-science department. Since you’re in a master’s program, in theory, you have two different sets of professors to network with – from your undergraduate and your graduates programs.

Go talk with them and ask questions and solicit advice.

To me, there seems to be two different kinds of political analysts – the ones who work for political parties (or similar organizations) and those who are also journalists – and I’m not sure which of the two interests you more. Either way, the best way to get into these areas is through networking.
Beyond your professors, a great starting point on the ‘Net for you should be the American Political Science Association Website.

It’s Best to Include Months with Resume Dates

Nikki writes:
MonthsWhen you state the dates for each employment period on a resume, is it OK to just use the full years (e.g., 2006-2008) or should you specify the month as well (e.g., June 2006 – Nov. 2008)?

I’ve been struggling to figure out what is better and more effective from the reader’s point of view.

I graduated undergraduate in 2008, and I’ve heard people say that it depends on how long you’ve been working for, but I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.

The Career Doctor responds:
Many job-seekers use just years, but my partner, Katharine Hansen, found when she researched a book on resume-writing that employers really want to see the months, too. Using months is the safest bet.

The length of time since graduation makes no difference.

Lack of Experience and Lack of Skills: 3 Steps to Get on Track

Loretta writes:

I live in a small, closed community, and across the river is a big city. I got my BA in art eight years ago and have been working in fast food instead of in my degree field. I have been searching for all kinds of art jobs but have been turned down because I either don’t have the computer knowledge or the work experience in the art field.

I have tried starting my own freelance business with out success either and had to return to fast food as a means to survive. I just taught myself HTML (even though I already knew BASIC and some computer skills) and still get told that I don’t have enough computer knowledge.

I must be doing something wrong. I’m bankrupt and can’t move to where the job would be.

The Career Doctor responds:

Loretta, I have a three-step program for you to get your career more on track.

First, find out exactly the types of computer knowledge you need for the types of jobs you want to get. Make sure you examine any other requirements that you do not currently have. Then go out and see if you can take some classes (locally, online, etc.) to gain those skills.

Second, volunteer at night or weekends at an art museum or other establishment – so you can get some experience. While you are doing this, you should also be able to develop some key contacts and build a network of people in the art world. (See Quintessential Careers: The Art of Networking for lots of resources and strategies for networking.)

Third, try creating a version of your resume in a chrono-functional resume focusing on your skills. While working in the fast-food industry does not automatically relate to the art industry, if you sit down and look at the skills you’ve gained and can apply, you might be surprised. These are called transferable skills, and you can learn lots more about them by visiting Quintessential Careers: Transferable Skills. Be aware that many employers disdain any kind of functional resume, so if that version doesn’t seem to be working for you, revert to a chronological version, but consider getting professional help with it to make sure it’s the best it can be. You can find help with your resume at Quintessential Careers: Resume Resources.

He Needs a Physically Less Strenuous Career

Richard writes:
PainfulBackI’m 50 and have been in the trade of automotive repair, including race-engine building, auto restoration, electronics, and general service. As the years go by, my poor older body is saying stop.

Everybody is telling me I should stay in my present trade, but I have an urge to do something else at this point. My question is – having developed skills in many areas and being capable of demonstrating them in a professionel way, what type of career should i focus? How would I be able to help myself in discovering where I fit, and where would my transferable skills be of good use with out feelling like I’ve been run over at the end of the day

The Career Doctor responds:
I always believe people should follow their passions in the work they do, but it sounds like you need to be willing to take a pay cut if you do so. As for discovering your next career, I would suggest trying some low-cost/no-cost assessments listed here.

If you decide to pursue a different career, a good resume writer can help you express the transferability of your skills.

Career that Combines Interests with “Passion for Money”

Paula writes:
MoneyPassionI am majoring in psychology and minoring in business administration. I plan to attend graduate school for business administration. I would like to travel. I am interested in making money, but I want a career that is creative, artistic, and allows me to work flexible hours. I do not want to work public relations, advertising, marketing, or accounting. Can my passion for money and interests coincide? Please help!

The Career Doctor responds:
Wow … you have a lot of interests, but also some major restrictions. My most important advice, I think, is to rethink getting your MBA. I have counseled too many undergraduate students who – for lack of a clear career direction – go to graduate school thinking it will help sharpen their career focus. Or, maybe they are just not quite ready to join the workforce.

I would recommend you talk with some of your favorite psychology and business professors and chat with them about your ideas and goals. . . they should be able to give you a little more direction.

My advice from my limited knowledge of you? You might look into careers in consulting (though you will need to take more accounting) with a firm such as Accenture, or in international management. Both of these careers can offer you a good salary and travel, allow you to be creative in handling new problems, and provide a good salary. With your background in psychology, you might also consider human-resources management, but I don’t think it really meets you other requirements.

Finally, you might also try a few of the career assessments that we recommend and see if they can give you some more ideas. You can find a bunch of assessments (most free or inexpensive) at Career Assessment Tests and Tools.