SWOT Analysis: A Handy Business Tool for Library Job Seekers

by Veda Darby Soberman, Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
previously published on 10/4/13 & 5/16/14

SWOT Analysis:  A Handy Business Tool for Library Job Seekers

veda.darby.sobermanBeing successful in a job search is not unlike finding success in business. As in business, it is important to know the internal and the external factors which can affect your progress. Businesses often perform a SWOT analysis to gain insight into their business, and they develop their marketing strategies accordingly. We can easily apply SWOT analysis to help us gain such understanding on a personal level.

SWOT is an acronym for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal and preexisting factors, while opportunities and threats are external and potential factors to consider in your analysis. You will find that many of the items included in your SWOT analysis are great talking points for a job interview, helpful in considering a career change, useful determining professional development needs and more. Here is how to conduct a personal SWOT analysis:

Create a List or Matrix

When conducting a SWOT analysis it is important to write it down in the form of a list or grid matrix. This may seem obvious, but writing a SWOT analysis is like creating a road map for ongoing reference.

  Positive Negative
Internal Strengths1.2.3. Weaknesses1.2.3.
External Opportunities1.2.3. Threats1.2.3.


Your strengths are what will make you stand out from others. They are those assets which make you desirable in the job market.  Consider your strengths from your own perspective and from the perspective of others. What sets you apart from others? What are you great at? What do you enjoy doing? What do others say they like about you? Do you have unique connections, skills, or experience? What was your concentration area in your MLIS program? 


Weaknesses on the other hand, are those areas or characteristics which need improvement, or are lacking when considering a particular career or position. It can be scary to think about your weaknesses, but while they are a liability, consider them opportunities to grow. A weakness is an internal adversary, and you need to know your enemies if you are to overcome them. For example, I went into my MLIS program with minimal interest, or knowledge of information science and technology, but I recognized my weakness, and forced myself to work on this area. Now, while I still have a lot to learn, I have come to a point where my knowledge electronic technology is becoming more of a strength.


When looking at opportunities, you need to determine what is happening in the library and information sciences field. What are the current trends and needs within the field? What is changing? What is the industry’s climate where you live, or in your chosen concentration? With this information you can focus your job search to those areas where career prospects may abound, or develop yourself professionally to meet these opportunities.


We have all heard of a number of potential threats to the library and information science field. However, by conducting a SWOT analysis we can see what we can do to remain relevant as individuals and possibly even as a profession. Is the market flooded with qualified applicants in the field? What are others in the field doing? Does changing technology threaten your desired position? Is funding at the organizations you would like to work at down?

A SWOT analysis is invaluable in putting everything in perspective. After ruminating the results of your analysis, you may find that you will have a greater potential for success by modifying your job search or chosen career path. If you understand how to utilize your strengths, improve upon your weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threats you will be better equipped to set and attain your career goals.