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Drilling Into Pestel & Swot – It Doesn't Have To Be Complicated

Written by: Martin Cunningham, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


You can’t control everything, but you can control how you respond! PESTEL and SWOT provide you with the information to plan effectively, so when you decide on how to respond, even in unforeseen circumstances, you can do it from an informed position.

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PESTEL and SWOT are well-known strategic planning analysis methods used to identify the external and internal factors affecting an organization’s performance.

I adapt both models to support impact analysis for individual personal and professional development plans.

PESTEL stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal forces; SWOT is an acronym for Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats.

The main difference between them lies in their scope: PESTEL looks at a macro environment perspective whereas SWOT focuses on analysing issues within certain parameters, usually organisational boundaries, but they are equally useful in impact analysis for individual personal and professional development plans.

First of all, we will drill into PESTEL:

PESTEL is a powerful tool for analysing the external factors that can impact your personal and professional development plans. It allows you to identify the potential risks and opportunities associated with the environment around you. Considering these external influences, you can develop strategies for mitigating uncertainty and maximizing growth.

When planning changes to your personal or professional life, it’s important to consider all external factors that could affect your plans. This can include political stability, economic trends, social changes, technological developments, environmental issues, and legal regulations. By analysing these elements in depth, you can make informed decisions about the direction of your personal and professional development.

For example, when considering a career change, you can use PESTEL to assess the current political and economic climate. If the country is in a period of high unemployment and low economic growth, it may be wise to reassess your plans or focus on building up your skills in other areas.

For me, Brexit was one of the external political factors I had no real control over. Still, it greatly impacted my future career aspirations while working in EU civilian crisis missions. But all the analyses suggested that Brexit was not going to be an issue for me, it turned out to be completely the opposite and I had to quickly reassess my future.


Let’s drill down into each element for PESTEL


Why consider it: Political factors influence decisions around new business opportunities, investments, and labour resources.

What to consider: What is the current political landscape? Are there any changes looming that could impact your plans?

How to research it: Read up on geopolitical news and updates from government sources.


Why consider it: Economic trends can affect the availability of resources, pricing, and the overall direction of the markets; at a personal level, it is about your financial freedoms and restrictions; these are your realities.

What to consider: What is the current economic climate? Are there any changes in GDP or inflation that could impact your decisions? Do you have dependents? What do the next few years look like for them and for you?

How to research it: Research the economy using reports from government sources, think tanks and industry experts and check your own pension planning, savings and upcoming commitments.


Why consider it: Social changes can affect how people think and behave and influence their attitudes towards your plans.

What to consider: What is the current population demographic? Are there any cultural shifts that could impact your strategies?

How to research it: Research the local and global context using reports from government sources, industry experts, think tanks, and social media.


Why consider it: Technological developments can create new opportunities and drive changes in how people interact with your plans.

What to consider: What is the current technological landscape? Are there any emerging technologies that could impact your decisions; How is AI, augmented reality, and Meta changing the employment landscape?

How to research it: Keep up with technological news and trends from industry sources, tech blogs and other media outlets.


Why consider it: Environmental issues can affect the future availability of resources and lead to changes in regulations.

What to consider: What are the environmental concerns facing today’s society? Are there any potential risks associated with your plans?

How to research it: Research environmental news and trends from government sources, think tanks and other media outlets.


Why consider it: Legal regulations can affect decision-making in regard to investments, labour resources, taxation, work visas and product development.

What to consider: What are the current legal frameworks? Are there any upcoming changes that could impact your plans?

How to research it: Read up on legal updates from government sources, industry experts and relevant regulatory bodies.

Drilling into SWOT – Building on PESTEL

When it comes to personal and professional development, SWOT is another valuable tool for identifying potential opportunities and threats to plan the best course of action. By looking at these areas you can gain insight into what areas will benefit from further attention, and plan actions to help you achieve your goals.

When beginning your SWOT analysis, it’s important, to be honest with yourself and consider the internal and external factors that could affect progress. Your strengths will help you achieve your goals, while weaknesses are areas of improvement or potential obstacles to success. Opportunities refer to external factors that may help you in pursuing your goals, while threats are any external or internal factors which could hinder progress.

Once you have identified all the elements of your SWOT analysis, it’s essential to consider how each factor can be used to create an impactful plan for achieving personal and professional growth.

For example, if you identify your strength as your excellent communication skills, consider how that can be used to gain additional certification or further develop relationships with colleagues. Likewise, if one of the weaknesses is difficulty managing stress, research potential methods you could employ to decompress and create a plan for incorporating them into your daily routine.

The opportunities and threats identified during the SWOT analysis must also be considered carefully, as they may present both hindrances and aids to your growth. If a threat arises, such as a change in the job market or additional competition, consider how that can be addressed by taking advantage of an identified strength or opportunity.

Let’s drill down into each element:


Why consider it: Your strengths are key to achieving your goals as they reflect what you can do well and can therefore leverage.

What to Consider: Consider not only job-specific skills but interpersonal traits such as adaptability, problem-solving and communication.

How to Leverage it: Know your strengths and look for ways to make them even stronger and to evidence your value-added, to the current and future networks you need to influence.


Why consider it: Weaknesses are areas where you can improve or potential obstacles to success; they could be the gaps you identify that you need to succeed in a particular goal. Knowing what these weaknesses are will enable you to create a plan of action to address them.

What to Consider: Pay attention to skills and knowledge that could use improvement. Think about the areas where you feel most challenged.

How to mitigate it: Once you have identified your weaknesses, look for resources and methods to help you overcome them. Don’t be afraid to take risks or try new things, even if you think they will not work out.

Consider getting professional help or taking courses to improve in that area; This could include talking with friends and colleagues who have already succeeded in this area, taking additional courses or seminars, reading relevant books, or engaging a mentor or coach.


Why consider it: Opportunities refer to external factors that may help you pursue your goals, such as industry trends, relationships/networks, available resources, and the resourcefulness of you or those in your network who might assist you.

What to Consider: Look for any helpful external factors that could be beneficial in achieving your goals, such as new products or services, technology advancements, customer needs, and legislative changes.

How to Leverage it: Take advantage of the opportunities by researching and learning more about them and how they can help you. Consider how the opportunity can benefit your career or help you reach your goals and find ways to incorporate it into your daily life.


Why consider it: Threats are any external or internal factors which could hinder progress towards achieving success. Knowing these threats will enable you to anticipate and prepare for them.

What to Consider: Pay attention to external factors such as market competition, customer preferences, economic downturns, and changes in technology. Also consider any internal threats, such as personal health issues, lack of job satisfaction, or derailment threats from within yourself.

How to mitigate it: Take steps to minimize the impact of threats by doing research and foreseeing potential problems. Look for ways to minimize the risk of the threat, such as creating a plan to address it or building a safety net if things go wrong.


By combining PESTEL and SWOT into your planning you can make informed decisions about how to move forward with your personal and professional development plans. You can also develop strategies to mitigate any risks or obstacles preventing you from achieving success.

This will also allow you to make informed decisions about the direction of your career and personal life when the unexpected occurs, to be agile, adaptable and to rapidly review and redirect, or pivot to mitigate threats and seize opportunities as they arise; like I had to on the back of BREXIT.

It’s important to remember that PESTEL and SWOT are not one-time exercises; they should be regularly reviewed to ensure that your plans are up-to-date and relevant. By doing so, you will be more equipped to handle any uncertainty.

Ultimately, it is up to you to put in the effort and take action to make your plans come alive.

Good Luck!

Follow me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Martin Cunningham, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

From policing roots to a 20-year Senior Management career, with over 30 years of coaching and mentoring, Martin has seen at first hand the triumph of high achievement and felt the pain and disappointment of getting it wrong and being unsuccessful.

As a senior manager in security and justice sector reform in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans, he coached at General Director and Ministerial level in politically charged situations.

Martin understands what it's like to want more from your challenging career in an uncertain world.

He's learnt the lessons and has the skills to help you make a lasting impact in a fulfilling career while making the world a safer place. Martin knows that until we fully embrace the voices of women we will not achieve the sustainable peace and freedoms we all deserve, it is why he is on a mission to increase the meaningful participation of women and men who share this mission who are working in Security and Justice Sector Reform countries in or emerging from conflict.



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