While more professionals than ever are choosing to stay in the workforce and forego retirement, many still have a yearning to give back to their community in a meaningful way.
If you’re not ready to fully commit to becoming a SCORE mentor, or if you’re apprehensive about the amount of time you could give even if you wanted to, there’s still a place for you at SCORE.
Serving as a “subject matter expert” can give you the flexibility you need while still allowing you to provide vital industry tips to burgeoning businesses and startups in your field.
So, what is a Subject Matter Expert, anyway?
Subject matter experts are exactly what they sound like—experts and leaders in specific area or industry. They provide narrowly focused advice about specific areas of business.
Kathryn Ross, founder and president of Kross Strategies in Lancaster, PA, is a subject matter expert in the area of marketing. She’s also the vice president of marketing for the SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon Chapter, SCORE’s Chapter of the Year for 2018.
With more than 20 years of marketing experience under her belt, Kathryn’s busy company (as well as her executive work for SCORE) prevents her from being able to dedicate much time to traditional one-on-one mentorship. Serving as a subject matter expert helps her maintain her business while still giving back to the community she loves.
“There’s a universal fulfillment when you’re volunteering and contributing to society, no matter what you’re doing,” says Kathryn. “I also feel I can utilize my skills, expertise, and knowledge to have an economic and societal impact on my community.”
How do Subject Matter Experts contribute?
Subject matter experts can volunteer in a variety of ways:
- As an industry expert: When mentees need targeted, specific help in a particular industry, subject matter experts can be called into co-mentor. For example, someone starting a trade business like plumbing, HVAC, landscaping, or pool maintenance may need input from a professional who’s worked in that field or has in-depth knowledge of it.
- In a skills-based capacity: Mentors with experience in areas such as marketing or web design may work with multiple clients in an array of businesses. This option appeals to volunteers like Kathryn, who enjoy working with a wide variety of business people.
- Through workshops: At some chapters, SCORE subject matter experts may host local workshops—a great option for people who want to donate their time and expertise but aren’t ready to commit to mentoring one-on-one.
Not only do SCORE subject matter experts serve as a resource for business owners, they help other SCORE mentors by sharing their niche expertise. For example, Kathryn is often asked by her colleagues to come in and offer her insight to specific SCORE clients. After an initial assessment, she guides mentees through marketing strategies such as audience targeting, social media, and advertising investment.
“I may suggest courses they can take online to create their website or offer them resources such as freelancers and accountants,” she says. “I also help them utilize community resources that are within their financial reach.”
What are the benefits of becoming a Subject Matter Expert?
Like most people who volunteer, SCORE subject matter experts are inspired to donate their time to add value and purpose to their lives and help others.
For Kathryn, “watching someone flourish” is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering.
“It’s as much of a personal relationship as a mentoring relationship,” she says. “You become personally invested in your client’s success.”
And the rewards don’t stop there. SCORE subject matter experts are motivated to stay on top of the latest trends in their industry not just for themselves, but for their mentees. They’re involved and invested in their community and feel part of something greater than their own business.
What is the time commitment to volunteer?
The beauty of being a subject matter expert is that you don’t have to put in the excessive mentoring time. As with all SCORE mentors, you set your hours and decide exactly how much—or how little—you want to be involved. Volunteering as a subject matter expert is a great fit for someone in or out of the workforce. It’s also a great way to test the waters to see if SCORE mentoring is for you.
It’s also important to remember that SCORE volunteers don’t do the work for their clients.
“We help guide them,” says Kathryn. “We advise, we mentor and we nurture them through the process.”
If you’re worried about how to start, don’t be. All SCORE volunteers, including subject matter experts, must complete certified mentor training and ongoing training.
If you’re ready to take on a role that puts your specialized talents and expertise to use for people starting in the business world, click here for more information.
We’d love to have you!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.