SCORE's value as an organization isn't only apparent to the clients we serve everyday. The mentors and resource volunteers acquire just as much value (if not more) from working with this organization as our clients do.
I got lucky when I discovered SCORE.
If it wasn't for this amazing organization, I wouldn't have graduated college with the valuable skills that have helped propel me early on in my career.
I studied music in college. During my junior year at college, I realized that I wouldn't be able to find career-launching work after graduation if I didn't have any associative skills that I could leverage outside of my studies.
Then I became a resource volunteer at SCORE’s New York City chapter. As a resource volunteer, I assist the business mentors at SCORE with any tasks outside of client consultations. I specifically help with the chapters overall marketing efforts. And for the past two years, I’ve been learning about digital marketing, personal branding, public speaking, and consulting.
Learning from my team
Each chapter in the nation is comprised of business veterans who have the most valuable asset for any volunteer's growth—experience that they can share. From supply chain management, branding, and employment law to hiring, sales, and product development—each mentor brings a unique perspective to the team.
Simply observing the conversations between mentors has helped me understand the intricacies of the business world and the steps small business owners need to take in order to launch, grow and sustain their enterprises. Every mentor I've encountered has a library of insights; collectively the chapter is an inexhaustible resource for applicable information and advice. It's why I've spent 2 years volunteering for SCORE and will continue to do so.
More importantly, I've also grown from the experiences of helping our clients. Sitting in on client sessions has helped me understand how to address their questions. The ability to effectively listen to people is the common skill that all of the mentors at SCORE have. Additionally, from observing the questions that our clients ask, I've noticed that the questions are the most important part of any conversation. Answers are only applicable in the moment, after the solution to an issue is (successfully) applied, more issues tend to begin surface.
The key to a client's progress usually stems from the questions they ask their mentors over time. This aspect of running a successful business wouldn't have been as apparent to me if I hadn’t become a SCORE volunteer.
Helping others is practical
For anyone aspiring to have a career in consulting, volunteering at SCORE should definitely be considered. Having a network of people who can vouch for you is vital in all industries, and SCORE allows you start building the foundation of your network when sitting in on client sessions. Moreover, these client sessions teach you not only how to listen—they expose you to the sheer magnitude of issues a business owner faces on a regular basis.
If you're considering a career as a entrepreneur, helping clients with their issues is a great (and inexpensive) way to prepare. I couldn’t help solve their problems unless I learned how to direct the conversation to get to the root of each issue. This is something that only someone with an objective point of view can do. Small business owners often let their emotions get the better of them—another key insight I wouldn't have learned without volunteering (or I may have learned this later on the hard way!). Client sessions allow you to diversify your skillset. Having the ability to listen to people, empathize with their issues, and find the solutions is vital.
Gaining public speaking skills through workshop presentations
Another aspect of SCORE that any volunteer can leverage, once they get the opportunity to showcase their expertise, is becoming a workshop facilitator. I didn’t see how being a presenter could benefit me until I started doing it.
Three things occur when you move from resource volunteer to workshop facilitator:
- The most apparent form of self-development that occurs is that your public speaking skills improve. This is essential if you want to better your sales techniques. It definitely helps when you start conducting meetings with groups of +15 people. The ability to grab people’s attention and communicate your ideas clearly cannot be understated.
- You become a better networker. When you're the center of attention, there's absolutely no friction or resistance when you go up to people and say hello during breaks within the workshop or after you’re done. Following up is easier because people will remember you. As someone who hates networking, this method of expanding my connections is my favorite.
- You verify that you know what you think you know. You may feel as if you have knowledge in a particular field; the best way to test and validate that claim is by trying to articulate those concepts and distill/simplify them for an audience—live and in person. The feedback you get from a crowd of people is exhilarating and highly valuable. You’ll know within a matter of seconds if someone understands what you’re trying to convey.
Why you should be a resource volunteer
Giving back to your community is always a good thing. But, having the opportunity to accelerate the growth of your career is something that is truly rare. That is why SCORE is such an important organization for me and why I continue to volunteer.
Helping others will always be a practical way to achieve success. Especially when you do so free of charge. If you’re looking for way to give back and grow at the same time, I couldn’t recommend any better way than becoming a SCORE volunteer.