Becoming a Subject Matter Expert

By Natalie MacLellan.

Whether we are engaged in career coaching, interview consulting, or resume and profile writing, our clients rely on our specialized knowledge. Clients come to us because we are assumed to know things that they do not. People regard us as Subject Matter Experts.

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is a recognized authority in his or her field. You can achieve recognition as an SME through a combination of education, experience, and marketing.

Education

One of the most straightforward ways to position yourself as Subject Matter Experts is – not surprisingly – through your credentials. This is why you have worked hard to complete courses and attain certifications in your field. These position you as an expert in resume writing, career development, interview coaching, LinkedIn profile creation, and more. What other credentials do you have to back up the services you provide your clients?

Your university degree positions you to specialize in your market. If you have a degree in computer science along with your CRS designation, for example, you can leverage this to present yourself as an IT resume writing expert. Similarly, accounting or investing designations can help you develop a niche in finance. Degrees or diplomas in business administration, human resources, or general arts and sciences can help you solidify credibility across various industries.

If you are looking to break into and establish SME status in a particular niche, study the websites and LinkedIn profiles of leaders within that specialty. What credentials are they listing? Which of these do you currently have and which could you work toward? Credentials take time to earn and they don’t come cheap, but can be well worth the investment. Do your research and choose the most appropriate credentials to position yourself in your chosen field.

Experience

Perhaps even more valuable than a list of credentials is your actual experience. Who would you want to work with – someone with a string of letters after his or her name, or someone with 15+ years of demonstrated work experience and a long list of client testimonials?

To position yourself as a subject matter expert, you want to cite your experience. This includes but goes beyond your years in business. Before you were a career professional, what were you doing? Did you recruit, hire, interview, or evaluate employees? Did you teach or train employees? Did you work in the industry you are currently targeting?

“With seven years as a Master Resume Strategist and a 15-year career in investment management, Jane has the knowledge and expertise to prepare an expertly targeted finance resume…”

This also goes beyond your work experience. Look at your lifestyle and community. Are you a military brat or spouse, targeting the military community? Your ability to understand the challenges of their lifestyle is a key factor in your credibility. Perhaps you have a passion for environmental issues and a long history of volunteer work. This involvement in the community again contributes to your standing as a subject matter expert.

“A career coach who is also a military wife and mother, I understand the challenges faced by military members and their families as they move through numerous jobs and communities. I can help you put the pieces together into an attractive, cohesive career summary.”

Marketing

Of course, credentials and experience alone don’t make you a subject matter expert. It is key that others recognize your expertise. You need to advertise, and to demonstrate. Blow your own horn, and let people know what you know.

Demonstrate your expertise by publishing. Write a blog and update it regularly. Publish on LinkedIn. Be active on social media. Explore options to write guest posts on other blogs, or to publish articles or columns in other publications. If you have the time and the ambition, write a white paper, special report, or even a book. You can explore traditional publishing options, or self publish to have it available quickly from your own website.

Back up your own words by having others recommend and write about your expertise. Solicit testimonials from clients, and share these widely. Publish to your website, but also share (in whole or in part) on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Referral agreements with other career professionals can also help establish you within your niche. Find someone who offers the same services you do, but to a different audience, and establish a referral agreement. If another career professional is regularly sending clients your way, telling them you are the “expert” when it comes to careers in the oil and gas industry, this will go a long way in establishing your credibility in the field.

Work hard to get your name, credentials, and expertise out there, to make sure you stand out as an expert. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are dedicated, it will happen. When someone Googles “Ontario resume writer IT” (and eventually just “resume writer IT”) you want to make sure your name pops up. Keep publishing, maximizing your use of keywords, and your name will slowly move up the rankings.

Conclusion

Achieving SME status will take time and consistent effort, but it can be achieved. As a broad and somewhat vague goal (who really determines what “expert” means?) you may be there long before you realize it. With consistent effort to both acquire and market your credentials and experience, people will begin to consider you the expert that you already know you are. More and more they will be turning to you to help them take the next important step in their career.

 

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