Starting something new can be intensely challenging, even when exciting. Changes in career paths are certainly no exception. On our #CMGRHangout panel Launching Your Community Career, Brew, Dom and I spoke with Crystal Coleman, Christie Fidura and Raj Nijjer to find our their tips and lessons learned on getting started as a community professional.
Reflect through a new lens
Whenever I’m asked how I ended up in my role, I actually reach back further than I’ve known about the community industry.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been connecting everyone around me. If you’re looking to optimize your resume for a career in community, here are a few things you can look for that you’ve probably learned in past roles:
- Customer Service. Whether it’s retail, food service or another area of customer service, you have experience managing expectations, handling upset or unsatisfied customers and passing on feedback to your team.
- Event Planning. Have you ever organized a meetup, party or other event? You have experience reaching out to individuals you’ve identified as a good fit for events, estimating food and drink needs and planning activities for the event.
- Online Communication. While not all communities are built online, chances are you’ll have some sort of online communication in place. Forums, social media, email, support tools, chat—these all have cross platform skills involved. Look for the parts most relevant to the new gig you have your eye on and apply a professional angle to your experience.
- Small Groups. I’m looking at you camp counselors, teachers and program volunteers. My day camp experience was invaluable: organizing daily activities, engaging kids in said communities, teaching them our three simple rules and being sure they actually followed them.
- Resources & Education. Have you ever needed to teach someone how to do something or write out instructions for them? Even if it was writing your mom a manual on how to do common computer tasks while you’re in college, it counts.
- Managing Volunteers. If you’ve managed volunteers for pretty much anything, ever, this is useful in community.
- Organizing Data. There’s a lot of data and storytelling involved in the community industry. If you’ve worked much in Excel(ish) and know how to present key data that matters, this will work greatly in your favor.
- Presentations & Public Speaking. Have you ever given a presentation internally or a speech externally? In my experience, community can involve a lot of both, depending on the role. Both public speaking and Powerpoint (or your preferred program) are valuable assets.
Take a look at some community openings you’re interested in and see what the requirements are. Look back at your past to see what can apply and focus your resume around those. When I was hiring, the resumes easiest to read were the ones that emphasized which skills they had applicable to the role before diving into actual past titles and companies. Use this to your advantage to highlight what you know.
Connect, Listen, Learn and Apply
My next piece of advice for you in launching your community path is to connect with others already in community roles. We’re generally a friendly bunch and love helping others learn. Find places where you can listen in and learn new tips on how to excel in community. (If you need ideas, we had an episode on Community Resources and Education.) As you learn, start applying these tips right away. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. There are often community roles you can volunteer in. Find a community around something you’re passionate in and start participating, then find out how you can help.
When I discovered Community Management existed and was something I wanted to pursue, I literally jumped on Google and did a search on “community management.” That’s when I stumbled across My Community Manager and the work that Tim McDonald and Brandie McCallum were doing around #CMGRHangout. Shortly after I began tuning in, Tim was looking for a volunteer to help keep an eye out for questions one week. A few weeks later he invited me to get more involved and Community Manager of the Day was born. Fast forward another year and Tim was ready to step away and invited Brew and I take the reigns. The fact is, I had no idea where my Google search would take me, all I knew was that I wanted to learn and seize opportunities to move forward to apply what I learned.
If you read the community management stories we’ve shared around CMAD the past few years, you know that while no two stories are the same, we often feel we’ve “stumbled” into community, or that it found us. If you want to be able to share your story, it’s time to get started as a community professional.
Choose your path by making a first step.
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