Finding Your (My) Path as a Community Manager

Posted on 30 March 2011

Alex's work so far!

One of my sons, Alex, is finishing up his freshman year at college and he’s yet to decide what he wants to do professionally.  My message to him is what many fathers tell their son, “Do something you love!” I’m convinced that if you’re passionate about what you do then you’ll be driven from within to be the best.  His current fascination is with glass blowing, which isn’t something he’s studying at college.  Despite the fact that I’m paying a ton of cash for his education I’m encouraging his creativity.  I’m not sure how I would react if he decided to drop out of school to pursue glass work but if he’s meant to be an artisan I’m not going to get in his way.

I’m lucky. I’m working in my chosen profession and I’m rewarded nicely for it.  However, lately I’ve felt dispassionate about some of the non-community related facets of working in a super large organization.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the bad with the good but my passion has always stemmed from interacting with and serving end users, which is only a small portion of what I do.  Working on fun projects takes some of the sting out the added responsibility, and I’ve been able to work on some really cool projects.  I’ve been thinking about the differences and similarities of working for a start-up and working for a corporate giant:

Working in a large organization on a large project means there are more voices to be heard, more checks, more approvals, more PowerPoint presentations, more of everything on the business side.  Less direct interaction with the end user. Less direct impact on the direction of community. BUT, it’s a larger community reaching more people.  It’s also probably more stable and more able to handle the leaner times.  It’s also nice to know you’ll get a regular paycheck.

Working in a small organization is equally tough. You’ve got to have SKILL!  If you’re the only one making community decisions it’ll be clear who to fire when the first social media/forum meltdown happens.  Forgoing a personal life is also required because you’ll be busy from dawn to post-dusk!  You’ll also likely have fewer resources, though fewer constraints.  BUT, having direct (or complete) authority over a community is a wonderful thing if you know what you’re doing.  At one time I found it very rewarding, but that was a time when it was easy to live on less, and living on less is what you’ll have to get used to.  This is where you can become a rock star if the stars align, but SO MUCH has to fall into place to get national recognition.  Of course it’s easy to get attention for the WRONG reasons, but that’s another blog post.

Remember when I mentioned that it was nice to work on cool projects?  Yeah, that’s the trump card in this discussion.  I’ve chosen to work on a few projects that I knew were doomed but they were so damned cool I had to participate.

I’m trying to find that passion again!

I’ve been a gamer for the last 30 something years and that’s an industry with some really cool projects as well as an incredibly passionate fan-base.  Most of the CM’s I’ve met in the gaming industry have the best of both worlds – a company and end users both passionate about community.  I’d eventually love to end up managing communities based around games or the game industry as it seems like a natural fit.

  • Are you really passionate about your job?  About what you’re supporting?
  • Is your company passionate about community?
  • Are you making a difference for your end users?
  • Does that matter to you?  Does it matter to your company?

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Thanks for reading!


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