Dear Community Manager — I Used to Stalk You on LinkedIn
Connecting with other Community Managers was a transformative experience for Noele Flowers.
Dear Community Professional,
I have a confession to make. Five years ago, I didn’t even know you existed. I was working at a job where I was really unhappy, and at night I’d go home and trawl AngelList, looking for jobs in tech (I heard some had cold brew on tap).
I applied with no luck for roles in sales, customer service, and probably some weird startup-y titles like 'resident superstar'. Luckily for me, the role that ended up sticking was Community Manager — your role! So, I joined your field without really knowing what it was.
But I still didn’t really know you — or any other folks doing what we do — existed. I felt like I was doing my job (moderating a large Facebook Group for a software company) in a total vacuum. When I heard engineers I worked with talking about “other engineers they knew,” I was totally jealous. What’s it like, I wondered, to not have to explain your job to your friends?
I finally made my first connection with another CM when I was more than a year into my career. Someone on my team had worked with Community Managers in the past and connected me to this person through a colleague.
Sitting over a coffee near New York City’s Union Square, we commiserated over shared challenges with Facebook groups, successes, and failures with in-person events, and engagement plays. I was surprised to find how much that sense of camaraderie really mattered to me — and I guess my surprise shows you how much I still had to learn about the field of community management.
Getting to chat with another one of you (or I guess at this point, us) was a turning point in my career — probably second only to getting a community job in the first place. I was eager to repeat it. So here’s my second confession: from that point on, I was so desperate to chat with other Community Managers and learn from them that I used to wade through LinkedIn to find out who the Community Manager was at companies in my industry, try to guess their email address, and then cold email them asking them to talk to me.
Predictably, this was not the most efficient process (hey, in my defense, The Community Club didn’t exist yet!) — but making it a priority to connect one-on-one with other CMs and learn from them was one of the most transformative things I ever did for my career. From the generous CMs who responded to my cold outreach, I got to see how other CMs thought about platform migration, see examples of mind-blowing custom health metrics, and, perhaps just as importantly, commiserate about difficult parts of the job that helped me realize I wasn't alone.
Five years later, my work is all about building the education and connections I really needed when I entered the field. And the fact that those one-on-one connections were such a game-changer for me informs so much of how I’ve thought about building C School. In our training for Community Managers, we focus on small cohorts, tactical best practices, and one-on-one coaching from seasoned instructors — all stuff that’s designed with the knowledge that learning from other humans who've done it before (and alongside other humans who are trying to do it, too) can be career-defining.
I’m super proud that C School now has options for people at every stage of their community career. While we initially launched our training program geared at job seekers, we had such overwhelming interest in C School from CMs who are already employed and looking for foundational training that we launched a track just for them. It includes all the foundational training of our career track, but with a one-on-one coaching arc concluding the program instead of career services. We also launched a track for CMs who want to progress from being Individual Contributors to leadership roles.
All these courses are 12-week, cohort-based courses, with small groups of students learning from experts in the community industry. For community professionals who want a shorter time commitment, or are looking to improve their skills in a particular aspect of community, we’ve also launched self-paced courses. From Community Operations to Community Personas and more, these courses let students learn at their own pace, at a time that suits them.
Wherever you are in your career, from brand-new to the field and struggling to explain what you do to friends to seasoned veterans running a team, I hope this blog post serves as a reminder to carve out time in your schedule to chat with other Community Managers. You all have such incredible experiences and skills to draw on, and we’re all better when we share those things with one another. And, you don’t even have to stalk each other on LinkedIn (like I probably did to you) anymore!