Erik Martin

VP of Services at Commsor
July 19, 2022
AMA sticker

Ella - Hey Erik, thanks so much for this opportunity to ask you questions! Is it ok to have 2?

1. Since you see a lot of resumes, you probably see a lot of common mistakes or areas of improvement. What would you say is the most frequently occurring mistake that people are making, and how can they improve on it?

2. If you could give 2 pieces of advice or insight to someone struggling to land a community role in the current job market, what would they be?

2 is great!

1. Most common resumes mistakes I see are:
a. Keep the resumes/CVs simple. The format of your resume/CV is not the place to be creative. The job of the resume is to get you to the next stage, not convey your entirety as a person. Recruiters & hiring managers are looking through a huge batch of applications, and making them figure out where to look or what they are looking at, only take precious time away from the time they have to study your skills & experiences. Studies show that the average resume reviewer spends under 10 seconds on each resume. Make sure you are using the important real estate on the first page of the resume to highlight your experience.
b. Explain the Context of your accomplishments.  Assume that in most cases the humans reading your resume are not familiar with the companies you've worked at. Assume they don't know much if anything about the part of the industry you worked in. Connect the dots for the reader and explain enough for them to appreciate your accomplishments. For example if you were managing a community, explain in the bullet points (or even in your summary paragraph) what type of community it was, and how it was challenging. Was it a large community were there were challenges of scale, or was it a smaller, intimate community with a few hundred busy executives? Was it a new community you helped build from zero? Was it in an industry with important regulatory and compliance issues? Help the reader understand the amazing things you did!

a. Customize your applications. Related to the common resume mistakes I see, the people reviewing resumes have to get through a lot of applications. Even if they are genuinely trying to read each application carefully and seriously, there's still not much time to spend with each one. Edit your application materials to make the resume/CV reflect what they are looking for in the job description. Customizing your application materials is hard, and time consuming, but when you look at a bunch of resumes, it's pretty obvious which candidates took the time to customize. Connect the dots for the reader! Especially if you are trying to move from a slightly different industry or type of company, translate your experience into their language, so that the match between what you're bringing to the table and what they are looking for is unmistakeable.
b. Job search is hard! I've been there, it sucks. Most of us aren't used to the amount of rejection that even amazing and super qualified candidates receive. If you apply to 10 companies and get an interview at 1, that's pretty good! That still means you're getting rejected 90% of the time. Unless you've been an actor going on auditions or in sales or something, you're not used to being rejected that much. It's hard, but as much as you can, try not to take it in stride. Also, as much as you can, try to keep in mind that you are at such an information deficit as a candidate. You just don't know why you didn't get the offer or make the cut. Always good to ask for feedback if you interacted with someone at the company, but unfortunately most of the time you won't get it. The company may have all kinds of other factors involved (maybe they changed their minds and didn't fill the role, maybe they split it into 2 roles, maybe an unbeatable internal candidate applied at the last minute). It's just hard to know. So as much as possible, try not to overthink or accidentally internalize why you might not have gotten the role. You don't have all the information, which sucks, but it's the reality of our current, flawed system.

Yurii - Follow up question – how to ask for feedback to receive real feedback, not just "you are good, it's all about us (NOT)"?

That's a tough one. Always good to ask for feedback but many companies, especially big ones are prohibited by their legal departments from giving any feedback. Some hiring managers don't have time or just don't like giving constructive feedback.

I'd try and make the ask as frictionless as possible. Something like: “If possible, I’d love some feedback about my overall qualifications. I’m always looking for ways I can improve, and I would really value your insight as I continue my job search.”If you have something specific you are concerned about, go ahead and ask. It would be great if more companies gave feedback but it's usually the exception.

Max - Hey Erik! Appreciate you taking the time for this :) Did you ever get in contact with the company/person regarding the oldest community job ad? I remember you sharing one that you found in a newspaper in the 90s!

Ahh, I assume you are referring to this 1997 job ad for a community manager.

I got in contact with several people who worked there, but the hiring manager and person who was hired haven't agreed to share publicly (yet). Still trying to convince them. Since I posted that newspaper clipping I have found a few even older job ads for online community managers. There's a fun section in our upcoming Career Guide ebook with old Community Manager job descriptions.

Rachael - Erik, always a pleasure to read anything you write! I'm curious, with being a still new-ish industry, what are your thoughts on appropriate Community title roles? I've seen so many challenges in that Community Manager alone can be someone who is just starting or with 8+ years of experience

For the record, I hate job titles. I wish they did not exist at all. But they do.

Yes, the basic "Community Manager" title can denote a wide range of responsibilities and experience. I'm sure there are similarly challenging, common titles in other industries, but doubt many are more broad than Community Manager. In practical terms, I don't have a good solution. I see people advocating compellingly for less common job titles like "Community Guide/Curator/etc". As someone who has done that, I think it puts teammates with that role in a tough position in the future when they have a less common title on their resume. Modifiers like Senior, Associate, Lead, etc are useful and not used enough, but those only go so far.

Inside a community team, I think it's important to have clear roles & responsibilities but those don't always translate externally. So, as a manager, just try and do the best you can between balancing more accurate titles and balancing the future career impact of your teammates.

I think over time, the distinctions and titles and responsibilities will become slightly clearer in mature parts of the industry (i.e. B2B SaaS, Gaming), but I don't see Community Manager becoming less popular as catchall job title across a wide range.

Naya - Hey Erik! Thanks for joining us today :) What have been the top 3 highlights of your career in Community thus far?

1. Global reddit Meetup Day. This was something suggested by a reddit user back in 2009 (we had like 10 total employees at that time), and I was able to help them make it happen. All the meetups were self-organized by the community members, we at reddit just promoted it and helped where we could behind the scenes. First year there were a handful of small meetups, second year there were more, and by the fifth year there were thousands of meetups in 100+ countries. I was lucky enough to attend reddit meetups all over the world and it was amazing getting to meet so people through it. People met lifelong friends and even partners at the events over the years, and it was amazing to be a part of helping to make an idea from the community happen on such a massive scale.

2. Featuring members on the WeWork elevator screens. This was a tiny project that I helped lead, which (I think) still continues to spark connections all over the world. In WeWork buildings, people wait for the elevators (and rightfully complain about the wait times). Most buildings had TV screens by the elevators but they were just being used to promote events and share general WeWork branding stuff. We had the idea to showcase active members (who opted in) from that building. People often recognized the faces of other members in their building but didn't know their names, nor what kind of work they did. Once they saw their profile on the screens while waiting for the elevators, it became an excuse for members to introduce themselves. We heard so many anecdotes and reports from members about how when they were featured on the TV screens, people would come up to them at the coffee machine or stop by their office to say hello. It was a small, two week long project to integrate everything technically, but it ended up having such a massive impact even years later.

3. When I was at Nike, my focus was on Older Adults. I got to work with some amazing fitness professionals (running coaches, yoga teachers, strength trainers) who were 60+ and building their own communities. Many of them didn't consider themselves "community builders", and most thought they weren't tech savvy, but they were creating these impressive and powerful virtual communities. They were all super inspiring in general, and I learned a lot getting to work with them.

Jocelyn - Hey Erik! What's the most common question or piece of advice you get or give when mentoring folks in the industry?

I get a lot of questions from people who aren't fulfilled in their current role, and unsure if they should stay or look for something else. No easy advice there! I'm certainly not sure about all the decisions I've made in my own career. It's always a tough, important decision.

One thing I've found helpful for myself and others, is that when you're in that limbo state, and you're not sure what you're going to do long term. As a thought exercise, go ahead and assume that for whatever reason you're only going to be at the current job for another 30/60 days. Make a list of the things you'd want to accomplish by the time you leave. What are the projects you want to wrap up or move forward because you believe in them, or because they'll be good to have completed for your resume, or because teammates are blocked? Similar to how we're often super productive in wrapping things up before the deadline of a vacation, go ahead and set yourself a (made up) deadline of when you are leaving. It's a helpful way to add some clarity and structure for yourself when things are cloudy. Sometimes, you get to the end of those 30/60 days and you feel different about moving on or not. But at least you've been able to accomplish what is important for yourself.

Ben - Hi Erik! What is your coolest or wildest story from reddit?

hmmm. lot to choose from. Trying to think of one I haven't shared elsewhere. Here's something that still happens every couple months...

When I was at reddit, part of my job was trying to educate old school media people about reddit. An article at a major publication would be linked from reddit and make the homepage and send a ton of traffic. The people at the publication would try and contact us to see how they could make that happen again, or if instead of the link going to an article page we could make it go somewhere else (lol). We tried to proactively and reactively educate as many people as possible about what reddit was and how it was different than other social media type stuff. I also fielded a lot of the press requests for stories about or involving reddit back then. So, I got to know a lot of journalists and up and coming people at publishers. Now 10 years later a lot of those people are fairly senior and well known writers or running various media sites.

Every few months I get a random DM or text from someone like that, asking if I can chat about something. It's always fairly cryptic. The first few times, I thought maybe it was about a job offer or about something where they want my advice. Nope, these strange chats with "important" media people are always about the same thing: Their kids' reddit habits. Seriously.

They are asking me, a person who hasn't worked at the company in 8 years, and a person they haven't talked with in at least a year or two, and a person who does not have children, if I think it's ok that their 14 year old child is spending a lot of time on some anime or geocaching subreddit. It's such a strange conversation, but at least I can see it coming now. I try to be helpful, but it's not something I can really answer. It somehow sums up the odd nature of reddit. Some of these individuals are household names, and they've been in the media business for years, have massive twitter followings, but on some personal level they still don't really understand this huge site/community/whatever that has now been around for over 15 years.