When was the last time you looked at your resume? How about the last time you wrote down a list of everything you’ve worked on and accomplished at your current gig? If it’s been a while, this episode is going to come with some homework afterward.
Maria Ogneva, who has held senior community roles at companies like LinkedIn, Salesforce and Yammer, shares the story of how she turned a lost job into a “fun” journey. Fun is in quotes there because I’m sure that for most of us, the job hunt is hard to imagine as anything but daunting. But by the end of Maria’s story and hearing her tips on knowing your worth and putting yourself and your work out there, I myself became excited about the new tools and motivation that I have going into future job searches.
After you listen to this episode, I’d encourage you to revisit your LinkedIn, resume, or professional bio and make sure that it’s fresh. You never know when an interesting opportunity might come your way and you’ll need to forward it along!
Patrick and Maria discussed:
- Breaking the work of community into small, manageable tasks
- Approaching your job hunt from a place of empowerment
- How to always be prepared for your next big opportunity
- Tooting your own horn (that’s talking about your accomplishments)
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
“Imagine a community that you’re a part of. If you are asked to continuously deliver big, hairy projects, you probably wouldn’t come back to it. You have a job, maybe you have a family, you have hobbies, and so this community is asking you to do these big things, and that can be really demotivating. Instead, I think what really motivates people is breaking down whatever big tasks you have into small goals and figuring out how to also distribute the work across multiple people.” -@themaria
“It’s sometimes much easier to just do the whole project by yourself end-to-end, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It always counts for more when you can do it with other people, especially in a community setting, because the community is not about you. It’s not about any one person. … If it’s really, truly a community, which presupposes a shared ownership, and a shared culture, and shared activity, you cannot and should not attempt to do anything by yourself.” -@themaria
“Just because you’re not employed does not mean that you can’t come at [your job search] from a position of strength. Just know your strengths and really believe that you have something to offer to whoever you’re talking to and that will make establishing the guardrails and being really honest about what you want that much easier. … Just because you don’t have a job in the hand does not mean that you have lost all leverage. Your experience, your network, they’re all great leverage.” -@themaria
About Maria Ogneva
Maria Ogneva is the director of online customer experience and community at FinancialForce. She has extensive experience in various roles in community and social strategy, customer development, and marketing. Maria is passionate about building communities and loves helping businesses better connect with their customers and employees. She has built world-class, global social and community programs at companies like LinkedIn, Yammer, Salesforce, Sidecar, Sumo Logic, and Attensity.
- Sponsor: Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers
- Sponsor: Structure3C, expert community strategy for large organizations
- Maria Ogneva on LinkedIn
- Social Silk, Maria’s blog
- Maria on Medium
- FinancialForce supplies apps for accounting, billing, supply chain management, and more
- Why Big Goals Demotivate And Incremental Changes Mobilize
- KarateForums.com turned 17 in May
- Looking for my next opportunity
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers, and Structure3C, expert community strategy for large organizations. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:28] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for listening to Community Signal. Today my guest is Maria Ogneva. We’re going to talk about taking your job search public when you’re unemployed and not selling yourself short as a professional.
Thank you for our amazing supporters on Patreon, including Luke Zimmer, Carol Benovic-Bradley, and Dave Gertler. If you like to find out more about how you can support the show, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle.
Maria Ogneva is the Global Director of Community at FinancialForce. She is responsible for community strategy, customer engagement, and advocacy, as well as the holistic digital customer experience. She joined the company with a decade of experience building, engaging and scalable online and offline experiences for customers at top SaaS B2B companies. Most recently she was Global Head of Community at LinkedIn and prior to that, she led similar efforts at Salesforce, Microsoft, Yammer, Sumo Logic, and Intensity and others. Maria keeps doing this work because she believes in the transformational power of bringing people together for the organization, individual, and society at large. Maria, welcome to the program.
[00:01:28] Maria Ogneva: Thank you, Patrick. It’s great to be here.
[00:01:31] Patrick: It’s great to have you on. I looked at a lot of things that you had written over the years in preparing for the show and kind of choosing a few interesting topics to discuss. That theme will pop up as we walk through this conversation. The first thing I wanted to mention is an article that you wrote on your blog, which you included a link to on the pre-show questionnaire. One of the most recent posts or the most recent post on that blog was about how big goals demotivate communities. Talk about that.
[00:02:03] Maria: Good question. Actually, that post is quite old and I keep hoping that by the time we air the show, there’ll be some newer blog content.
[00:02:12] Patrick: I believe that is referred to is evergreen content. [laughs]
[00:02:14] Maria: Evergreen? Yes, well, it hasn’t happened yet so we’ll just go with that. Yes, so community, if you think about the work of a community manager, it’s someone who shepherds people through different activities and hopefully, something that has collective value to the whole community, however you define it. Different people obviously have different motivations and so it’s super important for the community manager to be able to understand motivations and how to ask people to do what needs to be done in the interest of the entire community, without really burning people out.
Imagine a community that you’re a part of, if you are asked to continuously deliver big hairy projects, you probably wouldn’t come back to it. You have a job, maybe you have a family, you have hobbies, and so this community is asking you to do these big things and that can be really demotivating. Instead, I think what really motivates people, is breaking down whatever big tasks that you have into small goals and figuring out how to also distribute the work across multiple people.
Thinking about Wikipedia, for example, they do a really, really good job of that. You can literally go down a Wikipedia hole at any given moment, there’s so much information. It wasn’t written all at once, it wasn’t written by just 10 people, it was written by a lot of people in a very distributed fashion. Everybody adds a little paragraph or a line and then together it becomes something else, it becomes something much bigger. I think your ability, as a community manager to really take the task and break it down into small bite-sized pieces, figuring out who can do what or allowing people to opt-in, self-select for the different tasks. One important aspect not to be forgotten is the aspect of celebration. When you do achieve a task, what does that feel like? If it feels great, if it feels like you’re contributing something positive to the community, to other people’s welfare, to a goal.
Your goal could be totally self-interested, maybe you wanted to learn a new skill, a new advanced– or like a learning path. All those things are really, really motivating.
But it’s really important to have work that doesn’t go on and on and on, with no end in sight because then people just- especially if it’s not their day job, they just abandon it, right? So, have these bite-sized pieces. It’s a sprint, not a marathon and acknowledge the end of the sprint and say like, “Okay, we did a really great job. Now on to the next thing.” I think that keeps their energy fresh, it keeps people aligned to the same goal and it also allows you to course correct. If you’re doing a huge task and you go off course or maybe that task is not aligned or maybe the direction has changed, you would get to the end of the task only to realize that this is throw away work. That’s not terribly motivating either.
Working in these sprints and you think about that’s the foundation of the agile development methodology and so many ways that people do work in the office and communities, it’s really important to be able to course correct and understand where you are at the end of each sprint, at the end of each little activity and be like, “Okay, are we still heading in the right direction or do we want to course correct a little bit?” and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. I don’t think we do this enough, I know I don’t do it enough. You got to do it with your community and you got to do in your personal life, too. Otherwise, it’s drudgery. [chuckles] You want to have fun and when people have fun they compete at a different level.
[00:06:28] Patrick: I feel like it’s dream big, plan small. I feel like is what’s going on. Dream big, plan small.
[00:06:34] Maria: One of my favorite sayings or it’s a proverb maybe, is – Patrick, how do you eat an elephant?
[00:06:42] Patrick: I’m going to say, I don’t know.
[00:06:43] Maria: You don’t know?
[00:06:44] Patrick: No.
[00:06:44] Maria: You eat it one bite at a time, right? Approaching any big problem is the same way. Like I want to lose 30 pounds, holy-moly, that’s a really big goal. It’s scary before you even start doing it. It’s very easy to start finding excuses not to go down this path because failure is so easy and what if you don’t have that opportunity to course correct? But if you do just a little bit every single day you feel really good at the end of the day that you’ve done something to push to goal ahead. It’s not going to be a pound a day and some days it’s just not going to be anything but as long as you continuously move the ball in the right direction, it’s going to feel great. You’re going to get there and you’re going to have fun.
[00:07:31] Patrick: There’s a community that I’ve managed for many years, KarateForums.com. It turned 17 years old this month and I started it, so I’ve been managing it for 17 years.
[00:07:41] Maria: Congrats.
[00:07:41] Patrick: Thanks. We’re working on a type of project that fits into this category. It’s all volunteers, it’s obviously a community of martial artists and we need to reorganize our content, our sections, the organization of the form needs to change. To go through 500,000 plus posts and rethink how those things are organized, based upon current demand, not demand 15 years ago, is a big project for the community and certainly something I cannot do by myself.
We’re going through those steps now. I think it sort of started with just discussing the idea and acclimating everyone to the process of how we’re going to do it and getting their feedback at the early stages and then nailing down what that organization looks like, nailing down new section names, descriptions, piece by piece. We’re at a stage now where we’re fairly close to being ready to go in and review those posts but even that is going to be broken down into smaller tasks, divided by person and then we’re going to close down sections of the forum to make that easier for a short period of time in those sections while leaving others open. It’s just not a task that’s doable in that setting in a quick way or in a way where we could just say, “Okay, we’re going to do this. Let’s do it now. Let’s do it today.” I think that’s unsatisfying in some ways. Obviously, there’s a sense of instant gratification online that we want things to be done and be how they are but I guess self-awareness is important there because it just wouldn’t be possible for this community or most communities.
Breaking it down into those smaller goals, even though it’s taken a long time to get to the point we’re at, just being able to continually move the yardstick a little farther and see that progress move along, helps people get excited about the little stages that you’re reaching the idea of these new sections because it’s driven by the members and driven by the staff that this is where current attention is and it needs to be updated for where we are in 2018. The fact that the staff can see it progress in those stages without having to think too hard about the next stage, I think that speaks to what you’re talking about and has been helpful for us.
[00:09:45] Maria: Absolutely, and I think getting other people involved it always adds extra cycles and it always makes the project longer but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve had to learn how to manage that in my own head throughout the years. It’s sometimes much easier to just do the whole project by yourself end-to-end, but that is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It always counts for more when you can do it with other people, especially in a community setting because the community is not about you. It’s not about any one person otherwise, it would just be like your fan site like, “Come look at me.” If it’s really, truly a community which presupposes a shared ownership, and a shared culture, and shared activity, you cannot and should not attempt to do anything by yourself.
I’m not saying it’s death by consensus, you ultimately have to drive it, and ultimately be responsible for it. However, you want to do it with other people and again my favorite proverb. I’ll close with another proverb is ‘you can go faster alone but you can go further together.’ Again, that’s a paraphrase but that’s as close as I can remember it, but I keep reminding myself of that every day when I’m not satisfied about how fast or slow a project is going. Hey, I could do this but I want to get buy-in from others, and I want other people to be excited about it because then when the community launches or when the change is made, like you’re talking about the reorganization, other people will talk about it. They will be excited because they have skin in the game. There’s just no replacement for that so sometimes you just have to make it more meaningful and to include more people.
[00:11:37] Patrick: Let’s take a moment to talk about our excellent sponsor, Higher Logic.
Higher Logic is the community platform for community managers with over 25 million engaged users in more than 200,000 communities. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring like-minded people together by giving their community a home where they can meet, share ideas and stay connected. The platform’s granular permissions and powerful tools, including automated workflows and consolidated email digests, empower users to create their own interest-based communities, schedule and manage events, and participate in volunteer and mentoring programs. Tap into the power your community can generate for you. Higher Logic, all together.
In August of 2016, you put yourself out there and wrote a blog post on LinkedIn where you said that you were looking for your next opportunity, and talked about the type of role that would be ideal for you. I’ve done that and I think there is a vulnerability that comes along with that. Was there any hesitation on your part?
[00:12:33] Maria: Sure. That’s a really good question. I think about that time in my life, actually now that the moment has passed, I think about it quite fondly at the time, not so much. For context, I was laid off from a position. Obviously, I’ve been around for a few years so it definitely was not the first time that something has gone sideways in a work environment, but it’s never pleasant. It’s never something that anyone likes to have happen to them.
What was different this time is that I was a mom. I was a new mom. That sort of gives you the additional pressure that you don’t just have to feed and clothe yourself, you also have this little person who doesn’t care that you got laid off. They still have to eat and get clothed and life in the Bay Area is not cheap, so it only adds to the stress and I was like, “Hey, I need to find a job as quickly as I can.” Usually, when you’re looking for a job, most of the time it’s on the DL. You’re talking to people, you’re checking out opportunities. You’re still employed, you’re not really going to post on social media that you’re looking. This was a rare opportunity where all over a sudden it just ended and I was like, “Hey, this is a cool opportunity for me to try to go really far and wide and sort of put my feelers out there in a very public way.”
Before I thought about how I was going to do it my first instinct was really to be like, “Hey guys, this horrible thing happened. I got laid off and can you help me find a job.” Of course, your friends and the people with really strong connections to you, and people who know that you’re good at your job would rush to your rescue, because they are your friends, they have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. However, I just didn’t think that was going to be as effective coming from a place of pity as it was going to be to come from a place of strength and so I sort of reframed how I talked about it, so instead of saying, “Hey, woe is me. I got laid off. Can you please help me?” It was more like, “Hey, this thing happened I’m now a free agent. This is an opportunity for me to really reconsider what I’m doing, what kind of company I want to work with, and these are the strengths that I bring to the table.”
I wrote that up. It wasn’t the first draft, my first draft was more like, “Oh my god, please help.” [laughs] I was like, “You are panicking, Maria.” So I trashed that draft, I waited a couple of days until I felt a little bit better and then I talked about what it was that I wanted and what it was that I had to offer because I knew whatever opportunity that I was going to find it was going to be because it’s a really good match between the needs of the company and what I have to offer.
I approached it from that perspective, it does take vulnerability, it also takes an amount of self introspection and understanding, like, “These are the things that I want, these are my non-negotiables,” and just putting your proverbial foot down and saying like, “These are the guardrails within that, I want to play, I want to explore, I want to see really great fun opportunities, send me whatever you have, but this is a no-fly zone.”
Just be really honest with yourself about what that no-fly zone is. Just because you’ve landed on a back foot and you’re not employed does not mean that you can’t come at it from a position of strength. Just know your strengths and really believe that you have something to offer to whoever you’re talking to and that will make establishing the guardrails and being really honest about what you want that much easier.
[00:16:24] Patrick: When I made that post and you made your post, obviously, we had a level of experience, and I think that’s both positive and negative because I think that if you’re newer, you might be more inclined to put yourself out there in a freer way. If you’re more experienced, obviously, you have more to, potentially, offer, you have more job experience, work experience and I could see all these great things you did but that can come with a certain level of, “Wow, that person got laid off?” or, “That person’s looking for a job?”
I think the type of thing that happens to everyone but that the older you get or the more that you do, the less [laughs] you really want to talk about it in some cases. I think that pride and loss of leverage are two things that stand out to people who think about opening up in this way. Traditionally, there is a level of embarrassment that people can feel about being unemployed. I feel like this has become less so but that could just be me reading into just a small peer group that I have, and if someone knows you’re looking, they might offer you less or they might try to take advantage of your seeming lack of options.
[00:17:30] Maria: Yes, well, this is why you have to come at it from a position of strength. Just because you don’t have a job does not mean that you don’t have leverage. Right? These are two separate things and I think it’s the traditional way to think about it. Right? Like, “I can lowball you just because you don’t have any other options,” but you do. Right? If you are somebody who is a known entity, to some extent, you will always have options and you can always walk away from a bad situation.
I would encourage anyone listening to this podcast who is finding themselves in this position or thinks they will find themselves in this position, at some point in the future, just because you don’t have a job in the hand does not mean that you have lost all leverage. Your experience, your network, they’re all great leverage. Right? As always, it’s always the best practice to in parallel talk to several companies and try to arrange the timing so you do have several job offers in mind in place.
That always does give you leverage but don’t sell yourself short either. If that’s the only offer you have, you can walk away. If the match between what you have to give, what you have to offer, and what they need is strong enough, they won’t let you walk away. It is your job, during the interview process, during the discovery process, to nail that intersection between what they’re looking for and what you have to offer.
[00:18:58] Patrick: In your case, after you posted that on LinkedIn, you ended up at LinkedIn. What happened in your case after you made that post?
[00:19:06] Maria: Obviously, LinkedIn looked at it and said, “This is a great way we have to use LinkedIn.” Not true, that’s a joke. A friend of mine, this is the importance of building your network way ahead of time if you’re building your network when you’re unemployed or about to become unemployed, that’s too late. You really need to build relationships and let people know what you’re working on and let people see your work so that when the moment does come, you’re the first person off their lips.
Your name is the first one that comes up. You always want to be that person. So, this was a colleague of mine from a previous job, he just happened to know, literally earlier that day, he talked to somebody at LinkedIn who was looking for somebody like me. It just so happened that I was top of mind and that this person knew that I was looking and that it was a happy coincidence, but at the same time what do they say? Luck is 90% perspiration and preparation and whatever. I totally slaughtered that saying, but you get the general gist. It’s not that it just happened. I had worked on this relationship among many other relationships. This person knew me. They knew my work first hand. That’s what allowed me to be top of mind. That’s what created this luck. That’s what created this happy accident, I guess.
[00:20:34] Patrick: Did they know you were looking because of the post or had you just spoken, put out feelers? I’m just trying to get directly attributable ROI. [laughs]
[00:20:40] Maria: Yes. I’m pretty sure he saw it on LinkedIn, or somewhere, or maybe, somebody saw it and told him.
[00:20:47] Patrick: You had other opportunities come up because of that post, going back to sort of the idea of leverage?
[00:20:52] Maria: Yes. I had lots of different opportunities. I started the process obviously sad and despondent like anyone would. Like, “Why me?” But when a couple of weeks into it, I was having so much fun. I was still unemployed. It was just really fun. Talk about these small whims that keep you energized. I would just go out to these interviews, have really great conversations and just discover really cool companies that I honestly didn’t even know that much about and interesting new industries. That was energizing, and that was honestly, it’s fun.
It took a lot of work to keep reframing it in my mind every day. It’s like, I wake up at 7:00 AM. I’m still unemployed. I’m still worried about putting food on my kid’s table. “Hey, let’s think about something else. Let’s think about the cool things we can learn today, and how we can create this win-win solution that matches my skills to somebody else’s needs.” You have to proactively manage your thoughts. It’s not easy, but you have to do it and you have to be very mindful of the headspace you’re in.
Then, little by little you convince yourself less and less, because you are having fun. You end up having lots of great offers, and lots of leverage and gets you in a good place. The whole process took me maybe three weeks. It was wonderful. I kind of didn’t want it to end. Then, when I found the job at LinkedIn, and it was an amazing job. Obviously, I took it and it’d be stupid not to but I kind of wanted to keep going, as crazy as that sounds because it was fun.
[00:22:12] Patrick: Let’s stop right here so I can tell you about our great sponsor, Structure3C.
Structure3C helps large organizations unlock the full value of community. Founded by Bill Johnston and staffed by a network of experienced community builders from the public and private sectors, Structure3C helps clients transform existing programs, launch new communities, and develop forward-looking strategies for community-based growth and innovation.
Schedule a free initial conversation at structure3c.com.
What you’re saying about building your network before you need it I think is so important. It goes to the idea that to some extent, you should always behave like someone who is looking for a job. Not in a sense that you’re unhappy where you are right now because I think those two things get conflated too much with time together. If I’m looking for something else, I must be unhappy with what I have. Not always the case. In some cases, it will be. [laughs]
Maybe your personal relationship or whatever. In the case professionally, what I mean is that you are always talking to people. You are keeping your LinkedIn up to date, at least moderately. You got your current position on there. Maybe you take a look at it once a quarter, once every six months. Whatever it is, you kind of act like someone who could be open to an opportunity or is at least keeping their resume up to date as if they would be so that when it happens, certainly, as I am sure you have had plenty of friends and people I know over the years who are looking for a job or just found themselves in a position where they are looking for a job now because their old job ended, laid off, fired or whatever it was.
One of the first thing they say is, “Well, I have to update my LinkedIn.” You don’t have to do too much if it’s already updated. You might already have new things coming in. Mindset I think is important. Not that you’re not happy or content, but just that you’re always at least open to opportunities and making sure that your profile that you present is one that is continually up to speed and up to date.
[00:24:29] Maria: Absolutely.
[00:24:30] Patrick: I guess don’t get too comfortable is what I’m thinking of. [laughs]
[00:24:33] Maria: Never get too comfortable, absolutely. You should be able to any day of any week have your job end and know that you will be okay. You have to do that. First and foremost, you always have to protect yourself to make sure that you are also thinking about the things that you’ve done because what you don’t want to do is be laid off and have your laptop taken away in the next 10 minutes. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t even look at my community metrics.”
I’m not saying you should steal reports but I’m saying have a story like, “This year we grow our active engagement in the community by this firsthand and it did this and this to the business.” Always have that story, it’s always useful to have that story if you’re in the elevator with your CEO, “How’s the community going?” “Great. We signed up this many new people, and by the way, we impacted our revenue number by this much.” Always have it ready, always have a good story to tell.
[00:25:40] Patrick: Always document your successes. It’s a great point. You’ve worked at a lot of companies that listeners will be familiar with, the companies LinkedIn, Sumo Logic, Salesforce, Yammer and others, you’re at FinancialForce now. What makes FinancialForce different from any other job you’ve had?
[00:25:58] Maria: Really good question. What drew me to this job is the opportunity to do really cool things. I’m very, very lucky that I do get to come to work and work on really interesting problems and experiment. It’s been really fun, it’s kind of right at the right stage, it’s a growing company, it’s not super huge, it’s not 100,000 person company, yet, but there’s enough foundation there to sort of — I don’t want to say take out existential risks, because everything has existential risk. Like if we’re hit by a comet tomorrow and we all go extinct, however, when a company is well on its way and it’s growing and the customer base is strong and their product is great, it enables you to be more proactive instead of just putting fires out all day long. When you work with really competent people around you, it allows you to be able to focus on the vision and focus proactively on what you’re building and why and really responds to the market and respond to your company’s vision so that you are constantly supporting it instead of just sitting off on a silo fighting fires all day because your Support team is out to lunch.
What I’m saying is, what I like about where I am right now is that it’s really in a good place functionally that allows me to think about the future, there’s lots of stuff to build also. You always want to look for opportunity or a company that allows you to push your own skills to the max and to being a space in a company that you like. The people are so important. Like I said, I’ve had situations in the past where the Support team was either so overwhelmed and underwater or maybe just not have been that competent and all of it spills out into the community and it just becomes constant friction and you’re like, “Why is no one answering my support tickets?”
You’re frustrated, everyone’s angry on every side of the issue. You can’t move that thing forward if you’re constantly in firefighting mode, but if everyone around you has a handle on what’s going on, then everyone can really flourish. As you’re looking for opportunities, you definitely want to look at that. I haven’t always looked at that in the past but you always, always want to look at that.
[00:28:29] Patrick: A unique level of autonomy paired with a company that is big enough to have a solid foundation where they can do good work, but not so big where you feel like you can’t effect change, I think.
[00:28:43] Maria: That’s very good and so synced summary, of what I took 20 minutes to say.
[00:28:49] Patrick: No, not at all. The details are important and I think that those are two strong things. I think the more experience you get, maybe especially in community but across all disciplines, the more you get closer to wanting those two things. Because when you don’t have autonomy and you can’t effect change, your ability to control your own destiny and to be successful as a community professional is often hamstrung or too deeply controlled by other people who don’t necessarily share the same goals internally. Maybe the same end goal, the same end goal of, “Increase this or that,” maybe you don’t share the community purpose. Being able to control that destiny to some extent or at least to a large extent possible as you have earned with your experience, is something that I think experienced professional need to think about as they look at new opportunities. Something you said earlier, don’t sell yourself short when you’re looking at jobs.
I feel imposter syndrome from time to time, early enough I go to bed confident and sometimes I wake up feeling like, “What am I doing here?” [laughs] I feel like a lot of people are the other way around, but we all have those feelings of whatever it is, imposter syndrome, selling yourself short, not reaching high enough, not thinking, “I deserve this opportunity or I deserve this promotion.”
With too many community professionals I’ve had that conversation where it’s like, “You’ve been there for this amount of time, you can ask for a new title, you can ask for a raise, you can ask for more responsibility, you can ask for one direct report, you can make those asks.” If you don’t get them you can always look around and see if someone else will give them to you rather than being comfortable, as we talked about earlier because that unlocks the next value in your profession, is just taking greater accountability for the work that you’re doing.
[00:30:31] Maria: Absolutely. You brought up probably my favorite word, accountability. You can’t get to a job and expect things to happen for you, you have to consistently and constantly advocate for yourself and for your team. That’s really what’s going to make the difference between being successful and having longevity in your career and having impact in your career, and not, is your ability to advocate. Again, it sounds super basic but it really isn’t, and a lot of people don’t do it and I used to not do it.
Well, of course, my results speak for themselves except for they don’t because…Results do speak for yourself but if you’re not telling people about what you’re doing and then what the results are, no one’s going to go and try to find them. No one’s going to go and just hang out in the community all day and be like, “Hey, let me see what Maria is up to.” You have to toot your own horn.
I think as community professionals we haven’t always been great at that, and Patrick I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. I think it’s because we are a certain kind of personality that gets drawn to community, is we like to bring people together and we like to promote the community but not necessarily ourselves. I know women, especially, definitely have that problem. You have to come out of your comfort zone and just get used to tooting your own horn.
We’re so good at tooting in the horn of our community members and other people on our team but you have to consistently toot your own because if you’re just relying on people to notice what a great job you’re doing, stop, no one’s just going to sit there and think about what a great job you’re doing, everyone’s busy doing their own job and demonstrating their own success. You have to be out there and you have to, again, it’s back to that elevator pitch, “What is your story, what are you doing that’s new and interesting and that’s value added.” Those are my career tips, I guess.
[00:32:41] Patrick: I think that what you say is definitely true, it probably is personality based. I think there’s all this- the people talking around the world of rockstar, which I don’t use that word, I don’t really care for it. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just a word. To me, community managers aren’t so much rockstars as they are a stage managers, and then not to get too deep down the all euphemism pit. We’re using that spotlight to shed it on other people more often than not.
That breeds this feeling where you’re not necessarily taking the time to sit down and calculate what’s happening because of the community and the company where you work. One simple cheater hack to get around that, I was talking to someone the other day who was having trouble writing their bio and I’ve certainly had that struggle. I stick to facts that are related to the community, things that happened, platforms that launched, numbers that grew, percentage change. Think about what the community did, and you don’t need to say, “It’s because I did this,” although sure be ready to talk about your responsibilities. If you were the manager of this community and this community grew in activity by 477% during the time that you were at the company, that’s an accomplishment to hang your hat on. If you raised retention from X to Y during that time, that’s something you can hang your hat on.
If you had numbers that compared non-community members to people in the community and those people performed differently and they gave the company more money, that’s an accomplishment you can hang your hat on. Those are all facts and data and numbers that aren’t simply saying, “Look at me, I’m great.” I think there’s value in speaking with the right superlatives and speaking with positivity, but a lot of people struggle there.
I think the way to get around that struggle is just to stick to things that were done, stick to facts, stick to things that happened in the community during your time. If thinking about it that way helps you get around the feeling of, I guess, sometimes ickiness of self-pride then I think that’s one way to do it.
[00:34:36] Maria: Absolutely. Tell a story, because I think — this is why I started the hour with me lamenting about how I haven’t blogged, and it’s something that I keep going back to. If you’ve learned something interesting or if you’ve done something cool, share it. It doesn’t have to be a blog, it can be short, little bite-sized pieces, you can put it on LinkedIn or wherever. You don’t have to host your own blog, tons of platforms, there’s no shortage of places to put stuff.
Just share something interesting and impactful and if you can help other people save some time or move their project forward or help them think a little bit differently, and if you do that consistently you will start to be seen as somebody who is at the top of somebody’s mind. When that moment does come, and it will come for everyone when you’re wanting a change or your hand was forced and you have to have a change, career-wise people will think of you, massive resource as someone who is helpful and as someone who’s knowledgeable.
To my earlier point, you can’t expect people to know what you’re up to if you don’t tell people what you’re up to. I think that’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way, don’t just assume that everyone knows what you’re doing. Also, never think that just because I feel this way sometimes, everything that could be said about community management has been said and I have nothing else to add that’s extra. That’s absolutely false. There are no two situations that are alike.
You could be in the same situation in a similar situation two different times and two slightly different environments and have learned different lessons. You can absolutely share it because your path and your lessons and what you got out of it can be so helpful to someone else in a way that you could never even foresee. I see this back in the day when I used to speak a lot more and I used to go to conferences before baby, I still do but keeping a little bit more tempered.
People would come up to me and say, “What you said about X, Y, and Z really impacted me,” or I’d hear from somebody years later talking about this little thing that I brought up five years ago. I was like, “That thing was so inconsequential. I never even thought that anybody would remember it or react to it or learn from it.” You can’t assume that. People will take what they want to take from what it is that you’re saying, you never know how it can help someone in a very roundabout way, so keep sharing.
There’s no thing that’s too small or too seemingly unhelpful to share because it can help someone. You never know, that could build a relationship with somebody because you’ve really helped them out and they could be the next person to help you out. Life has a really interesting way of working out, it really does. Think about the story that I told you at the beginning of the conversation about how I just ended up being the first person that my old colleague thought about when I lost my job. Was it an accident? Not really, because I was top of mind because I was helpful to others and I had built that reputation over the years, that enabled me to be towards the top of somebody’s list. You can’t do it the day that you lose your job, it has to be a habit and it has to be something that you do throughout the duration of your career.
[00:38:17] Patrick: I like that you said, “The day will come,” it made me think of, “Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” [laughs] We’re all going to get there at some point.
[00:38:26] Maria: [laughs] That’s dark.
[00:38:31] Patrick: [laughs] Well, thank you so much, Maria. I appreciate you spending some time with us today.
[00:38:34] Maria: Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a pleasure. I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me to chat about community and reminisce about our careers and things we’ve done. I’m happy to be here. Thanks for thinking of me.
[00:38:48] Patrick: We’ve been talking with Maria Ogneva, Director of Online Customer Experience and Community at FinancialForce. Find her LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/themaria, and Medium at medium.com/@themaria. You can also visit Maria’s kind of defunct blog, her words, at socialsilk.com.
For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. See you next episode.
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