I’m definitely in the moment, so why not put myself under the microscope, and talk about my own search for a new role? But I don’t want to just talk to myself. My friend Brandon Eley knows as much about my search as anyone else does, and he agreed to develop and host this week’s episode of the show. He pushed me to talk about the process I went through, and why I accepted this role, including:
- What hiring managers saw as my weaknesses
- Why I turned down or turned away certain jobs
- A role I wanted, after going through the interview process, that didn’t want me
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Open Social.
“It was just time for a change. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to be a part of a team so I could do something greater than I could do myself.” -@patrickokeefe
“If you have the opportunity to reach higher for more salary, or a better title, or more responsibility, I think we have a responsibility whenever possible to do so to push the industry forward.” -@patrickokeefe
“I was looking for a culture… where I felt really strongly supported, where there was ethics and integrity, and where there wasn’t any kind whiff of politics. If I’m seeing even the slightest bit of it from the outside, I can only imagine what waits for me once I get inside.” -@patrickokeefe
“It’s also important to have a degree of self-awareness. If you’ve been in this space for a while and you’ve had success, you’ve built good communities, communities that delivered value to members and the organizations you work for, then it is important to recognize that and not sell yourself short.” -@patrickokeefe
“There were other roles I could have taken. I could have sacrificed on different points but because I didn’t have to, I didn’t. As much as possible, although it’s difficult, I would just preach patience and taking your time [when it comes to searching for a new job]. I think it is a big deal and it’s easy to put yourself down or maybe act like it’s just another job, but I think if you’re looking for a next great step in your career, it would benefit you as much as possible to be patient.” -@patrickokeefe
About Brandon Eley
Brandon Eley is an e-commerce entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience. He is the founder of large shoe retailer 2BigFeet.com, author of Online Marketing Inside Out, and author, blogger and speaker on e-commerce and online marketing.
- Sponsor: Open Social, community building for nonprofits
- GoalGorilla, Open Social’s parent
- CommunityCo, where Patrick is director of community, leading online community efforts for the CommunityCo’s portfolio of communities, including YEC, the Forbes Councils and Men’s Health Fitness Council
- Brandon Eley, e-commerce entrepreneur, speaker and author, who developed and hosted this episode
- 2BigFeet.com, the online retailer of large size men’s shows, that Brandon founded
- Alexandra Dao, on the career ceiling in community
- Trella Rath, on the job search process for experienced community managers
- Ryan Paugh, co-founder of CommunityCo
- Coral Project, where Patrick interviewed for a community lead role, but wasn’t the right fit
- Brandon on Twitter
- Brandon on LinkedIn
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Open Social, community building for nonprofits. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for listening to Community Signal. After a week off, we’re back with something a little different as I’m going to put myself under the microscope. Before we get into that, I wanted to thank the show’s supporters on Patreon. When I took the new job that I spoke about on our last episode, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep the Patreon going as I felt a little weird about continuing to take that money. But they were all universally supportive and that was really, really nice. Thank you to all of our backers on Patreon, including Joseph Ranallo, Carol Benovic-Bradley, Serena Snoad, Luke Zimmer, Dave Gertler, and Rachel Medanic. We’re going to take a look at how that program works and I definitely want to keep it going now. If you’d like to support our show, please learn more at communitysignal.com/innercircle.
Coincidentally, we also have a new sponsor this week: Open Social, community building for nonprofits at getopensocial.com. Thank you, everyone, at Open Social and GoalGorilla for supporting our program. We’re so glad to have you. Last week, I talked about that new job as Director of Community at CommunityCo where I’m leading online community efforts for our portfolio of communities including YEC, the Forbes Councils, the Men’s Health Fitness Council, and more. We talk about the community management career path on this show pretty regularly and did two shows in January where we covered the career ceiling in our profession with Alexander Dao and the job search process for an experienced community pro with Trella Rath.
I love to talk to people in the moment. I’m really in the moment right now, as far as my career goes and this kind of shift in my professional life. It took quite a process to get to the point where I was offered a job that I actually wanted to accept. Bringing that on the show, I didn’t want to talk to myself. I don’t think that’s a lot of fun. I don’t know how much I would push myself. So, I’ve enlisted Brandon Eley, one of my closest friends, to lead a conversation in the spirit of this show and to really push me to talk about the process that led me to this point.
There is no one besides me, who knows more about my search for a new opportunity than he does. He really had a front row seat. I’m so glad that he agreed to develop and host this week’s episode. Brandon is an e-commerce and online marketing author, consultant, and speaker, and the founder and president of 2bigfeet.com, a large size men’s shoe retailer. Brandon, welcome to the program.
[00:02:40] Brandon Eley: Hey Patrick, thanks for having me on. I’m really honored to be a guest host on Community Signal this week and just to be on to discuss your recent career search process.
[00:02:49] Patrick O’Keefe: [laughs]. It’s a little crazy because you’re the first one. I’ve never really done anything like this on this show. 80 something episodes here, where I really just said, “Hey, I got this idea. Can you develop a show around this? And I’m not gonna be too involved in that.” So, you were gracious enough to do so. With that, I’m going to turn it over to you. Don’t go easy on me.
[00:03:08] Brandon Eley: [laughs] Alright, don’t worry about it. First question for you here, Patrick. You’ve spent your entire career in community management. But outside of writing and speaking about community management, up until now, you’ve focused on communities that you built and ran yourself. What made you want to go to work for someone else, after seventeen years of doing your own thing?
[00:03:28] Patrick O’Keefe: For me, it was really a few different things. A big thing is, I felt a need for change. As we’ve talked about privately and you’ve just said, I’ve done the same thing for a long time. I’ve worked for myself for a long time. Something you’ve also done. [laughs] There are big pros to that. There are big benefits. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with that. There was also a lot of other things that aren’t so great. Being responsible for everything. Having to do everything that goes on, with regard to my online communities and the things that I manage and do. From the work itself, to the books, to all the little things you have to do to run a business. It was just time for a change. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to be a part of a team to try to do something greater than I could do myself, not to sound like a cliche.
A lot of people are running out of the office. They want to do their own thing, become independent. Where I was– I guess, different. I really had never had that experience. I’ve always done this since high school. I was like, “It’s time for a change. It’s a time for a new opportunity.” Also, realistically a steady paycheck is good, in knowing that I’m going to [laughs] have a check every two weeks is a good thing and different from my previous experience, where a lot of it was based on say ad revenue or occasional consulting clients or speaking engagements. That stability is also something that I value as well, at this time. I would say in general, just the need for change and to do something different and challenging for me personally.
[00:04:55] Brandon Eley: Awesome. To set the time frame properly in everybody’s mind, when did you make the decision to start looking for an opportunity seriously?
[00:00:04] Patrick O’Keefe: I was thinking about that and I don’t know. I mean I’ve been looking at roles and talking about roles and listening to offers for a few years. I don’t know if I was super serious the whole time. It was always along the lines of I want to change, I don’t have to, I’m not being forced to; like there’s not a gun to my head right now. You know I’m single. I have a girlfriend now but I don’t have anybody who depends on me financially. I can afford to wait it out and wait for the opportunity that really excites me, that speaks to the things that I value. It was a casual thing where I would keep an eye out for jobs, I would talk to people, I would listen.
More seriously, I would say within the last nine to twelve months. I’ve been with my girlfriend Cara since May of last year so that’s about fourteen months now. We have that long distance relationship where I’m in North Carolina and she’s in New York. I was also looking for something that could help facilitate that move and make it a little easier financially. I focused on roles in New York City and remotely. Yes, we’re talking about a few years loosely and then probably nine to twelve months seriously.
[00:06:13] Brandon Eley: I remember talking to you about this over the last several years and it seems like it was not just a flip of the switch but more a very gradual increase in attention to job search or career search. Is that the way it went for you or am I wrong that you’ve been looking for a while but it got more intense over the last 18 to 24 months progressively up until the point that you actually did land a role?
[00:06:41] Patrick O’Keefe: I think that’s true. In my timeline, I might even be wrong because when you’re in it, it’s like 12 months, 24 months, 18 months. It could have even been a little longer, looking at it seriously. I think that’s accurate; it did gradually increase. I think it increased also as I set myself up to be open to taking something in a psychological sense but also in a practical sense of here are responsibilities that I had, some of which I stepped away from years ago to open up myself to the next big thing. Maybe at that time, I didn’t even know it was a career change but just that it was something that was going to take up my time.
I can’t run five communities and write five blogs and host two podcasts while also committing myself to whatever that next big thing is. It was a gradual reduction of responsibilities on my independent things. Then yes definitely an increase in and keeping an eye on things and applying for things being more in the mode of whether that be writing cover letters or tweeting resumes or submitting things. It was a gradual increase.
[00:07:38] Brandon Eley: Did you see any change in the responses that you were getting from companies and the opportunities that were presenting themselves as you got more serious in the job search and started limiting your personal responsibilities a little bit and focusing more on finding an opportunity?
[00:07:54] Patrick O’Keefe: I think the responses are fairly consistent. I think the weaknesses that I had professionally, looking at it from a corporate perspective, were that I had not been inside of a corporation. I’d always been from the outside. Yes, I’ve consulted for FedEx and yes, Sony and Cisco and Monster Terrain have utilized my strategies but, I’ve never been inside the corporation. I talk to someone at one company, good-sized software company. They were concerned that I could communicate the value of community to their executives. If you know me well enough it seems like something that would not be a big deal for me personally but they were concerned because it wasn’t on my resume, it wasn’t there. I didn’t have an executive role at a company already. I had always been independent and from the outside.
That was really something I had to get over to find the right opportunity where that wasn’t something that was just an absolute must-have for them, where my experience building and managing online communities could be properly communicated and where they would grasp it. I mean it was fairly consistent throughout. Some people got it, some people didn’t. There were several interviews and at the end of the day, there was only maybe a couple of jobs I really wanted that didn’t work out. A lot of the jobs as I got further into them I might get a hint of office politics or maybe community wasn’t a priority there. Those got weeded out over time as I talked to people but I think it was pretty consistent throughout.
[00:09:28] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s pause here to talk about our new sponsor, Open Social.
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[00:10:03] Brandon Eley: Let’s come back just a second. Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of role you were looking for when you started searching and did that change at all? Then, what was your main criteria that you were looking for in the company or the culture of organizations that you’re really wanting to join or be a part of?
[00:10:21] Patrick O’Keefe: Anyone who listens to the show and who I’ve talked to about advancement in the space knows that I think that those of us who have been added for a long time have a responsibility to reach up as much as possible. Now, if you have kids and you have responsibilities and you have people depending on you, clearly you have to make sacrifices, you have to pay the bills, you have to feed people, so I get that, that’s not what this applies to. But if you have the opportunity to reach higher for more salary or a better title or more responsibility, I think we have a responsibility whenever possible to do so to push the industry forward.
For example, I was never going to take a Community Manager title. Sometimes that title is misused. It may not even be a community or it may really be a senior role. They just don’t know what to do with it or they don’t know to make it a Director. So I would look at senior-looking Community Manager roles would the idea that I would ask for it to be made a little more senior, that they would with my experience and purpose and advancement from my career. For me, I was looking at Director level or higher roles where I would have the opportunity to either lead a department or build one out if it was a new department, where I would have responsibility and autonomy for that department.
I have been at this for a long time and I want fail or succeed. I want to have control over that destiny at the company and in the department I am running. Beyond that, it’s just cliché a little bit, but I wanted to work at a company that I was interested in with people that I like and respected, bringing into the culture question. It’s loose for me, but whenever I would talk to people if I would get a sense of office politics, that would turn me off. I went through an interview process with a somewhat well-known company in a particular vertical and they’re really successful for what they do. It was like a senior community role and I went up there. I talked to four people, my would-be boss, a couple of people who would be my equals. One person who would report to me and three or four of those went really well. I liked the person that I would report to, but I sat down with a Marketing Director, and I’ve told this story on this show before, so I’m sorry if you’ve heard it already.
From the moment I sat down, there were such hostility toward me and that was really showing through the line of questioning, where it was really a line of questioning that was like attacking me in my experience, like why would I consider myself to be at their level. I know I handled it in a way that I’m really proud of. I answered all the questions. I had good answers. I spoke to my experience and how it fits, but there was a funny line where they were demonstrating how they were qualified more so than I was and they said, “I worked at Vistaprint, maybe you’ve heard of them?” I didn’t know you could arrange words in that order to form a sentence. Yes, I’ve heard of Vistaprint. I don’t know, I had a commenter online say, “You know Google, Microsoft, Vistaprint, the big three.”
It’s nothing wrong with Vistaprint. I’ve had Vistaprint materials before. Nothing wrong with them as a company, their products, but this person felt working there was just this cold badge. I knew then, just to — why I’m telling you that story is the line of questioning was that there hadn’t been a strong community presence in the company and marketing had had community and marketing was not happy to be ceding control of community. That’s where I think a lot of it came from, was they were not happy to be losing a little bit of that grip. I got a whiff of that and I drove home four hours and before I got home, I had already told their recruiter that I was not interested in the role and I explained why.
They did reimburse me [laughs] thankfully for my hotel and transportation. I was looking for a culture where it was supportive and it’s hard to get that from just an interview process, but a culture where I felt really strongly supported where there was ethics and integrity and where there wasn’t any kind of whiff of politics, because if I’m seeing even the slightest bit from the outside, I can only imagine what waits for me once I get inside.
[00:14:09] Brandon Eley: Definitely. So with this company that you interviewed with, I’m curious to know your thoughts on whether you feel like the marketing department really didn’t value community and that’s why they looked down on you or whether they valued it so much that they didn’t want to let go of it. I think a lot of companies, they don’t want to let go of responsibility because they just feel that there’s something negative innately about having something stripped from them, even if it’s something that they don’t really care about. Did they seem like they even valued community or community management?
[00:14:39] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a good question. My would-be boss gave me the sense they did and so I take him at his word. Yes, I think they valued community and maybe didn’t understand it that well. They certainly hadn’t cultivated it very much. They had I think one person there who was really dedicated to it on a small level. Then it was run by the marketing people and my sense was just that I don’t think it wasn’t they understood it so well. I think it was that they wanted to control it and have it under them as whatever. I can’t say I knew them very well. Maybe they wanted to control it as their marketing funnel. Maybe they just didn’t want to cede the responsibility or maybe they were hoping someone more junior was going to interview for the role so that it could be someone who was comfortably underneath them. I think that’s a possibility as well and me going up there and being more senior and being honest about that from the get-go with them, that I was looking for a senior role, maybe that led to them feeling threatened in a way but it’s hard for me to say.
[00:15:39] Brandon Eley: In looking for a more senior role, I imagine the number of opportunities in the community space start to become limited as you get up the ladder. How many opportunities did you have and how many companies did you really make it down that process with?
[00:15:56] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s hard to estimate. I mean I would say one in 10 might be a safe estimate or it might even be a little over-exaggeration as far as senior roles and community go. They could be two in 10, it could be 0.5 in 10, I don’t know. The point is there’s definitely a lack of those roles and a lot of people who are stuck in lower level roles or who transferred to other departments where they utilize their skills to advance but they don’t necessarily stay in the community facing role any longer.
For me, I was trying hard to identify the right roles that were senior. Then I would not ignore the community manager roles but they would have to sound senior, there would have to be some meat there where if they really wanted me, they would have to make it more senior sounding.
I had a couple interviews go that way where that was how they were thinking. I talked to one company in New York and they were thinking of bringing in a community manager and I don’t know, I would guess paying them 40, 50, 60,000 a year which is not good pay, but also is not good pay in New York City.
By the time we talked, I think they were convinced that they needed to make a greater investment in community. Because they were looking at it and saying, “Okay we’re going to bring someone in and coach them up.” “We’ll bring someone in who’s brand new and then we’ll send them to conferences or we’ll send them to seminars, we’ll coach them up.”
[00:17:11] Brandon Eley: Waste how long? Waste a year, two years trying to get them up.
[00:17:14] Patrick O’Keefe: Exactly, it’s like how long does that take. My thing to them was why don’t you just pay someone more, basically double that salary and instead of spending money on seminars, all these other things, get set up right from the start and then have that person mentor people under them and build out a strong team that way. From what I saw and I sat down with a senior executive there, it was supposed to be an hour interview it ended up being like two to three hours. I think I had them convinced that the way to go was to go with someone more senior. They weren’t ready to make that hire at the time so I ended up not going there.
I applied to, I don’t know, a good number of jobs, maybe a couple dozen. From that had several interviews. From that either turned down or I just removed myself from a handful of opportunities. There was really one opportunity that I went through the interview process with and didn’t get.
I have no problem saying that on the show, so I’ll tell you what it was, but listeners of the show will know that I’m a big fan of the Coral Project. I’m well-connected in the news media space as far as community and audience development goes, something I’m very fascinated by and interested in. Also aligned well with their goals of building better technology for community building by news organizations. Platform strategy is something I love and that I’ve spent a substantial portion of my career on. Also educating people on how to build proper community, all that translates very well. They had a Community Lead role that was up and I went through the process with them. All the interviews went well but I just wasn’t the choice. Totally respect that, I really liked what they were doing over there, really talked to all of them fairly regularly. That was one role where I went the distance with it and I was like, oh, darn, that would have been a great opportunity. Interestingly enough I think the role I ended up with has a lot of parallels to that role. It might have just been that the types of things that they were offering were what I was looking for. Then when the CommunityCo role unfolded, there are some similarities there as well.
[00:19:08] Brandon Eley: Yes and it’s always good, I mean as you go through the process meeting people in the same industry, things change over two, three, four, five, 10 years. It’s always good to make those connections and those relationships and you never know what’s going to happen down the road. I think, personally, the process is as important as the outcome, especially in career searches because I’ve known so many people that have been turned down or interviewed for a role and not even gotten to the third or fourth level and then five years later, somebody that they interviewed with that was really impressed has moved on to a different organization and calls them up.
[00:19:47] Patrick O’Keefe: Right. Very true.
[00:19:48] Brandon Eley: What were some of the biggest challenges in the search process or interview process or the whole thing. What was the most frustrating part for you?
[00:19:57] Patrick O’Keefe: I think it was to go back to what I said earlier, two things. First of all, lack of first-hand corporate experience, I think is something that made some people just not consider me out of hand, because it’s hard to communicate the fact that I wrote a book about online forums in the mid-2000s that was published in ’08. That book has sold 6000 copies. A lot of people have built community strategies off of what I talked about in the book at companies large and small. My strategies have been tested, have worked, have been utilized at scale by me and by others but it’s hard to communicate that when you don’t have the spot in your resume, so that was tough.
Just also being self-employed, I think, for such a long time, I think there’s a natural fear there. I had a couple people just come out and say it, the natural fear that maybe I won’t fit in in an office environment or I won’t be successful there. For me, the biggest challenge is to get around were my lack of corporate experience and the fact that I’ve always worked for myself. I came up with ways of navigating around that and communicating the things I had done in a way that they within what I thought they were looking for. I think being independent for so long and lacking that first incorporate experience.
I think there were several opportunities where I was just not considered because of that, and I cannot necessarily blame them, I just think that for that, I totally understand it. On the other hand, I also really believe in myself and the experience that I have. I think that I am a high-level professional. I’m trying not to sound egotistical but I always tell people to don’t sell themselves short and try to avoid imposter syndrome as much as possible. I suffer from that like everyone else but it’s also important to have a degree of self-awareness, where if you’ve been in this space for a while, when you’ve had success, you’ve built good communities, communities that delivered value to members and in organizations you work for, then it is important to recognize that and not sell yourself short. While I am totally empathetic and understanding that my background might be somewhat unique as far as applying for some corporate job, I also recognize that I have a unique depth of experience and it was just a matter of reaching the right people that saw that and then not taking it personally when they didn’t. Really it was just a matter of finding the right opportunity.
[00:22:13] Brandon Eley: And you did find an opportunity. You’ve been at CommunityCo for several weeks now, how was the interview process with the new career move? Was there anything that shined in that process, was there any new challenges in the process with interviewing and going back and forth with that? I know it was a little bit of a longer process then most that I’ve seen just in our conversations. Tell us a little bit about that process of interviewing and eventually joining CommunityCo?
[00:22:42] Patrick O’Keefe: It was an interesting process, it was long. When I first really talked, I was mainly interviewing with Ryan Paugh, the COO and co-founder of CommunityCo. When I first talked to him I didn’t really think that they were hiring someone like me, I didn’t think they were hiring that senior role. We talked and I turned them away in a sense but really it was just connecting them with people that I thought would better fit what they were looking for. I connected him with a few different professionals that I thought were really great and that would really do a good job for them.
Then they went back and they had those conversations and they looked at the role and came back to me and then we talked and realized that it was more along the lines of what I was looking for in a role and then I was more along the lines of what they were looking for in someone to come in. We talked first and then I thought that was it and then we talked again, they came together and understood really what they were looking for, what I was looking for were pretty similar. That took a while, it took weeks to realize that and come to that understanding.
Then after that it was just a matter of going back and forth and talking about the role, what it meant, shooting questions back and forth and going over the contract and making sure that I can continue to do things like the podcast, and that’s something that they encourage and want me to continue to do the podcast, to continue to maintain a presence in this industry. It was really a good mix of different things for me. If I took a couple months to work through all those details, but in the end, it was worth it to me and I hope it was important to them.
[00:24:18] Brandon Eley: [laughs] Towards the end of that process I remember you talking about some of the more mundane, technical, legal onboarding type tasks that you have to do when you join an organization at a higher level. I’m curious what your recommendations are for your listeners who may be looking at mid-level to higher level positions in community. You mentioned on the legal side, I know personally that you had an attorney working for you, is that something you would recommend to them? Are there any other tips for making that process a little smoother and making sure that it works in your best interests?
[00:24:57] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it’s definitely give-and-take. You sign a contract, something is going to benefit them, some things will benefit you. One thing I think a lot of people do is they look at a contract and they just take it as that’s pretty much standard behavior comes to employment contracts. If possible if you can it’s always better not to negotiate from a place of weakness. We may not always have that opportunity in our life, but when we do, fully take advantage of it and make sure that you are not just signing whatever is put in front of you; read your contract.
It’s not crazy to ask for things to be adjusted. The worst someone can say is no. If they get mad or they feel like it’s inappropriate that maybe they’re not the right person for you to make a move with. I mean senior level jobs are big career considerations. This is a big move for me here personally, this role at CommunityCo. It’s a big step in my career, it’s a big step in my life, it’s a big deal. This isn’t just any other job I’m taking here.
I definitely read my contract. I definitely had an attorney who knew what he was doing and was very detail oriented. He went through the agreement and we proposed things, we conceded on things, we compromised. In the end, CommunityCo was very good about it as well and very understanding and that just validated in my mind as we identified things in the contract that might need to be adjusted for my unique circumstance. I think they were very understanding and so that validated in my mind that they were the right fit for me. I think you learn a lot during that process. My recommendation would be, if you can, read your contract, have an attorney and kind of go over the things that are problematic for you personally. If there is something maybe there is not but if there is something see if you can get it adjusted or reduced or something along those lines.
A good attorney will have suggestions and will help you come to that process, so if you need to find one maybe ask for a recommendation for someone that who works at a similar level who may have gone through that process already.
[00:26:45] Brandon Eley: You’ve been there for several weeks now. This is your first foray into managing communities that have already been well established. At CommunityCo you manage several, right? I mean four or five different communities?
[00:27:00] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it’s more. We have several councils under the Forbes Councils brand eight, nine, ten councils. They are Men’s Health Fitness Council, YEC is a well-established young entrepreneur council and we have a few others as well. It depends on your definition but if you consider Forbes all of one, I wouldn’t, but that’s like a few or if not we’re talking about 10, 12, 14 different communities.
I’m still kind of getting involved in all of them and setting up processes one by one and going one by one through the communities and then figuring out what needs to happen.
[00:27:29] Brandon Eley: That brings me to the question, which is what does that onboarding process look like on your side? I imagine there’s a lot to learn as you jump in all these communities. Even if it was just one large community that someone was jumping into, what is the process look like they are for your first couple of weeks?
[00:27:48] Patrick O’Keefe: For me personally it was a lot of learning and education. Everyone has been really helpful in helping me to get a quick read on everything that’s going on and how everything works and learning all of the systems and learning how everything cooks together to create a great experience for our council members.
Everyone from Ryan, who I report to, to my equals in different departments, to everyone of the company really because I’m asking questions of everyone to try to learn how all the different things work together has been very helpful to me. There is published documentation that I have and onboarding materials that in my case I’ve read and learn from. Then there’s just so many questions, there are so many things that come up, it’s kind of understanding how all of that fits together and works.
For me, the first week was really observing and learning from people and asking questions and kind of putting together a plan of attack for the future. My first couple weeks were a lot of learning observing and then put together a plan and then really starting to implement that plan shortly thereafter. We hit the ground running pretty quickly to sort of work on improving how we build community online for members of our different communities and councils and kind of developing systems and processes and policies meant to really create a high level of conversation and discourse in the communities, which is something that I love to do and something I’ve done my whole career. I really focus on the quality of the conversation that occurs. This job has really spoke well to that experience and as I said it’s a whole process is something that I really enjoy. So far it’s been really good, really consistent with everything that was pitched to me and everything that I thought going in. It’s always good to have that consistency once you actually take the job and get into it.
[00:29:24] Brandon Eley: That’s great. I’m curious, this is kind of a cliché question, but you spent so much time self-employed and now you’ve made this huge transition to working in a management position in a larger organization. How has that affected your long-term outlook on your career in community and where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
[00:29:46] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s interesting. I don’t know. That’s a tough question to answer. I think if someone asked me that question, I don’t know what the answer is to where I want to be in five-ten years. Right now everything’s amazing at CommunityCo, things are going really well, so I could see myself staying there as things develop, as we grow, as I build out the department, as we build an amazing community operation and team and have a network of incredible community. Everything I have right now there is really great and I definitely see our role for advancement as the organization scales. I’m brand new, I’m just new and learning and it’s down the road for sure but I could definitely see the path where this could be a company I’m at for a long time. I view my commitment to them as a commitment to execute on the goals we discussed and to give them my all and then really help build a strong community program.
Five years down the road I could be in a different place. It’s possible I could be independent again. I’m flexible. I could be in a startup mindset where I start up and have my own company. I have different ideas or I could be running independent communities again. Or I could be at a different company. As far as my outlook goes I think it’s all for the better. It’s a good opportunity because it’s something I enjoy it’s taking on the responsibility that I want. It’s definitely going to help me grow and become better at what I do and become a better community professional and community-minded executive. I have a lot of people I can learn from there and I’m growing and expanding that way.
I think no matter what the future holds, the role that I have and the responsibilities that I have in adding more brands and experience to my history will only serve me well, no matter where I go from here.
[00:31:28] Brandon Eley: Patrick, if you had to distill your entire career search into one piece of advice for other community professionals who may be looking for a new opportunity, what would that piece of advice be?
[00:31:43] Patrick O’Keefe: I guess it’s to be patient if you can. I speak from a position of strength and not having dependence and I totally get that privileged spot that I come from. I had the good fortune to be patient, to wait, to turn things down. I’ve talked about in public years ago I turned down Facebook. I turned down a really large company just as well-known last March. I had the opportunity to turn things down and to say this isn’t the right fit. I wouldn’t enjoy this because when I take a job I would have people say “You could just go there, get the name on your resume, and after a year or nine months leave.”
For me, I didn’t want to do that. I’m making a commitment, no matter where I go, I’m making a commitment to them for years to be there and to execute the program. Things happen, who knows, but I’m making a commitment and they’re making a commitment to me, and because of that I want to find the right role. It just took a while, it took a while, it took talking to a lot of people to really find the right role where the compensation was where I needed it to be, with the seniority where I needed it to be. where the responsibility and autonomy where I needed it to be, where I felt good about the company and the people in it.
This job is remote which a benefit is for me as well. I love working remotely, I love working from my home office. That’s also a nice perk that was included in there and this was just the right mix but it took a while to get there. There were other roles I could have taken. I could have probably sacrificed on different points but because I didn’t have to, I didn’t. As much as possible, although it’s difficult, I would just preach patience and taking your time. I think it is a big deal and it’s easy to put yourself down or maybe act like it’s just another job but I think if you’re looking for a next great step in your career, it would benefit you as much as possible to be patient.
[00:33:34] Brandon Eley: I think that’s good advice in a lot of different scenarios but definitely in career search and in working your way up in a career position, patience is always a virtue. Well, Patrick, I’m out of questions so I was going to turn it back over to you and ask you if there’s anything else that we didn’t cover about your career search that you really wanted to touch on before we end the episode?
[00:33:58] Patrick O’Keefe: No, I think you did a great job, Brandon. This is the first time I’ve let someone else host the program here. I appreciate it, great job, thank you.
[00:34:06] Brandon Eley: Thanks, Patrick and I really appreciate you having me on. It was a pleasure to be able to interview you on your podcast. I’ve enjoyed being a part of your career search process and talking with you about it over the last couple of years. I’ve really had a great time, thanks for having me on.
[00:34:23] Patrick O’Keefe: Thanks, man. I was joined on this episode by Brandon Eley, e-commerce and online marketing author. Consultant and speaker and the founder and President of 2bigfeet.com, a large-sized men’s shoe retailer. Visit Brandon’s website brandoneley.com. Follow him on Twitter @beley that’s B-E-L-E-Y and find him on LinkedIn @linkedin.com/in/brandoneley. 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 we’ll be back next week.
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