Reflections on Riding a Rollercoaster

It’s an old cliche to compare life to being on a roller coaster, but sometimes cliches exist for a reason.  Though to be honest, when I decided to take the Facebook Certified Community Manager exam, I thought I was getting on a different ride. I am not sure if I thought it would be the tunnel of love because of my passion for managing communities or that train that takes you on a big circle to explore the entire theme park giving you a general tour of the features and providing quick and easy access to the different areas.  In reality, it was so much more than I ever could have expected.  

Looking back to September of 2020 when I saw a post in the Power Admins group run by Facebook talking about the certification and offering free vouchers, I thought to myself “hey, I can grow my skills and get certified for free? Where do I sign up?” and sign up I did.  I set my test date for 30 days from the date I signed up.  If you have taken the exam, you are probably saying “30 days? What was she thinking?”  (For those of you who haven’t taken the exam yet, I strongly urge you to give yourself 8-10 weeks and join a cohort in the Certification Learning Group in order to be well prepared.)  The truth is that like my co-fellow Hal Bleiweiss often says, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  

But, I pushed on and because the certification was so new, I did this mostly on my own. I focused on the topics that I had struggled with on the practice test or was struggling to understand in the handbook.  I read all the articles I could, tried to come up with practical examples for all of the topics discussed, and tested concepts out in my own communities.  I also had to unlearn some bad habits I had picked up along the way.  In the end, I sat through the long, nerve-wracking, rigidly structured exam and passed on October 24, 2020.  Not only did the certification process give me something to put on my LinkedIn and resume, but it also gave me the confidence to say that I have over 6 years of experience managing communities and I know what I am doing.  

Being in the middle of the pandemic and having my work hours cut, I started to wonder if I could actually market my community management skills (and all the other marketable skills that come with being a community manager) and turn them into a side gig.  I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a shot and was almost immediately hired to do some work for a grassroots local campaign for the quickly approaching November election. Business was slow at first.  I would get a short-term gig here and there, but nothing solid.  

The problem was that I was great at understanding other people’s organizations, businesses, and communities, but how in the world was I supposed to market myself?  In the spring of 2021, I built a website, started business social media accounts, and became more intentional about understanding Kristi Fisher, the brand.  While my business was growing by word of mouth and referrals, my own social media accounts and blog sat embarrassingly empty.  I had never created a brand before and needed to find clarity on how to present Kristi Fisher the community manager because it was becoming increasingly evident that I was actually good at this and I wanted to make it my career.  

It wasn’t until I saw a post about a brand new Certified Community Manager Career Growth Fellowship program that I realized what I had been missing all along.  I don’t know how I missed it screaming at me from just about every aspect of my life.  It was literally the one thing that all of this was focused on: community.  So I applied and crossed my fingers, toes, and eyes hoping that I would get the opportunity to be part of a community with other community managers all trying to grow their careers in one way or another. I think that passion for community and that need for connection with others in the same boat must have come through in my interview because I was selected.

Starting the fellowship, I did not know what to expect.  The only way I can think to describe what happened next is by saying that it has been therapy for my career.  Through activities and projects, I have grown in my understanding of what my strengths are and in my comfort level in articulating them and sharing them with the world.  As I gained confidence, networking, publishing, doing lives, and sharing my skills in other ways went from being scary, nebulous foreign concepts to something tangible within my grasp.  I also learned how to work within my community network to seek and accept help strengthening areas of improvement. 

Thanks to the Community Manager Certification and the Career Crowth Fellowship  I am finally beginning to understand who Kristi Fisher, the community manager, is.  After today, this blog is no longer empty and I have a better understanding of how to present myself and my skills to the world.  I know I still have a lot to learn, but confidence has brought me acceptance of the fact that my career will always be a work in progress. 

As the anniversary of my certification approaches, a roller coaster is the only way I can describe going from being a volunteer community manager to running my own business full time in the course of a year.   Especially considering the fact that I didn’t even set out to change careers.  But I also realize that it has been both a tunnel (or labor) of love to create a career doing something I am so incredibly passionate about and a journey of exploration around the amusement park that is community management.  Now, I know that I don’t have to go it alone because the key to a career in community management is actually having a community of others with the same passion to join you for the ride.  

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