If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a manager, it’s the value of giving your employees clarity on their future.
According to a Mercer study, individuals who feel empowered in their careers are 2.6 times more likely to report having access to career path information. The Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report found that career development was the No. 1 reason workers switched employers… for the 10th year in a row!
Employees who have a clear career map have been found to have higher employee satisfaction and retention, and greater success within their organizations.
So we know career maps are good. Why don’t most community teams have one?
Well, this has been a particularly difficult challenge for community professionals because the industry has been so new that a clear “career path” was still being discovered. And there just weren’t a lot of very senior community professionals in the industry until recently.
But the community industry has come a long way, and there’s much more clarity on what a career path should look like for community professionals today.
This was something that became really important for me as our company and community team grew, and our community operations became more complex at CMX and Bevy. I wanted our team to have clarity on how to level up in their careers, and in our company. I spent many hours researching how other community teams have defined their roles and career paths, talked to other senior leaders in the space, and looked at how other industries map out career paths to develop our own map.
That process resulted in the creation of the Community Career Map (CMM) which we’ve been using as a team for the past year. Today we’re making it a public resource that you can use for your own teams!
I’m not the first one to create a career map for a community team. Holly Firestone created a career path for her team at Salesforce, and Mary Thengvall’s DevRel career path is the best I’ve seen for developer-facing community teams. Both of these incredible resources helped shape how I designed the Community Career Map for our team. Special shout out to Andy Hao, our VP of Engineering at Bevy, whose engineering career map I used as the starting template for the CCM. You’d be surprised how similar community and engineering maps are!
Below the download link, you’ll find some information about this template and how to best put it into practice including:
- The Purpose of the Community Career Map
- Community Tracks, Titles, and Levels
- Community Competencies, Skills, and Experience
- How to Use the Community Career Map for Talent Reviews and Career Planning
Make a copy and edit it for your own team’s needs. Keep reading for guidance on how to best use the CCM.
1. The Purpose of the Community Career Map:
There are lots of reasons you might want to use the CCM:
- Provide members of the community team clarity on the skills and competencies they should focus on to grow within our team and in their career
- Be specific about the criteria to consider when looking at giving someone a promotion
- Have a framework for conducting talent reviews
- Help design professional development programs
- Get clarity on where you have gaps on your team
- Design job descriptions and interview processes
All in, it’s a really useful tool for specifying what different levels of seniority look like within your community team.
2. Community Tracks, Titles, and Levels
The Community Career Map is designed for employees to take one of two tracks:
- Management: where the employee will manage a team of community professionals and spend less time on day-to-day contributions
- Individual Contributor (IC): for employees who don’t want to move into management positions, but want to level up their role as a contributor
I believe it’s important to provide both paths for your team as some people won’t want to become a people manager, but if they don’t have the ability to level up in their career, they may leave. There are lots of ways for a community professional to contribute at a higher level without needing to become a people manager.
The titles used to denote levels of seniority in the Community Career Map are:
- Community Apprentice
- Community Manager
- Sr. Community Manager (IC or Manager)
- Community Director (IC or Manager)
- Sr. Community Director (IC or Manager)
- VP, Community (IC or Manager)
- Chief Community Officer (CCO)
Teams will use a range of different titles that may or may not align exactly with the leveling in this map. Feel free to swap out titles as needed, but be mindful of removing a level entirely as it will leave a gap in development for your community team members.
The CCM was designed to be generalized for any community role or specialization such as Community Engagement, Community Content Manager, Community Events Manager, Community Operations Manager, etc. When hiring or promoting someone, the specific scope and responsibilities for that individual role will be written out in a separate job description.
3. Community Competencies, Skills, and Experience
For each level, the Community Career Map details different competencies, skills, or experience that would be expected of a community professional at that level, including:
- Profile and Responsibilities: An overview description and list of high-level expectations associated with each level.
- Leadership and Supervision: Ability to lead others and the level of supervision the employee needs to be set up for success.
- Interactions: Which teams and employees this employee is expected to coordinate and interact with across the org, outside of the community team (eg. product, support, engineering, marketing, etc.)
- Communication: Ability to communicate effectively and present information clearly.
- Creativity & Strategic Innovation: Ability to use data, research, and intuition to educate future plans and come up with creative solutions to strategic challenges.
- Technical and Business Skills: Experience and comfort level with community tools, software, and systems for community management and connecting community to business systems.
- Interpersonal Skills: Ability to coordinate with, and influence others within the organization, mentor, and represent the company and community as a leader externally.
- Education and Experience: Estimated years of experience and required education or training.
4. How to Use the Community Career Map for Talent Reviews and Career Planning
Every company has its own unique approach to doing talent reviews and making promotion decisions for its employees. At Bevy/CMX, we do an “Individual Talent Review” (ITR) twice each year. In an ITR, the employee will do a self-review, speaking to their accomplishments, how they’ve developed, areas for growth, and plans for the future. Each manager then discusses the ITR with the employee, makes recommendations, and then reports back to leadership any results in terms of recommended promotions, performance improvement plans, or any other changes.
One thing that’s always frustrated me about ITR’s is that for the employee, they can be vague. If an employee is hoping to get a promotion, what kinds of accomplishments and development should they speak to? And as they’re planning for the future, how do they know what will help them reach that next level in their career and get a promotion?
That’s exactly where the Community Career Map comes in. I share it with every employee on my team and build it into new employee onboarding so that everyone on the team has a clear idea of where they are today and where they need to get to in order to level up. Then, when they fill out their ITRs, they can map their progress directly to the competencies laid out in the CCM.
It makes my life as a manager much easier as I can now reflect on how that employee has performed in relation to the CCM, and use it as a guide when providing feedback on where there is room for improvement. It also makes it easier for me to communicate to my boss why I think my employee deserves a promotion and gives me a framework within which I can advocate on their behalf.
Now… it’s not perfect. You don’t have to be married to everything in the CCM. There may be things the employee has accomplished that aren’t represented there (maybe you can add it for the future). And an employee may not fit neatly into a single column. They may be at the Sr. Community Manager level for Technical and Business Skills, but be at a Community Manager level in terms of Leadership and Supervision. Great! That gives you some clarity on where they’re room to improve in order to reach that Sr. Community Manager level.
Ultimately, the Community Career Map gives everyone: employees, managers, and executives, clarity on expectations and a framework for communication and feedback.
I hope this resource helps all of you as much as it’s helped me and my team!
After you copy the template, feel free to make as many edits as you’d like. I’d love to see what you come up with and I’m sure others would too, so comment below with your own templates and what changes you made! I’d also love to hear your feedback on how we can make the Community Career Map better.