There’s no magic tricks or simple way to become a Community Manager. Most of the time it is about timing and luck. However, there are a few things which you can do to put yourself ahead of the competition.
Apply to smaller studios and indies
Normally it is harder to enter a big company like EA or Riot as a Community Manager without any experience. Often these positions are filled internally by employees who are already familiar with the product(s).
Smaller studios don’t always realize they need a CM until it is waved in front of their faces. If they do realize, they just don’t have the time or energy to advertise and recruit. Proactive CMs can capitalize on this and apply to studios before they even advertise, giving you a head start on the competition.
Make use of tools like Gamedevmap or Google Docs to search for lesser known studios in your area, or alternatively search for remote jobs on indie boards and forums. Just because they don’t have an advert up, doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring!
Get active in a game community (or start your own)
Do you have a particular game you are passionate about? Are you already a member of a gaming community? Work within this community to develop, manage and grow it.
Most communities need volunteer moderators and admins, and you normally have to prove yourself by being an active and contributing member of the community. But once you are involved in a community it is a great chance to get hands on experience.
You never know, your community work may also get you noticed by the developers. There have been many stories of volunteer community enthusiasts who have gone on to be employed by the developers at a future date.
Take online courses or have a related degree
You don’t necessarily need a university degree to get into the games industry, but having demonstrable skills and knowledge in related areas is a positive eg., Communications, PR, Marketing, Social Media etc.
You can also get certified in online courses and teach yourself the basics from there. It’s a bonus if the course is taught by a well recognized institution, such as CMX Hub or The Community Roundtable, but not necessary. These are generally expensive, and there are a lot of good alternative options available on Coursera, Udemy and Khan Academy.
Network and volunteer
Ah yes, this old clinché. No matter how old the phrase gets it is still relevant. Network in all the industry related events you can, talk to people and get out of your comfortzone. It’s a good sign when people start to recognise your face.
Go to industry events that aren’t necessarily Community orientated, but provide a good opportunity for you to listen, learn and ask questions to other industry insiders. It’s good to know about all areas of development and understand how they function and work together. As a community manager you will need to work closely with QA, PR, Marketing, Development, Customer Support etc.
Volunteer at industry events, this looks good on your CV and shows you are involved. It’s a great way to get free entry to the more expensive events, as well as getting a glimpse of how events are run. You may have to do this one day yourself, so treat it as a valuable learning experience. Some big events that look great on your CV are GDC, Comic Con, PAX, Dreamhack, E3 – but don’t forget about your local ones too!
Find a mentor or specialist forum
Finding a one-to-one mentor is probably one of the harder things to successfully do, but there are people in the games industry who want to mentor new beginners to the industry.
Sometimes the IDGA have open mentor programs or you can look up chapters in your area. If you’re in school or university, try talking to your teachers to see if they have any contacts. You can also try writing to different studios in your area (though don’t be dejected, most studios are extremely busy and don’t always have the resources to do this). A quick tip for getting a response from studios is to contact them via email and ask a couple of short and very specific questions. Do not overface them with a long list and try not to be general or have too many open ended questions.
If you don’t manage to secure your own mentor, online forums and Discord can also be of great value. You have a collective wealth of knowledge at your fingertips from groups of experts – just don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and ask! Try the Extra Credits, Game Dev League and Reddit GameDev Discord channels.
Persistence (without being pushy)
This one is tricky to get a good balance between. You should try and make yourself stand out to developers and studios, but in a non intrusive way. Send your CV in every few months and be gracious with the rejections. Make sure you update your CV often to reflect your achievements in the months between your previous application. Good companies will and do notice this and we want to see personal growth.
Keep working on your own projects and communities, and stay on top of the latest news and research in both community and game developer fields. Use your time wisely to contribute to activities which pay off: developing your skills and further your learning and understanding.