Reading Time: ~ 8 min.
Can I get some help really quick? If you’ve got a sec, I’ve “soft launched” our free and public “community building tools” resource and there are 4 areas that are a little bit sparse and need some love — looking for more of the following to update in our directory:
- Podcasts focused on community building…
- Newsletters specifically focused on… you guessed it...
- Best-in-class social media tools… that you actually us!
- Creator communities that specifically help people build communities!
Know of any? Feel free to make a submission here!
To infinity & community,
Without further ado… let’s meet Cole Zerr!
Give us an overview of your career thus far — is this what you imagined it would be like?
When it comes to community, I started in the gaming space, specifically Minecraft in 2016. I had the privilege of moderating and managing a handful of networks, ranging from a few hundred players to thousands of players.
This experience showed me the joy of being around new people and chatting with folks across the globe. To build out a timeline, my Minecraft community work began when I was 13 years old and ended when I was ~15 years old.
After I left the Minecraft scene and took a break from the online world, I came back to community in February 2019 with the launch of a game called Apex Legends.
A friend had just created an Apex Legends community, alongside Respawn Entertainment’s surprise launch of the game. I hopped on board and built out that community over the next several months to ~70,000 members/players, achieving steady activity from our strongest community members.
This community presented several unique challenges that I had not experienced before, but it provided a great opportunity for me to learn and scale my knowledge as we grew!
For reference, we would be looking at anywhere from 300,000 to 1,300,000 minutes/day of voice activity within our first month of launch.
The sheer number of members participating in our community made moderation a key facet of my daily life, ensuring that our community was a safe place for people to play and have fun!
All things considered, the fast growth of the community is what enabled me to scale my ability to lead, develop a brand and communication strategy, oversee public/partner relations, and learn more about the idea of community.
It was through this community that I met someone working at Commsor who then introduced me to Mac in October 2019… and the rest is history!
I am extremely honored to have been one of the first team members at Commsor, and it has been so exciting to see our team build out tools that I wish I had when I was running my own communities.
The highlight of my career in community has been working with the team at the Community Club, especially when it comes to networking, sharing resources, and learning alongside my fellow community managers.
Did I imagine my community career would be like this? Well… no!
Community was always just a fun passion of mine, but to have the opportunity to live and breathe community with Commsor ( 😲 ) now that is something I never thought I would see.
What was it specifically about Commsor that attracted you to the opportunity? What are some of the biggest lesson-learned so far?
Let’s be real, what isn’t attractive about Commsor?
Jokes aside, what initially had me interested was the team and their excitement and passion for what they were building. This coincided with my own passion for community, so it was a no-brainer to join a team of like-minded individuals who shared in my love for community.
Like I said before, it’s been thrilling to watch the tools I desired to use come to fruition!
As a senior in high school, transitioning to a remote workplace proved to be an interesting endeavor, especially as I had been working in retail for over two years prior to Commsor. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to work at an office or any sort of in-person building for two reasons:
- Telecommuting has saved me invaluable time and money that I can now reinvest elsewhere, such as my family and friends, among other interests.
- Being on a global team of talented individuals has expanded my horizons far beyond that of my previous job in retail.
It’s also safe to attribute my love for the remote life to Commsor’s emphasis on building out such a fantastic remote culture.
What advice would you have for younger folks who may have given the thought of working while in college? What would you recommend they try first? What would you tell them to avoid?
My peers would tell you that I’ve always been a strong advocate for starting work early in high school. In fact, I started my first part-time job during my sophomore year of high school, shortly after my 15th birthday.
I found that having a part-time job allowed me to begin developing soft skills, such as work ethic, communication (between peers and strangers), teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, dependability… you get the point!
Starting early gave me a big advantage over my classmates who hadn’t even considered building out their résumé. You start to see this pay off when recruiters start a conversation with you, rather than the other way around!
I’ve heard it time and time again from HR professionals: “We would look to hire someone with a 3.5 GPA that had solid communication skills, rather than hire an individual with a 4.0 GPA and poor communication skills.“
Don’t get me wrong, school is extremely important to long term success but do not neglect the soft skills that go hand-in-hand with your education to carry you to success.
Here are my recommendations for high school / college students who are looking for work while attending school:
- Find work that you enjoy. This just makes life so much easier for everyone involved!
- Ask about expectations and flexibility. Let the interviewer know that you’re also a student and inform them of your schedule and other pre-existing commitments.
- Be proactive. You’ll have less time on your hands! Time management skills improve over time, and you start to learn the negative impacts of procrastination to a more serious degree.
- Internships! Whether it’s during the summer or throughout the school year, these provide an excellent opportunity to dive into a specific career focus of yours. You learn to network and communicate with professionals, all the while learning hard skills that you can carry with you. If you’re outstanding, you might even see a job offered to you before graduation!
- Take care of yourself. This may be last, but it is certainly not least. Get to know your limits and self-care tactics. Stress is no joke, so discover what may be a stressor and do your best to solve or manage what might be causing it. For example, one thing that helped me out in high school was building out a calendar to help me visualize how I was spending my time.
I hope these help my fellow students and peers! Here are some tips for making sure you’re not getting into the wrong situation:
- Don’t be a workaholic. High school is a period of transition and growth. Focus on your education first and foremost and enjoy the social aspect. In other words, don’t let work overpower the other aspects of your life. As for college students, there’s a reason why you’re in college, so don’t forget about the degree that awaits you.
- Avoid being dissuaded. You may find the work tedious or pointless, but I promise there’s a soft skill to be learned somewhere. Focus on your growth and making the most out of things. Trust me, I wasn’t very convinced that there was a lesson to learn in cleaning out moldy drains at first…
- Don’t do it for the money. Money is a great motivator, but I believe that the soft skills you learn in your early jobs will yield a far greater return in the long run.
Take the long road as this is just the start to your career!
Gaming is a big part of your history and it’s where you got a taste of the power of community — what game-centric mechanics, strategies, and/or tactics can you share that community builders can use today?
I see game developers often toying around with different ideas to captivate their community, in order to bring members back for more every day. Here are a few areas in which gamification comes into play (pun intended)…
For starters, in my experience, gamification plays a huge role in nearly every community. Typically, gamification includes cosmetic perks or “bragging rights”. Off the top of my head, I can think of things like community levels, badges, name colors, special roles, VIP permissions, swag, etc.
For example, with our recent launch of the Community Club platform, we’re giving an exclusive “Founding Member Badge” to each individual who signs up during our 24 Days of Community event.
Who doesn’t love a cool badge on their profile to show off their early and active participation in a community?
We could go super deep into ideas behind gamification, but I’d like to just link you back to an episode of In Before The Lock with Erica Kuhl & Brian Oblinger — they’re amazing community leaders who discussed a ton of awesome ideas related to gamification.
Not to mention the number of great resources on their site that community builders can use for free!
Do you think you will ever venture out on your own and build your own startup and community? What would it focus on if you were to do it today? How would you start the process?
That’s a hard one! While I find the future to be very exciting, I’ve been trying my best to be present and focus on my present goals now.
If I was ever to build out my own community today, I would definitely be asking a TON of questions to my fellow community members at the Community Club. There’s always great discussions there that I love reading through to learn more about the community world from others’ perspectives.
As for the topic of the community, I think I’d move away from the gaming world and focus more on connecting people that share my passion for medicine and healthcare!
Perhaps… a global community for college folks studying in the medical field?
Peter Thiel Question: What important (community) truth do you believe that most folks disagree with you on?
I don’t believe that social media tools (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat for example) are helping society to build better and more connected communities. Audiences are not communities.
The social interaction was left behind at the registration button.
Any digital eProps you want to dish out?
Yes! I’d like to thank the entire team @ Commsor for being amazing mentors, leaders, and teammates! Mac, Jacob, Alex and, of course, all of our amazing @CommunityClubHQ members who are just as passionate about community as we are!
It’s been such an exciting time to see the community space grow and obtain the recognition it deserves.
Thanks for having me John!