13

I volunteer as a moderator for a pretty popular online game. The game’s still relatively young - it’s five years old now; I’ve been a player since it opened and a moderator for over three years.

I’m really interested in working professionally for this game. I’m incredibly passionate about the game itself, I really enjoy the staff as people, and I've (over the last year) discovered that I have a professional interest in Community Management / Player Support. I’ve found myself refreshing the game’s employment openings page several times a day in hopes that I’ll see a Community or Support position open up!

However, I’m very concerned that my position as a volunteer moderator is actually hindering any chances that I would be considered for actual employment. This game’s staff is very firm about the fact that volunteering as a moderator is “not a gateway to employment or an extended interview for a future job.” I'm concerned that my volunteering is going to be seen as a way to get close with the staff and, underhandedly, make myself stand out.

I also don’t have any professional experience. My education is in Computer Science and I don’t have any job history that directly relates to Community Management / Player Support - this is my attempt to try and get a start somewhere. I have many years of experience moderating for different games voluntarily, that’s pretty much it.

Between the lack of experience and the fact that I’m a volunteer, I just fear that my application is going to seem like a joke, when I very much desire an employment position. So I guess my questions are:

  • In this situation, volunteering is actually harmful? Should I maybe consider stepping down?
  • What makes a professional Community applicant stand out? What can I do to prove that I'm serious about a professional position with this game?
8

If the company is well run it shouldn't hurt your chances, as long as you do a good job. A badly run company might ask themselves why they'd bother paying you when you are already contributing for free, but that would be a bad company you don't really want to work for anyway.

A good company is going to see the job you are doing as a volunteer and if you have interest in doing it full time, should want to embrace a known good choice because they've seen what you will do. Using Stack Exchange itself as an example, they have volunteer moderators, but in at least a couple of cases, really good moderators have ended up transitioning to full time community managers because they were interested and Stack Exchange could see exactly what they'd be getting with the hire.

The exception to this is that if you do a bad job as a volunteer it could certainly hurt your chances. If a company doesn't like the job you are doing as a volunteer, they are going to be less likely to hire you as you have demonstrated you don't do the job well.

1
  • Can confirm. For both my current role as a CM at Stack Exchange, Inc., and my previous role as CM for Nova Drift, I was previously a volunteer moderator. (In the case of Nova Drift, the developer actually reached out to me to offer me the job.) As you say, if you're good as a volunteer moderator, you can use that to strengthen your application. If the company just wants to take advantage of you, and chooses to retain you as a volunteer mod rather than an employee for that reason, it's not a company you want to work for anyway.
    – V2Blast
    Dec 21 '21 at 22:10
1

Volunteering isn't going to hurt your chances. I know people who made free work for quite a time in an anime official community/board and later got employed as administrators, community managers, webmasters (that's what you are looking for) but also marketing, producers, etc. The problem with volunteering and I know it as personal experience, it's you can do a lot of work for nothing. Sometimes it can give you chances and many times it is going to be a ton of free work for nothing.

2

Volunteering won't hurt your chances, as long as you are persistent, motivated and hard-working. From my personal experience, if you show them that you are ready to learn, and give relevant and fresh ideas about some projects or problems, they will definitely like it and will give you a chance. It's also in their interest to have someone who's very passionate about the job!

0

Being a volunteer moderator shouldn't hurt your chances of getting a job in community management (as long as you did a good job as volunteer moderator, of course). If anything, it should strengthen your chances, at least if you can explain ways in which your experiences as a volunteer moderator helped you gain the skills you need to be a good moderator.

I have served as a volunteer moderator of various online communities on Reddit, Discord, and other platforms over most of the past decade. Eventually, I realized that community management was something I was really passionate about, and decided to actively look for paid positions in that field. And my time as a volunteer moderator definitely helped me do that: Before I started my current job as a Community Manager at Stack Exchange, Inc., I was previously a volunteer moderator for the Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange. Likewise, I was previously a CM for Nova Drift, and a YouTube Moderator for Rooster Teeth; I was a volunteer moderator in (parts of) both communities before that as well. My work as a volunteer mod, and especially the relationships I established during that time, definitely helped me get those paid positions.


Take my work as CM for Nova Drift, for example. Nova Drift is published by Pixeljam Games, a small independent studio. I was originally just a regular user in Pixeljam's main Discord server. However, I was active in the community and in greeting new users as they joined; the staff noticed my helpfulness, and invited me to be a moderator. Later, when Nova Drift was in a pre-release state, they started a separate Discord server for that game; soon afterwards, they invited me to be a moderator there as well. Eventually, the developer reached out to me to see if I would be interested in a paid position as Localization Manager (to coordinate the crowdsourced translation effort); a month later, the developer expanded my role to Community Manager as well (after confirming that I was interested).

Similarly, I've been a volunteer moderator of the Rooster Teeth subreddit for nearly a decade. (Though it's an "unofficial" community not run by the company, it has been a major hub of community interaction with each other and the RT staff.) In addition, I became a moderator for Rooster Teeth's RTTV live chat during the RTX at Home 2020 virtual convention (following an application process in which I referenced my experience as a mod of the subreddit); I was invited back as a permanent moderator shortly afterwards. In addition, at the start of this year, RT's Director of Community reached out to a number of existing volunteer moderators to offer them paid positions as moderators of various parts of their community, and I became one of their YouTube Moderators (to moderate the comments on RT's YouTube videos and community posts).

Finally, in mid-2021, I was hired as an Associate Community Manager for the Curator Support Team at Stack Exchange, Inc. This process was more of a typical interview process, as opposed to the more informal hiring process for my previous roles. I applied to an open Community Manager position listed on our careers page. I think I included some of my volunteer moderation on my resume; I definitely also used my cover letter to showcase my extensive volunteer mod experience (both on RPG.SE and elsewhere), as well as my paid work relating to community management (for Nova Drift and Rooster Teeth). Especially because the position involved working with moderators and high-rep users in the network's communities, I was able to explain (in my job application and interviews) how my time as a moderator on RPG.SE made me an excellent choice for the job.


If you're good as a volunteer moderator, you can use that to strengthen your application. Hopefully, the company will see the value you bring as someone who is already in touch with the community's wants and needs, and especially understands the perspective of the volunteer moderators you'd be working with as a CM.

If the company just wants to exploit you, and chooses to retain you as a volunteer mod rather than an employee specifically so they don't have to pay you, it's not a company you'd want to work for anyway. (Of course, there are plenty of other reasons they might not hire you, too; maybe they don't have the budget to hire more CMs, or someone else was a better candidate for the position.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.