Part I: why it’s the most fulfilling kind of work
I have been involved in building and running communities for the last 20 years. And I have come to think of it as both the best and worst job in the world, all nicely packaged into one. This is a two part series: in this post below I want to share why I think it is an incredibly fulfilling kind of work. In part two, I share the darker sides of it all.
Why it is the best job in the world
The most human job
If you enjoy people, this is an amazing opportunity to spend a lot of time with people and see the amazing diversity of human kind by hearing so many people’s stories, projects, ideas, ventures, dreams, hopes, fears, tragedies. If you enjoy listening, you will hear incredible stories.
Your day job = other people’s favorite side hustle
A friend once told me how she doesn’t quite like her day job, but she loves grabbing coffee with people, hearing their stories and trying to figure out ways to support them by connecting them to other people she knows. That’s when I realized that as a community builder you get to do that not as a minor side element of your daily work, but as a core part of it.
You provide something so fundamental to human happiness
When you build community, you have an opportunity to provide something to society that sounds unsexy, but is so fundamental to human happiness: a place of trust and belonging. Evolution made humans social beings, it helped us survive, and the need to be surrounded by trusted humans is a deep, deep need. But in today’s increasingly disconnected and divided world, it is easier than ever to feel lonely, to feel alone, to doubt people’s intentions around us. What a wonderful thing if you get to provide people a place of belonging as your job, to provide them with a space and time to feel less lonely, to feel more connected, to feel loved.
You have a good shot at changing people’s lives
While building a community there is a good chance you might impact people’s paths in life — even though you won’t know the potential power of your action at that time of doing it. While building Sandbox I’ve heard many stories of people who had impactful encounters thanks to us: they met people whom they started new businesses with, they met people who provided them with radically new perspectives in life and changed their life’s direction, they met people who ended up becoming friends, they met people they fell in love with.
You make friends
Hands down the biggest reason for me to continue building communities is that you not just meet people, but it gives you a framework to build relationships with them over time out of which some will blossom into lifelong friendships. A small, symbolic indicator of that in my life have been wedding invitations. I always felt so fortunate and humbled when people I purely met through Sandbox ended up becoming such close friendships that they invited me to their wedding. And even more beautifully, often at their weddings I wasn’t the only person that they had met through Sandbox. So far I have been fortunate to attend 4 Sandbox weddings and maybe there are more to come 🙂
You have the perfect excuse to talk to anyone
When it is your job to bring people together, you have the perfect excuse to reach out to people you always wanted to talk to (but wouldn’t dare otherwise). This works with inspiring peers, mentors, thought leaders. For example, I have always been inspired by the work of NYU professor Clay Shirky, but I never really had a reason to talk to him. Until we started hosting thought leader lunches at Sandbox in NYC and it turned out that one of our community members was studying with him. While I’m not sure he would have been open to a 1:1 meeting, inviting him to spend lunch with a whole group of Sandboxers was a strong enough reason to convince him and we ended up having a fabulous lunch together.
Why it’s the worst job in the world
Here is part two of this post, with 5 reasons why running a community is the worst job and 6 ideas how to make it suck less.
Has running a community been a fulfilling job for you? Id’ love to know why (and why not 🙂
Looking for more community building resources?
Check out the Community Canvas, the open-source tool we have created to support community builders across the globe and join our Community Builder Facebook group where we come together to share community relevant topics and learn from each other.
Community Building Newsletter
Every few weeks I send out a short email with 3–5 of my favorite insights, blog posts and articles about building meaningful communities. If you care about bringing people together, this might be for you. Sign up here.
Other community building content you might enjoy
- There are two ways to show up in a community: as a consumer or as a co-creator.
- 8 ways to empower people to show up as active co-creators in your community
- Introducing the Minimum Viable Community Canvas — summarizing the core elements of a community on 1 page
- 9 ways to turn recurring events into a community
- Why community can not be explained, but has to be experienced
- My Ideal Community Manifesto
- What does “community” even mean? A definition attempt & conversation starter
- The Community Test: how to measure the strength of a community
- Why do communities exist? For internal or external purpose? Or both?