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Job: Community engagement manager

The role: Often found in organizations with a strong social mission, community engagement managers are responsible for mobilizing supporters and facilitating opportunities for them to participate in furthering the organization’s cause.

While similar roles existed in the past, the responsibilities of a community engagement manager have evolved dramatically with the rise of social media. Today many spend significantly more time engaging with communities online than meeting with people face to face.

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“We’ve got over a million Facebook fans, tens of thousands of people signed up saying they want to help, and we don’t have any way to integrate them into a concerted effort to work together,” said Kevin Thomson, chief operating officer of Plastic Bank.

The Vancouver-based startup seeks to rid the oceans of plastic waste by monetizing its collection and proper disposal, and is currently hiring a community engagement manager to collaborate with its large international network of supporters.

“We just want to find a person that has the interest in helping us as their full-time work, has some digital skills, has some experience in gathering people together for a cause, is creative and wants to unleash an idea to the masses,” he said. “There’s many aspects to this, including sales, understanding personalities and cultures and geographies, technical skills in order to do communications online, which will be the primary connection point, and then face-to-face and public speaking skills.”

Salary: According to online career resources Neuvoo and PayScale, the average salary of a community engagement manager in Canada is approximately $75,000 a year, with entry-level employees typically earning between $45,000 and $55,000 annually. Both also suggest there is the opportunity for senior-level employees to earn a salary in the low six figures, though Mr. Thomson points out that social-media platforms are too new for community engagement managers to have significant experience in that domain.

Mr. Thomson adds that compensation in this field can depend on employer and location, with those working in larger metropolitan areas and for larger brands typically commanding a higher salary.

Education: While an educational background in communications, project management or international relations could be of value to employers, Mr. Thomson says there really aren’t any educational standards for the industry at this point in time. As a result, he suspects many will learn on the job.

“It seems to be a high-energy, intense opportunity with probably a lot of travel, probably a lot of time on digital platforms, lots of organizational skills, and I’m not sure the training for all of those things are really effective,” he said.

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Job prospects: The need for community engagement managers is increasing in Canada as consumers become more conscious of the impact their purchasing decisions can have on the world.

“Buying from a company is buying into an ideology as much as it is buying into a product,” Mr. Thomson said. “We have the opportunity through our technology to engage people with meaningful dialogue, and work with them to turn the vision into reality.”

Challenges: As the primary point of contact between the public and the organization, community engagement managers contend with the challenge of representing both groups fairly and accurately to the other.

“It’s an interpretation of data, the mass communication made personal, those are both very difficult things,” Mr. Thomson said. “And then figuring out how to apply that to make meaningful sense out of the engagement that is available.”

Why they do it: As a role that typically exists to further a social mission, community engagement managers often derive a lot of meaning from their work and enjoy the opportunity to make a difference.

“It’s the opportunity to travel, get in front of people, explore new cultures, and to be surrounded and embrace the enthusiasm of people around the world, and then channel that energy into some meaningful collective result,” Mr. Thomson said. “That gives me goosebumps.”

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Misconceptions: Mr. Thomson says many mistakenly associate the role with communications or marketing, adding that in those industries the information typically flows in only one direction.

“Many people think engaging the community means I have something I want to say to them,” he said. “This is more of a reactive role; it’s taking the energy that is being directed towards us and working with it so that we can shape it into something that can produce results.”

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