Many people aspire to become product managers. However, individuals can find it difficult to make the initial jump into the role. Unlike, project management or finance, the actual skills of a product manager are not well understood by employers and hiring managers. As a result, companies tend to make hiring decisions based upon domain experience versus quantifiable product management skills.
This industry-wide problem presents a unique challenge to those who aspire to become product managers. So here are some tips that can tilt the odds in your favor…
Consider Jumping into the Shallow End of the Pool – Look to enter the product management profession in a domain you have deep industry experience in – the bar is lowest there. Trying to get your first break as a product manager in a domain that you don’t thoroughly understand will make the task more difficult. Remember, the bigger the domain, example healthcare, the more likely it is that you can swim in it for your entire career. Picking a smaller domain will mean that you will likely have to change domains later in your career – which can be just as hard as getting your first chance! Choose wisely.
Develop Connections in the Field by Contributing to a Product Management Association – Join a local product management association and actively participate. This will give you some product management cred to point to on a resume and it will also provide you with opportunities to establish professional connections while increasing your knowledge. Additionally, many product management associations are places that recruiters and companies search for product management candidates.
Take Product Management Training Courses to Enrich Your Knowledge of the Profession – Because of the lack of commonly agreed upon industry standards for the practice of product management each training course is unique. Regardless, this should not dissuade you from taking one or more training courses in an effort to enhance your knowledge of the field and to learn the language of product management.
Read Product Management Books to Enhance Your Knowledge and Increase Your Functional Vocabulary – Organizations are tribal by nature so make sure that you speak the language of those who are familiar with product management. This can raise the odds in your favor. A casual reference to a well-known author and their approach to solving a particular problem can to help establish both credibility and a connection during the interview process.
Call Out the Achievements In Your Profile and Resume That Align to Your Product Management Goals – Product management is about creating and maintaining value throughout all stages of the product management lifecycle. So make sure to demonstrate that you understand the value of the role and reinforce it by pointing to the things you have done in your previous positions that align to your aspirations.
The good news is that very few people begin their careers as a product manager. The majority start in another function (e.g. engineering, sales, marketing, etc.). If you make the necessary investments to build out your skills, master the terminology, and make the right connections while relentlessly pursuing your objective things should ultimately break your way.
The ball is in your court.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.