Product management is one of the most in-demand jobs on the market today. Nearly every company is hiring—yet many are struggling to find talent. I even heard recently from a Fortune 100 company that they are so desperate for product managers that they’ve doubled the salaries of their current ones to take on additional work because they can’t find enough people who are qualified.
If you are interested in pivoting into product management, now is the time to do so! (See my previous IEEE-USA InSight article to see if the role is the right fit for you.) If so, here are a few ways to land your first product role and get started in this sought-after career.
Chances are your company currently has an open position for a product manager role or will in the near future. Whether you are in engineering, design or business, your skills are applicable and you’ve likely had an impact on the success of a product at your company in some way already.
To transition, ask your current manager to add a product-related project to your responsibilities so that you can work more closely with the product management teams. You can also build relationships with product managers directly and ask whether you can shadow them or support them in some way. This may include analyzing data or customer research, providing feedback on UX/UI, or helping them with market research and insights. When it comes time for them to hire for their team, they will already know what your capabilities are and whether you would be the right fit.
Join Product Communities
And there are A LOT. Product School, Mind The Product, Product Gym, Product Council, Product Coalition, Product Management Insider, Product Tank, Product Camp, Advancing Women in Product, Industry, and Her Product Lab (that’s me), to name a few! Many of these communities post job opportunities in their newsletters and Slack groups—and often it’s the hiring managers themselves or those who are on the team who are posting. It’s a great way to connect directly with them so you can better explain why you’d like to pivot, and how your experience is transferrable and valuable to them.
These groups also host events—virtual and in-person—that not only provide learning opportunities in product, but are also a great way to meet others and network. We all know applying through a job board doesn’t compare to being recommended by others.
There is no formal training for product management—not yet at least. I like to think of product management as the “Steve Jobs Track.” You have to be good at a lot of things, from presentation skills to user experience to working with data. A good way to showcase that you understand what a product manager is and that you’re prepared for the role is to go through a certification program. You can do some research on the programs available online or in-person in your community. General Assembly and Product School are two of the most well-known in New York, and they offer online training and job placement opportunities as well.
Reframe Your Resume
This is true for LinkedIn as well. While your title may not be product manager, there are many ways you can tell your story that will show hiring managers you’re right for the role. (And if you’re feeling a bit of imposter syndrome, remember that barely anyone started out their career as a product manager! Nearly everyone who I know in this career pivoted into it.)
Lead with how you made an impact for your customer, whether that customer be the business, end user, employees, or clients. Product managers obsess over their customer so that they can continue to create engaging experiences for them that build loyalty and keep them coming back. Include any decisions you’ve implemented or initiatives that you’ve led, and how they’ve converted into customer satisfaction. Metrics around retention and referrals, or how you’ve made people’s lives easier by reducing pain points, are especially powerful. And if you have familiarity with Agile, roadmaps, product strategy, backlog management, prioritization—or you’re a founder who has launched a product—include those keywords to show that you have product-related experience.
Start Out in Your Industry
If you’re looking to move to another company to land a product role, my one suggestion would be to stay within your industry when starting out. One of the superpowers of a product manager is having a wealth of insights into the market, customer, and industry you’re building products for. If you already have several years of experience in media, finance or healthcare, for example, employers will see you as a subject matter expert and that alone could help bring your resume to the top of the pile. Once you’ve worked in product for a couple years, it becomes much easier to move from industry to industry, because building great products is a skill that can be applied anywhere.
Do you have specific questions about pivoting into product management? In my next piece, I will interview a Product Management Coach who helps her clients land their first role.