How to become a product manager

How to become a product manager

We’re often asked by people in other roles how to become a product manager.

Unlike jobs supported by professional bodies, with widely recognized credentials and a clear route to getting started, the path into product management is less clear. You’ll rarely come across a role with people from such a diverse range of backgrounds.

In the world of technology, it’s unsurprising that many people move into product management from a more technical role. In our 2019 Survey of product management 3 times more Product Managers rate themselves very technically skilled compared to their ratings for UX and Marketing. On our courses, we see delegates from a huge range of backgrounds but common previous jobs are technical pre-sales, business analysts and project managers.

If you know someone who’s looking to move into product management or want to do so yourself, then here are five tips to help:

1. Start with who you know

Any head of product management will be favorably inclined to recruit if they know the candidate or receive a recommendation from someone they respect. So check out your network. Look for product managers in your own company who can support a sideways move or product managers in companies you’ve worked with who might sponsor an introduction into their organization. Most people are happy to help and it might lead to a recommendation.

2. Market yourself effectively

Check all the touchpoints you have with the outside world to ensure they support your desire to move into product management. Does your LinkedIn profile make the most of any experience for which a recruiter will be searching? Does your CV do the same? Do any of your other social media profiles or posts undermine your credibility? Our research into product management recruitment showed that recruiters check social media before they consider interviewing or taking-on a candidate.

3. Extend your knowledge

There are fantastic blogs, interesting books, training and certifications for product managers. They can give you insights to what it’s really like, deepen your knowledge about the role, its issues and how to tackle the tasks of a product manager.  Take a training course that gives you a certificate in product management to give you extra credibility.

4. Work more closely with product management

If there aren’t any openings in product management in your organisation then you can look for a role that gives you closer engagement with them. Doing this will build your insight into products and processes and make you a more attractive candidate when they start recruiting.

5. Be flexible

If you can’t get a job with the title product manager, try broadening the range of jobs you’ll consider. Many companies, particularly larger ones, fragment the role of product manager into a series of specialisms such as pricing; technical product management and outbound product marketing. You might find one of these roles fits better with your experience and skills making it more likely you’ll be recruited. Working in these areas will give you more exposure to the wider role of the product manager as well as building your skills and credibility. And, you might find that the specialism is where you want to stay…

Do you have any other good tips?

Andrew Dickenson
Director, Product Focus

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