In this guest post, Product Manager, Evan Le, breaks down his upcoming guide on how to get into product management.
This article is for aspiring product managers who don’t have much professional or relevant work experience. This will be a 4-part series, and this is the overview.
So you want to break into tech as a Product Manager but don’t know where to start?
The internet can be a very confusing space because a lot of people want to sell you the solution.
Do you pursue $500 certifications? Do you just apply to a bunch of job apps per conventional wisdom? Do you post #OpenToWork on LinkedIn?
The truth is, all of these actions can have a place in achieving your goals of becoming a product managers.
Instead of just taking a million random actions though, I want you to have a strategy.
And the framework I want you to think about is the Tripod Marketing Formula:
- Know what people want
- Build something awesome
- Tell everyone about it
This is adapted from a business quote from Dr. John Berardi, the founder of the world’s largest nutrition coaching company.
Although you can think of this process as working for attracting customers to your business, you can adapt this to fit your job-hunting process and beyond as well.
What everyone else does
One of the reasons I advocate for this approach is that there is nothing worse than the soul-sucking process of digitally shotgunning hundreds of resumes to job applications.
Most people treat this as their only action – only for 95% of recruiters to glance it over in 10 seconds and maybe send a “Sorry we’re not interested” email back.
This is especially true in a competitive field such as product management, where entry level jobs are typically less than 20% of the job openings.
When your only strategy is to apply to jobs as your action, it’s very difficult to get feedback on why your application may not have made the cut.
That’s why this process can lead to long bouts of radio silence – where if you’ve been applying for months and still not getting any feedback – and it could lead to a very real depression.
Are you making progress or are you not?
You need to apply for jobs – yes – but you also need to have fun with the process and do the job before you get paid to do the job.
That’s why this is a great time to meet interesting people, build products, and get feedback on your stuff! This helps you figure out if you even like building products in the first place.
If you don’t, maybe that’s a good idea you shouldn’t pursue product management!
What you might want to do instead
So let’s bring it back to a more effective process.
Let’s move away from the mentally safe way of just shotgunning applications.
Let’s put ourselves out there a little more by following this Tripod Marketing Formula.
Here’s a breakdown of what we will be covering in this series:
Step 1: Know what people want
What do companies say they want, what do practising product managers actually do regularly, and how can we level up our skills to bring them closer to practical?
You may be able to level up by completing a $500 certification, but if you don’t have the resources to pursue this, it also isn’t necessary. There are so many effective ways to level up, and the key is to start practising consistently now, rather than looking for the perfect course to get you there.
- Read books, take courses, learn
- Talk to people about their problems
- Think about those problems in depth
Step 2: Build something awesome
The next thing we need to do is build things that demonstrate our skills. The point here is to build side projects that build our skills, engage us creatively, and work as public-facing signals for recruiters and peers to share.
I want to stress the importance of these first two steps here if you’ve never managed a product before. You HAVE to learn and practice the necessary skills.
Do not just jump into job applications if you can’t relate your previous work to product work. If it means prioritizing learning and projects for 1-3 months BEFORE you apply to jobs, then do it.
These projects should be uniquely you or ones that others rarely replicate. What kind of problems interest you? Do you know anyone with a problem you can fix?
- Create side projects (Catchafire, Upwork, self-driven, etc)
- Write blogs, PRDs, and document your journey
Step 3: Tell everyone about it
As you’re building things, it’s important that you make yourself highly visible in this process. This can be a combination of “building in public” using social media, attending networking events, or applying to jobs using your portfolio.
Choose the methods that work with your introvert/extrovert style. All methods can work, but you must do them consistently and deepen the bonds you build in the industry you’re trying to enter.
Traditionally applying to jobs is one of the ways to do this – but you shouldn’t just rely on recruiters checking out your portfolio. That’s like only relying on speed dating to get to connect with people.
You need to optimize for feedback at every point in your journey – that’s what great product managers do too 🙂
Job apps do not provide enough feedback. Here are some examples of being visible enough to get feedback:
- Build in public (posting on social media and blog) and engaging in others content
- Attend networking groups with the focus less on job seeking, but being curious
- Meet product people: engineers, designers, and product managers
- Apply to job listings every so often
How you may structure this
So how do we go about implementing this framework into practice?
Suppose you talk to a couple of product managers and realize that you need to brush up on your customer research and analytical skills.
Over a month, that can look like this:
First 2 weeks:
- Read a book on Continuous Discovery by Teresa Torres
- Attend a weekly networking group and keep in touch with people outside of that (ex. coding, designing, or product groups, etc.)
- Build customer discovery canvases using Miro and write a weekly blog post summarizing your findings
Second 2 weeks:
- Take a course on product analytics
- Keep attending that weekly networking group and messaging on the side
- Build a project using Mixpanel or something similar
While you’re applying to jobs from time to time and letting fate decide the uncontrollable, you’re keeping grounded by leveling up your product skills, and producing interesting work – which is something you CAN control.
So if you want to keep your sanity during this time of your career, you need to develop a strong feedback loop. Continuously get feedback on your work by staying engaged with your community – whether it’s professional or not.
You never know who will be aware of your next opportunity.
It could be your teammate on your rec soccer league rather than the people in your product group. So be engaged with all those around you, otherwise this phase can be a really lonely time period if you let it.
Through this series, I hope I can help you cultivate a mindset that isn’t just seeking a job – but one that is actively learning new things, meeting interesting people, and building cool stuff that you can tell everyone about.
This process can and should be fun!
I’ll be releasing articles for each step so look forward to How to Get a Product Job in 2023 Step 1: Know What People Want.