Securing a job in product management poses a bit of a dilemma because recruiters are normally looking for some experience in product management. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re looking for people who have already been a PM!
In this article, we will talk about how to get some PM experience under your belt and also highlight the PM-related things you already do in your job.
One of the best and fastest options to get experience is joining one of our MyProductMentor programs. You will train with experienced PMs from major companies, hone your skills and build a portfolio that will give you the best chances of securing that coveted PM job.
But let’s have a look at what the most common paths to getting into product management are and how to pursue them.
1. Get a PM Internship
This is the easiest way to get some experience. You can start by researching the top companies in your area and apply to the internship programs the are ongoing.
However, PM internships can be competitive and even they can be competitive, so you can also expand your search by applying to the internship programs of tech companies generally. That will expose you to some of the technical skills needed to be a PM. If you are based in a tech hub the majority of companies will offer programs that you can look into.
If there are not that many tech companies in your area that offer product management internships the thing to do is proactively get in touch with anyone in a product-related position at a company that you like (it can be a PM, a director of product management, lead product manager, etc.) to see if they are looking to hire interns or anyone that can help in the product management department.
This can be daunting and you may get no response but if you are willing to learn and contribute more often than not you will be successful.
2. Move into the PM Role at a Large Company
While this is the fastest route to become an actual PM, you will need three things to occur:
- An internal transfer to be available
- Prove that your skills are sufficient to fill a PM role
- Support from someone inside the company
Ideally, you would have two out of these three things and you should try to secure the third. Often the second step is the hardest. After all, you might feel like you haven’t done PM-related things because you don’t have the actual title of PM. However, there will surely be many things that you do in your day-to-day routine that can provide the much-needed PM experience. Some of these things might be:
- Gathering user feedback and prioritizing it according to consumer and business impact and informing the relevant people who can implement changes
- Having an idea for a new feature, describing what it would be able to do, and deciding whether it’s feasible
- Figuring out whether common user paths or business events had a significant impact on your website or app based on analyzing available data
- Increasing revenue for certain products or services
- Being in charge of a project from beginning two endsareitsit works, managing members of different teams
All this means you should take the difficult issues that you have in your current job and solve them. In doing this you will build a record of solving problems and working with various teams in doing so.
Make sure to keep a record of the problems you managed to solve – this can be in your internal newsletter or wiki or on LinkedIn or personal blog. This will show that you’re working towards acquiring PM skills and will give you a higher chance to transitions to that position
3. Get a Junior PM Role
By far the most common way into a PM job, it is only an option in companies that offer the aforementioned internships or an assistant product manager program (such as Google).
More often than not candidates who hold MBAs go down this route so some companies might expect you to have one. However, this doesn’t mean an MBA is a prerequisite to becoming a PM and you should focus on what you can do to get the skills you need in your current job or moving.
You can also try to get a job that’s closer to a PM job. One example would be technical program manager – provided you come from a technical background – as this will help you cultivate the skills that are also necessary for product management
4. Get a PM Position at a Start-up
Networking and building relationships with start-up founders is paramount here. Concentrate on performing well and delivering results whenever you can. If you can’t get straight into a PM job, you should follow the steps necessary to transition to a PM role in a major company: make a good impression and show off your PM skills. Always keep growth in mind, since you will have to prove yourself regularly.
5. Build your own Business or Project
Building your own business is certainly the most difficult route but it’s one that works. Having your own business will guarantee that you will gain all the necessary skills to become a PM, even if your venture is not successful. Once the company becomes bigger you can move into the PM role (many CEOs do this). If it doesn’t, you will have all the requirements to be able to convince interviewers.
While it may be tempting to keep gunning for that internship or for that APM position, what you need to be doing is getting that experience under your belt in whichever way you can.
So don’t shy away from thinking outside the box, whether this means starting your venture or capitalizing on anything product-related that you already do (or that you can do) to maximize your experience and chances of getting to where you want to be.