Are you looking to change careers into Product Management? Or are you getting ready to start a career and think becoming a Product Management is for you? Then look no further - below you will find the exact steps to take to get into this great industry!
Start with a bit of research on Product Management
Before you can be sure Product Management is for you, it's worth finding out a bit more about the job. Blogs like this (especially my "7 reasons why Product Management is a great career" article) are a great start. Find out what Product Managers say about the job - it does have downsides (like all jobs).
Spend time talking to and connecting with Product Managers and ask them about their typical days (spoiler - most Product Managers will probably tell you no two days are the same, but there are common themes and tasks).
Our online Product Management Course will give you a lot of this background information, gathered from lots of Product Managers and Product Owners, but it's still good to ask questions and find out specific information that you want.
You might also want to look at the career path of Product Managers - do you want to progress and if so how does that look? Will you want to get to VP or CPO level? Will you want to manage other Product Managers? Will you want to learn enough to launch your own startup product? Or will you want to continue managing larger and more complex products?
All of these are possibilities and in truth you don't need to know where you want to go before you start. But it can help in how you approach your career, and it certainly shows the huge amount of opportunities available to you.
Take a Product Management Course
This course wouldn't exist if it wasn't something that people wanted and needed. And the reason they do is that there are very few opportunities to learn product management in a structured and step-by-step way other than with a course.
Books are great, but they become old and obsolete quickly.
Blogs are great, but they're unstructured and don't cover everything.
There is no "industry standard" certification in Product Management, but demonstrating your commitment to your career by investing in structured learning is a positive in any industry and will set you apart from others entering the career. I have interviewed a lot of people looking to land their first job in Product, and someone who takes time to learn the craft *before* they start is rare.
You can take an online course like ours, or you could attend an in-person class-based course. As long as the course suits you and how you learn, that is the most important thing.
Look for internships or similar
A lot of companies have started to offer Product Management or Product Owner internships and these are great ways to learn Product in real-life. Companies can see the growing need for good Product people and internships are a great way for them to source the best talent.
Use this to your advantage and apply for any internships that suit you.
An alternative to formal internships is to contact companies you would like to work for or that have great products and ASK! I know when I was starting my career that simply asking for work experience was daunting, but most companies love it - tell them why you think they'd be a good place for you to intern and why you'd make a good Product intern.
As well as asking companies, you could directly approach Product Managers who you think might be able to offer you a similar experience to interning. Most Product people love talking to others about the industry, and are happy to help - maybe they won't have any scope to give you experience but at least they should be able to answer a question or two.
Get your CV/resumé tailored to becoming a Product Manager
In any job application, it's important to tailor your CV/resumé as much as possible to the job. But even if you have to keep it generic enough to apply to more than one Product job, you should make it specific to Product Management.
Now, given this blog post is called "How to become a Product Manager" you might ask how you can create a Product Management CV before you have a job. It's a fair question, but there are two key things you can demonstrate without ever having worked in Product:
- transferable skills: there are loads of skills that are important in Product Management that aren't unique to it, or that are related to other skills. Are you knowledgeable about any of the areas Product touches (e.g. engineering or design)? Maybe you are already working in a connected career, like Business Analysis or Product Engineering? Are you good at managing relationships and stakeholders? Can you demonstrate good organisation and informed decision-making? Do you have experience of working with data and making conclusions from it? These are great to have when you want to become a Product Manager for the first time. Frame them on your CV as skills you'll bring to the job
- passion for product: as I said earlier, showing that you are passionate about Product is something that will resonate with hiring managers. Show this in your CV/resumé. If you've taken our online course or similar, put it on your CV. You can even list some blogs you follow or books you've read (though don't make your whole CV a list!)
What else can you do?
You could ask a professional to look at your CV/resumé and suggest how to improve it. We offer this for course members.
Send your CV/resumé to Product Management employers and job ads
As soon as you are happy with your CV you should start to send it to prospective employers. Pick employers that talk about Product Management in their literature or who attend or sponsor Product events - companies that value Product Management will be more likely to be looking for the next best talent, and they'll always be looking to grow and replace their Product team as members move on and get promotions. These companies will value your commitment and passion for Product, as they have the same outlook.
You should also start looking at job boards and job ads for opportunities. Reply to any job ad that you think you can do. That means don't be immediately put off if it asks for Product Management experience (they all do, but hiring managers know there are people with relevant skills elsewhere). It also means don't start applying for VP or CPO positions before you've had your first Product Management job!
My tip is to always contact whoever created the job ad. Be honest with them - tell them that you are hoping to become a Product Manager and explain the work you've done to learn the role. Some will be happy for you to apply if they know you're passionate and committed. For those that aren't, ask them if they could take your CV and let you know of any suitable positions come up that call for less actual Product experience.
Immerse yourself in the Product community
The truth is there is no single 'product community' but there are loads of small communities online and offline, that put on seminars and meet-ups. Here you will meet Product Managers and people who work with them. These are great ways to network. If you get to know someone who can let you know the next time an opportunity comes up at their company, you're a step ahead. These are also great places for learning more and asking questions.
Keep up-to-date with Product Hunt and other wonderful resources that showcase new products. These can help you see what trends there are in Product. Find out what you like and what you don't like. Think of how these products could be applied to other industries. This will help you in the final stage...
Become a Product Manager by acing the Product Interview
The "Product interview" sounds scary but it's not all that different to regular job interviews (which I guess are scary anyway!). What will help you get the job is knowing what type of questions you will be asked and how best to answer them.
Everything above will help, because often Product interviews are looking for someone who is passionate about the industry and committed to their career. In addition, knowing the product(s) you are interviewing to manage would be something the interviewers will expect (if the product is already in the market).
Here are some examples of the product-specific questions I have been asked, and have asked of others, in product interviews:
- What is your current favourite product and why?
- How do you define what Product Management is?
- What was the last product you bought and what is good/bad about it?
- What do you enjoy about Product Management?
- What don't you enjoy about Product Management?
- How do you approach innovation?
Having answers to cover those types of questions will help you be ready. Even if those questions aren't asked, you can use the information in other answers.
Beyond that, you will probably be asked job interview questions that are more general and apply to other careers - things like "Tell me about a time you had a challenging stakeholder and how you dealt with them" or "Give me an example of a time you used data to make a decision". These questions should always be answered using the STAR method.
What you'll find is that most of those questions don't depend on you having already been working as a Product Manager. You can answer them with knowledge and experience from other industries, and even from education. The key is to apply it to the interview you are in.
I hope this post inspires/encourages you to become a Product Manager.
For more, our online Product Management training course is packed with useful tips and techniques in how to become a Product Manager. Once you sign up you can also take advantage of our CV/resumé service or even some one-to-one coaching.