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Path To Be A Successful Product Manager

Many budding graduates are dreaming for a perfect career in product management. According to experts, a single clear path is not what makes a successful product manager. Infact, this specific role calls for a complete understanding of product building.

Product Management Rich Headley Product Manager

Career Paths For Aspiring Product Managers

The role and responsibilities of a product manager are extremely well-defined in any organization, which is why you probably won’t land a product manager position fresh out of college. Most fresh graduates would likely get an associate or junior product manager role if not a business analyst designation, which is most common. This means you would be working closely with product managers even if you don’t actually get to run the teams and manage complete processes like running a team and building products. Successful product managers are known to begin their career paths with research, coordination and similar duties which are integral parts of developing good products.


What Makes a Successful Product Manager?

In order to familiarize yourself with how different types of industries actually work when it comes to product management, you can take the consulting route, which includes short periods spent working in a number of companies. This provides you with a diverse and holistic understanding of how different companies in different industries work, which in turn allows you to better understand how various kinds of products are built and the behind-the-scenes of how those companies offer services to their customers.

In case you have a specific company or sphere in mind where you want to work, it is recommended to first get any type of job in that space which will ensure value addition to your knowledge of the product itself. The job you apply for must be reasonably close to the product, such as implementation, customer support or sales as opposed to accounting. By the time you get an opportunity to actually become a product manager, you will be quite familiar with the product and you might even have a couple of ideas along the way for presenting to your team.


How These Career Paths Help You be a Successful Product Manager?

Most candidates often pose the question: what makes a successful product manager? There is no clear answer, but you need to do your best to make sure that people around you know about your interest in product management. These can be people within or outside your company including friends of friends and even connections on LinkedIn. Aspiring product managers are willing to ask questions and learn more about what successful product managers do in order to clearly understand what is required. This also helps you use your own pre-built projects and experience as a credibility boost which compensates for your lack of hands-on experience on the job.



Prerequisites for Product Manager Role

There is a common perception that an education or previous experience in technology is necessary to become a Product Manager. While they are helpful to a certain extent, it is the following things that are more important.

  1. The desire to learn new things and new concepts is a key prerequisite.
  2. An interest in technology and the thirst to learn new technology and update yourself on the latest technological developments.
  3. Be empathetic. Step into the customer’s shoes and think about problems and solutions from the customer perspective.
  4. Be empathetic to the people who support you to deliver the product. They are the people in your operations team, sales team, accounts team, other product teams working with you. They are your internal stakeholders. Respect and work in tandem with them.


Product Manager Career Path

In the earlier years, there were no clearly defined parameters to begin on a Product Manager career path. An engineer with good technological knowledge would transition to becoming the Product Manager.

Management graduates are also hired into associate product management programs by companies like Google and Facebook.

Candidates with an arts and design background also make excellent Product Managers. A designer has the empathetic attitude to customer expectations and is able to deliver refined solutions to address these problems.

Some companies have a Principal Product Manager Path. Here the Product Manager is a high-performing individual and an expert in product management. He elevates the organization's product management practice.

Other companies have a Group Product Manager Path. Here the Product Manager manages other product managers. Their product is the team and this team delivers product solutions.


Best Job Search Strategy for Product Manager Position

Searching for a job is not a happy experience and bagging a Product Manager role requires some effort. The best job search strategy to adopt is to

  1. Use your network: Use all your contacts, direct and indirect. Platforms like LinkedIn are ideal for building your network. Reach out to people and ask for referrals for a position in their company. Do not hesitate even if you have not been in touch with them otherwise. The worst thing that could happen when you reach out to someone is that they could say no. However, this rarely happens and most people are happy and feel privileged to help.
  2. Assess and understand what you want: Clearly define what you want. Define the industry, the company, the products built by the company, etc. Make a list and then begin to target these companies. Know why you are opting for a big company versus a start-up and vice versa. It may be that you wish to make a bigger impact in a small set up as against being a small fish in a big established company.

Your desires, goals, aptitude and aspirations should guide you while preparing the list.

Further, you can also start adopting a Product Manager practices in your present employment and hone those skills. Then when you go for a Product Manager job interview, you can outline and highlight the proactive product management initiatives you have been applying to your old job. This will positively impact the mind of the interviewer and show your passion towards the product management career.


3 Tips for a Great Product Manager Resume

Boring statements and a long summary of your qualifications and skills should be avoided. Instead a great resume should highlight:

  1. The impact you have created in your job. Showcase how you have understood requirements and made an impact in your role in the company. Provide hard metrics to that end. Do not just state your roles and responsibilities.
  2. Customize your resume. Alter the write up based on the comp-any you are applying for. Do not send a standard resume to all companies but instead tweak it a little to suit the company and the job description. Highlight those skills that are suitable to that particular company. Recruiters use keyword searches. Make sure that your resume matches the job. This does not imply resorting to untruths. Be honest and do not shy away from dwelling on your positives.
  3. Be succinct. Revise your resume multiple times and keep it crisp. Highlight only your latest achievements and experiences. Do not dwell too much on past details.


3 Tips for aspiring Product Managers

  1. Know your core values and strengths. Observe yourself and think about whether you enjoy technology, fintech, coding, app development, etc. Have conversations with yourself and keep reflecting about the areas of your strengths and likes.
  2. Be comfortable with detail. Know things thoroughly. Know how things work and design workable solutions to suit them.
  3. Know your customers really well. Do market research and actually talk to customers. Use qualitative and quantitative ways to analyse and study your customers. Look at data and tracking metrics to gauge customer actions. Talk to other industry and non-industry colleagues to know your customer profile better.

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