Landing Your First PM Job

Landing a PM job is really demanding.

Every week, I speak to 40+ aspiring Product Managers with technical backgrounds who are actively looking to make a transition. Being a PM is the new “sexy” job in the Bay Area, and there are definitely key hiring trends and skills necessary for the pivot. If you are considering making the switch, read the below to help guide you through the process.

Earn the Respect of Your Technical Team

Knowing how to code is essential to being a successful PM at a software company in SF, NYC, Seattle, Boulder, etc. The majority of PM’s have technical backgrounds. If you don’t have a coding background, you’ll need to develop one ASAP. Start with this Programming for Non-Programmers course via One Month.

Basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript Code

If you are already a developer without any iOS experience and looking to join a mobile team, One Month also offers an iOS course to learn Swift and build apps.

Practice building iOS apps with Xcode

Familiarity with the various coding languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Ruby, and iOS will help you solve technical problems and give you the confidence to push back on the Marketing and Design teams’ requests. In addition, and most importantly, you’ll earn the respect of the development team that you will be leading.

Update Your Resume to Highlight Side Projects

It takes recruiters 15–30 seconds to review your resume and decide if there is a potential fit. Resumes must be one page or they will be thrown out immediately. Use your space wisely to focus on side projects you have led and prototypes you have built, as recruiters will already know your technical skills if you are a developer by background. Before reaching out to companies, read Cracking the PM Interview for resume templates and advice on how to navigate the interview process and answer specific PM-related questions.

Any aspiring PM must read this book

It is great to highlight your technical skills throughout your resume, but put an emphasis on the side projects to convey a more well-rounded background.

Practice Public Speaking

Public speaking is difficult and intimidating for most people, especially for coders who typically have less outward-facing interactions. Find a meetup where you can practice presenting in front of a group. (Hint: We are always looking for new people to present at Product School workshops). This will push you out of your comfort zone and give you a low-stakes opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them, and gain confidence speaking and presenting your ideas and projects. PM’s need to be able to communicate internally and externally, so practice this as much as possible.

Build Your PM Job Pipeline

Networking and building a job pipeline will be the most important steps to take to land a PM job. Go to coffee with co-workers, reach out to product peers at other companies, and focus on finding great mentors. Personal introductions to job listings are the key to starting the process and finding a new role. Even with the above tactics, you will still need a strong job pipeline and strategy to be successful.

Keep Your Goals Reasonable, Divide By Three When Working Through a Job Pipeline

Remember to set realistic goals, manage your expectations, and don’t be hard on yourself because landing a PM job is very challenging. Many first-time PM’s join at associate level roles; this is a great place to start your transition and move up within a Product team. Since there is no perfect formula to land a role in Product Management, let me know if I can help via email or discuss further over coffee.

If you are interested in becoming a PM in the Bay Area over the next few months, please visit Product School’s site to learn more.

Like what you read? Give Mike Duchen a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.