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.
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.
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.
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.
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.