Today I read a brilliant article about what a Product Manager actually does, as opposed to what the aspiring product manager thinks he will do.
I instantly remembered working with this girl Anna to help with her venture called What People Do, where she interviewed professionals about what their jobs involved. Her understanding was that when the young graduate read about the day-to-day tasks, the requirements and responsibilities, they’d have a better understanding about how to apply and what to expect.
At the time I thought it was clever. Now I think it’s brilliant.
As I was reading Sibha’s article about what Product Management is and isn’t, I thought, this is very helpful to anyone who wants to apply for the job.
It was this part that inspired the career hack I’ll share with you:
I was offered a position as a product management rotational associate at Intuit, a technologically and culturally amazing company. To my surprise because I didn’t really know what a product manager does. “Wow,” I thought as I read and reread my offer letter. “All I did in those interviews is talk about my passions. I wonder how that was enough.” To my surprise because my thesis was in psycholinguistics. Last I checked, the psychology of language has little to do with financial software.
When I was “designing” my CV back in the day CVs weren’t outdated, I thought stating the obvious and showing passion would be enough to land me the job. Career advisors taught me to look at the offer, do the research, and tailor my CV to that. However, what I did was focus on the words and the advice without really understanding the core of the problem:
People don’t always say what they’re looking for in job descriptions.
What they do is write up a generic description that could hardly inspire you to apply or get excited about the job, so you’re forced to apply blindly, listing qualities that are not necessarily what the employers secretly want.
That’s what happened in Sibha’s case.
Nothing in the job description said anything about psycholinguistics: only the employers knew that this would be beneficial to their business.
Now let me tell you about my Psychology degree.
It encompassed everything from Social to Evolutionary Psychology to Methodology and Critical Thinking. And while this formal education gave me a set of excellent transferable skills, it also gave me a headache when I sat down to update my CV. You see, there was an obvious lack of focus present, which is hardly a selling point, so I knew I’d have to get creative to land the job I wanted. (At this point, it was still an amorphous idea.)
To achieve that, I had to look beyond “the whole picture”, find some good selling points where there were none, and pretend that I wasn’t luxuriating and partying 24/7. Remember what the monkey in the Lion King said?
Here’s the plan I designed to apply for awesome jobs:
- Read about the job from the perspective of someone doing it,
- note the skills and personality traits you will need, and —
- dig deep into your past to find those skills, and —
- show them the benefits of hiring you.
Let’s make an example.
Even though I have no technical skills, I’d like to work with tech startups. I know a lot about the industry, I understand the psychology of users, and the whole process of creating a product fascinates me. While I don’t want to be a product manager necessarily, I would love to be a Happiness Officer.
This job title is a reflection of what I do for free, and wouldn’t it be something if I got paid for it!
As I understand it, it means providing excellent customer service that is above and beyond the call of duty. Simply put, it is keeping customers happy. But making people happy is not as easy as you’d think.
They are often grumpy and picky and generally unsatisfied when things don’t go the way they expect. You have to be sensitive, be able to walk some miles in their shoes, and choose the right thing to do under pressure.
If I was applying for this job I would give three reasons to hire me:
- I always apply “the customer is always right” even if they’re completely unreasonable and mean. Please read how I replied to this tweet.
- I did academic research on how positive exercises affect students’ well-being through time, and my extensive reading on the subject has taught me how to induce and achieve happiness in myself and others when need be.
- I am currently working on a client-centered project, which aims to acquire, engage, and retain customers. I believe that a fanbase is the most important foundation of a business and the part that leads to success.
Point 1 is a simple thing that people sometimes forget.
Point 2 is the obvious thing to put in your CV, but by offering a specific example you learned on the way, you’re giving them a tentative promise of a takeaway that will benefit their company if you worked for them.
Point 3 is something that hasn’t paid off yet, but the fact that I’m working on it demonstrates that I have enough passion to do it for free.
You can’t really say “I’m passionate” and not show it.
By providing three simple examples, I described myself, my experience, and my vision. However, the most important thing is to be able to back up your words. In my case, it would help if my online presence reflected my bubbly personality and included more superlatives and fewer complaints.
Finally, I always encourage people to be creative in everything they do.
This is why I was impressed with Miruna Macri’s job-hunting strategy. Being a designer, she made herself a creative portfolio in the form of a passport and conveniently “forgot it” in every creative studio she visited.
There are a million ways to be creative even if you don’t have any artistic skills. Some online portfolio services promise to “turn your portfolio into a marketing machine”. But I’m more interested in startups that revolutionize things instead of putting bells on old ideas.
One such startup is Somewhere. They change the way people think about work by expanding its definition. Usually, it’s what you get paid for, but what about all the projects you do for passion and no money? They’re still work.
In fact, that’s the work you’d kill to be paid for, which you’re afraid you can’t have but secretly know you deserve. By displaying these passion projects on a site, you increase your chances of getting the dream job because you show your creative side. And you express yourself, no limits.
Apart from building a creative portfolio, you can also write a creative cover letter. For example, you can list “10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Hire Me”, just make sure that while the reasons might be seen as “bad” by society, they will be seen as “good” by innovative people who think outside the box.
That way, you’ll know if the company is a good fit for you when the fall in love with your crazy application. Speaking of which, I have this collection called The Crazy Pitch, where you can contribute your crazy stories.
Seriously, this is exactly the kind of thing I like to read with my coffee.