How to Transition to Product Management: A 4-Step Guide
Part 2 of the ongoing series From Zero to Product Manager. In this post, I provide four essential steps to transition to a PM role.
If you read part 1 of my ongoing series, you hopefully now have a better understanding of the Product Manager position. Now, let’s have a look at how to transition to this career path.
What you will find in this article:
Four steps to prepare for the PM job:
- 1) The difference between transitioning internally and externally
- 2) How to create an online presence
- 3) How to prepare a portfolio
- 4) How to write the perfect Product Manager CV
1) Transition internally is easier than externally
PM within the company
The first advice any PM would give you is always to try to find a PM position within your company. It’s always easier because your colleagues already know how you work, and you have a good understanding of your Product. You can talk to your Chief Product Officer (CPO) and express your interest in working with the Product Team. You can also directly approach PMs and see how you could work with them in one project and start shadowing them to get familiar with the job and the team. Quickly getting the trust from the Product team and the CPO, it’s easier for you to “sell your case.”
Always to try to find a PM position within your company
PM outside the company
The ideal scenario might not be currently possible at your company because there are no open positions or because your organization doesn’t have such a role. In this case, you have to show your PM abilities within your present situation to prospective companies.
You can build PM experience with Side projects (building a straightforward app, write about a new feature for an existing product). Your branding is crucial: make sure you have a robust online presence.
Your branding is crucial: make sure you have a robust online presence.
Within your company, try taking projects that match with PM Responsibilities. Lead a cross-team project that requires managing multiple stakeholders. Get to know your customers by talking to your users. Learn more about your metrics and investigate your data analysis. Approach the Management Team and offer strategic recommendations.
PM if you are not currently employed.
The best way to enter the job market is to start with an internship. Ideally, you intern into the Product team, but working within a company that has many Product roles in a different role could also be beneficial (as you could follow the tips from PM within the same company). Many experts recommend starting with a Project Manager role to get your foot-in-the-door. Investigate companies that build a Product you love and approach them; it helps when you are passionate about what the company is selling.
Start with an internship for a Product team you admire
- An internal transition is more natural than an external one: approach your CPO and get close to the Product Team.
- You can transition externally by getting projects that have PM responsibilities (user research, stakeholder management, analytics)
- Not employed yet: You can intern for a company that has a Product team you admire.
2) An online brand helps you to stand out
Having an online brand is very helpful, even more within the Product career path. You need to stand out with your branding. There are three easy steps to boost your online presence:
2.1) Create your Website: Building a website today is pretty straight forward you need to get a domain, host it, and put a link in your CV. Coding with Boostrap library allows you to develop your page super quickly. If you have zero coding skills, there are code-free alternatives, such as WIX. Strikingly allows you to create a free personal website from your Linkedin profile in seconds.
2.2)Be active on Social media: Opening Twitter to the Public is an excellent opportunity to post articles about Product. Ensure that you are not publishing anything that could damage your brand. Avoid any political tweets to appeal to a broader audience.
2.3) Start your blog: Write about product management. Use the website you created or medium, which the Tech industry uses heavily. This an opportunity for you to display your product and technology knowledge.
Promote your product and technology knowledge on a blog, social media or even your own website
3) Show off a portfolio or side project
We mentioned doing side projects as a technique when transitioning outside your company. Create new projects or look at past projects and “rebrand” them. Set a Product perspective to your project by discussing it in detail and adding images. Remarketing pre-existing project could save you precious time, and it’s an excellent opportunity to assess your past with a Product glance, that is very helpful when rewriting your CV (see next section).
When you are presenting a project, follow this simple structure:
- Possible solutions
- Knowledge gained
The more Product minded you appear to be, the better.
I love this example from Hardip (an ex Skimlinks coworker whom I loved working with). She created her website, outlined the summary of different projects she has been working on clearly showing her UX expertise, and finally, she provides full details case study in her medium blog. Building a website and writing a blog might seem a lot of work, but it surely pays off.
4) Create the perfect product manager CV
Think about your career and highlight any experience you have that aligns with what a PM does day-to-day. Creating your CV is deeply connected to the section about transitioning outside your company.
You need to look at your experience wearing Product glasses and see when your responsibilities were close to a PM. Those experiences include projects you have led with much cross-team communication that manifests strong stakeholder management skills. Provide examples where you talked directly with the users of a company product or where you had to perform user research. Introduce projects where you worked directly with the Product team. Show your project management skills: give examples when you had to expand or reduce the scope, manage the timeline, and reported on the outcomes. Prove that you have a data-driven mindset, show that you love numbers, and having to solve complex issues. Finally, make sure you quantify everything that is in your resume.
Every point of your CV should be quantified
Summary — Include the following experiences for a perfect CV:
- Projects with cross-team communication
- User research
- Projects lead jointly with the Product team
- Scope and timeline management
- Data analysis
Congratulations if you made it this far! I hope this article helped you to switch to a Product Manager position. If you are interested to learn more make sure to read Part 1 of the From Zero to Product Manager series.
Please let me know in the comment section if there additional tips that you would find useful. And don’t forget to check my other posts about Product Management and Agile Methodologies.