10 Must-Have Product Manager Skills for Beginners

product manager skills

If you’re a first-time PM looking to build your technical Product Manager skills but don’t know where to start, this is the article for you! Whether you have no tech experience, you feel you’re lacking tech skills, or you just don’t know how to get started, we’re here to clear it up with some answers for you.  

Product Manager Skills: Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

In the past, employers and organizations would place more importance on candidates with hard skills—teachable and measurable abilities—instead of soft skills, such as working in teams and communicating. However, as organizations and the workplace have evolved, hard and soft skills have become equally important. Both are equally critical when it comes to the Product Manager role, even if you don’t have previous technical experience.

For example, the Product Manager role is heavily dependent on good listening skills, a soft skill that can be developed in any role. According to Forbes, “The best Product Managers usually don’t start their careers as Product Managers, though–it’s a goal they work towards over time.” 

As great as previous technical experience is when it comes to being a Product Manager, sometimes it can act as a pitfall. Someone with this background can become too focused on the technical side instead of assuming all aspects of the role. Thus, other responsibilities that are included get overlooked. 

Top 5 Technical Product Manager Skills for First-Timers

If you don’t have previous experience in a Product Manager role, don’t worry! There is still the opportunity to learn and develop the hard skills that would help you get that role.

1. Data Competency

This includes the collection, extraction, interpretation, and analysis of data, as well as the ability to use Microsoft Excel. Any argument a Product Manager makes needs to be backed up by data, and the process of collecting and understanding this data isn’t easy. If you want to assume the role of Product Manager you need to have the confidence to do this yourself, not depend on others, to ensure you have the backing of your colleagues.   

The best starting point is to run your own SQL queries. This enables you to net a plethora of raw data, making sense of and visualizing it. This is such a significant responsibility of the role and is a skill you can develop before you even apply for Product Manager roles.  

You should also understand Excel as this provides you with the features to turn this data into visualizations to present to other groups. 

2. UX Model and Design

UX modelling expresses how the user interacts with the product. Product Managers will want to constantly increase the number of times users are interacting with the product, or the number of users interacting with the product. This means you will need the ability to set the appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs).

3. Business Basics

You might know the ins and outs of the product, but you must also know the context and activity of your business. This has a direct impact on the product. You’ll need to know the difference between revenue and profit, budgeting, cash flow, and how to make a Profit and Loss statement. 

4. Prototyping

Being able to master prototyping helps with visualization. Visual aids are important, especially when trying to convey the plan and future of your product to various stakeholders. When stakeholders see visual aids, they can provide high-quality feedback. They’re able to do this because they have a frame of reference for furthering the conversation.

5. Coding Skills

Any technological job wants coding nowadays. So where should you start? Now, we’re not telling you to sit at home and learn how to code, because as a Product Manager you’re not having to crank out code. However, you will need to understand the world that surrounds coding, the technologies used, and what they’re capable of. 

So where can you start? Learn what your technology stack is. This represents all the apps, databases, servers, and types of code that feed into your product. It’s about having a better understanding of how your product is created so that you can build a common understanding for other teams and stakeholders.

Top 5 Soft Skills for Product Managers

1. Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is about always knowing what the plan is. Linked with the interpretation and understanding of data, as a Product Manager, you have to understand and analyze the information that is available. Then, apply that information to strategies for bringing your product to market with as much success as possible.

2. Expert Communication Skills

You need to interact with so many different teams. And you’ll be required to have effective communication with all of the members involved. This means keeping everyone updated and solving potential issues as they arise (discussed further below). However, running interference between the various teams and stakeholders is no longer enough: you need to really understand these various groups of people you’re interacting with, against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic no less.

3. Team Leadership

A good Product Manager will have the leadership skills to motivate and inspire their team so the organization can create the best product possible. You’ll often have to manage cross-functional teams, with representatives from the development team, product team, engineering team, marketing team etc. A leader will be able to combine all of the different teams’ priorities and drive everyone to work towards the same goal. 

4. Agility

Product management is a job defined by constant changes. If you are to assume such a role, you need to be capable of successfully managing these changes. You must remain flexible, ensuring that you manage shifting priorities and changes amongst the various teams. For example, say that the product your organization has created is not solving the problem it was set to fix. As a Product Manager, you will need to act quickly and seek out why it is not fulfilling its task. Then you’ll need to inform and align all teams within the organization. This then leads us on beautifully to the next point—problem-solving. 

5. Problem-Solving

Products are fundamentally intended to solve a problem, so a problem-solving mindset is essential for the Product Manager role. Also, a reality check: you’re going to face issues in any job. You need to be able to thrive in problem-solving scenarios and react calmly.

How to Highlight Your Product Manager Skills While Job Hunting

So, now you know the different skills that are needed when it comes to assuming a Product Manager role, how do you go about highlighting these skills while on the hunt for the role? 

As The Muse says “Product Managers are measured by the success of their teams and products.” You need to show an employer that you are able to use skills and competencies to a successful outcome.

Skill Strategies

  • Your resume should include accomplishments that are defined by metrics. It is all well and good to present what you’ve achieved in the past, but this means very little if you cannot quantify it with measurable results. For example, did you save your company a significant amount of money because of your work? Then put that on your resume. Hard evidence points to the kind of positive change you could make in the Product Manager role. 
  • Highlight scenarios where technical, management and industry-specific skills have driven past development.  This highlights the previous experience you have that is relevant to the aspects of the job that you’re applying for. 
  • Mention people and the teams you have previously worked with. This is a great way to discuss how effective your interpersonal skills are. If you’ve interacted with the CEO or other executives, this points to your reliability. 
  • When it comes to interviews, you need to go further than just your resume and explain how you leverage your skills. Using the STAR framework, demonstrate your relevant experience and stories but in the correct context so it answers the interview questions. Many people rush to list their experience in an interview, but if you’re not answering the question they’re asking, it demonstrates a lack of ability to listen and prioritize. 
  • Ensure that you demonstrate your flexibility. You will need to listen to many different ideas from many different stakeholders. Then from there, create cohesive and actionable product plans. But you also need to demonstrate adaptability when it comes to changing plans.

Need a Hand?

There are so many skills required when it comes to being a Product Manager, but these aren’t always only attained through having past experience in that role. There are so many transferable skills from previous experience and roles that can help you when it comes to interviewing for Product Manager jobs. For more help, check out our free training on writing the very best Product Manager resume, or schedule a call with one of our career coaches.

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