Securing a Product Manager position can be a feat, especially if you don’t have the product management experience to back up your application. However, with careful planning and a strong understanding of what will be required of you, the communication gap can be bridged, making you a valid candidate.
As a PM, you’ll be nearest to the action: directing the decision-making process and leading a product from conception to completion. This may seem like a tall order if you have no product management experience and haven’t been involved in the pipeline before. Still, it’s not impossible if you have the insight, organizational aptitude, and vision to improve on a company’s product line.
Today, we’re going to debunk a few of the myths surrounding the requirements of becoming a Product Manager. We’re also going to help you figure out how to communicate your valuable skill sets — even if you don’t have prior product management experience.
PM Experience Myths, Busted
A Product Manager’s tasks typically involve collaborating across teams to plan, build, and launch their product. While they’re in charge of bringing together data, analytics, and experience, as well as making final product decisions, people often assume that they need additional prerequisites to hold this position.
Here are some common myths associated with being a Product Manager:
You Need an MBA to Be a Product Manager
You do not need an MBA to become a successful Product Manager. Having one can definitely help you have a framework for recognizing the effect of product decisions on the bottom line. However, getting an MBA is not the only way to acquire a business and financial framework.
Obtaining an MBA will help you generate some skills and will provide networking opportunities. While these are decisive advantages of having an MBA, they’re not all-inclusive of the duties of a Product Manager.
As a Product Manager, many of your responsibilities will extend far beyond the scope of what an MBA provides. To the interviewer, having the right skills is usually more valuable than having a certification.
You Need to Be a Tech-Wiz
Knowing how to code never hurts anyone’s career aspirations. Still, without writing a single line of code, a Product Manager can confidently bring a product from concept to market. Having the ability to direct and manage engineers and designers through the work pipeline while ensuring that the product is valued and profitable is significantly more desirable.
Coding and prototyping can be a boon to your team. Still, it won’t be nearly as helpful as prioritizing tasks and collaborating clearly between teams across multiple lines of communication. That said, you must be familiar enough with the technology to have a technical discussion and translate it into layman’s terms for business people who may be stakeholders but aren’t as technically savvy.
There’s One Path to Product Management
The creation of any tech product necessitates collaboration across multiple departments within an organization. For a product to be successfully adopted by the public, it will require cooperation between IT, engineering, marketing, and sales, just to name a few. Inter-department communication and project organization require that a Product Manager take the helm.
However, to become the person responsible for all of these moving parts isn’t prescribed to a set trajectory. As it stands, there is no one right way to becoming a Product Manager.
Many companies will look for potential candidates coming right out of college, while others will hire internally. Ultimately, the path to securing a Product Manager position relies on your ability to take charge of a product and have an aptitude for problem-solving, as opposed to being on a set path.
Valuable Product-Management-Adjacent Experience
Seeing as how there isn’t a single path to becoming a successful Product Manager, there is a multitude of skills that can help you transition into the new role.
Some professional backgrounds have directly relatable skills. Here are just some examples:
Coming for a UX design background can be an easy transition to make when taking up the responsibilities of a Product Manager. As a UX designer, you are tasked with maintaining tight schedules for deliverables and understanding how design impacts the user experience. Changing over to a Product Manager position will require an understanding of how product design impacts user experience, albeit at a strategic level.
Sales & Marketing
Product Managers coming from sales or marketing can benefit greatly from their skills in those roles. Knowing how to convey a product’s value to a broad audience and creating marketing tools to target new clients can assist in formulating a cohesive product roadmap.
Having data analytical skills is a core requirement for being successful as a Product Manager. With a background in data analysis, you can quickly sift through and evaluate data derived from product use, customer-centric design, competitors, price points, market share, and industry trends.
As a Product Manager, understanding and compiling vast amounts of data is necessary when formulating an effective roadmap.
For those becoming a Product Manager with a technical background, you will have the advantage of being able to liaison between engineers and stakeholders who may not understand all the technical jargon the former uses.
However, transitioning from engineering to product management necessitates a shift in attitude and a new way of looking at a product. As an engineer, you would have been tasked with conceptualizing new features and relaying these ideas to team members. However, as a Product Manager, you can use your acquired knowledge to communicate with engineers, focusing on prioritization.
‘Aha!’ CEO Brian de Haaff said that to be a good Product Manager, you have to be a great project manager. While the two different job titles may confuse those unaware there’s a difference, coming into a Product Manager position from a project manager has a host of benefits.
As a project manager, you most likely worked alongside a Product Manager, giving you insight into what is expected from a particular part of a product’s roadmap. By understanding your previous role to complete a project on schedule and budget, you can better plan for the future project managers underneath you.
How to Communicate Your Skillset
Applying for any position without prior experience can be nerve-wracking. However, understanding what companies are looking for in their Product Managers can go a long way in developing a tactic for leveraging your skillset to your advantage.
One of the easiest methods to communicating your skills for an open position is to approach it with the same mindset you would use as a project manager. You will need to prioritize areas that need development, identify how you can fulfill the company’s needs, and articulate how adding you to the team would be successful for the entire organization.
Before you can begin addressing issues that may arise during the interview, you must have a clear understanding of your own personal brand. For some excellent tips on how to convey your brand, check out this video:
By transitioning into the role of a Product Manager from a different vertical or a different department, you also need to contend with the questions about the career change. This is where you can easily communicate your cross-department skills and how you can apply them to the new position. This illustrates the skillset you’re bringing with you and informs the interviewer that you know what will be expected of you.
Bridge the Product Management Experience Gap
On your resume, make sure to include a summary of your problem-solving abilities. Do you know a particular approach, such as the Waterfall methodology? Do you have a high level of resource efficiency? While you may not have specific experience as a Product Manager, you can highlight your problem-solving skills. You can find more in-depth strategies for a stellar interview in our article The Last Product Manager Interview List You Will Ever Need.
If you’re struggling to get ahead in your Product Manager job hunt, schedule a call today to talk to one of our career counselors. Our program has helped countless PM hopefuls coming from diverse backgrounds land multiple offers. We’d love to talk to you about building the skills you need to land your dream Product Manager job.