People ask me all the time, “What are my chances of landing a product manager job?”. My response to this question has always been the same:
“Why do you want to be a Product Manager?”.
“Well, I feel that the job would be well aligned with my skills.”.
Sure, and so are many other positions out in the tech market. Why do YOU want to be a Product Manager though?
Why do you want to be a Product Manager? The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ don’t matter if you don’t have a strong WHY. Your why is going to keep you intact while you ride the emotional roller coaster of facing countless rejections. You will get rejected. This is a part of the process and there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that you can do about it. Don’t expect to achieve anything by risking nothing. Ask yourself this right now:
If you had to start a product manager job on Monday and this was no longer a choice, then could you do the job? Is this position so wildly challenging that you have no chance on God’s Green Earth to be able to do the job?
This is a very niche and special role, so much so that there are still many people that have no idea what product management is. You may feel that everybody right now wants this job, and you are right to an extent, but there are still many people that don’t know what product management is. That is good news for you, because you still have a chance.
What most people in the product management world don’t want to admit is that they landed their job by ACCIDENT. They aren’t better than you. They landed this job purely by chance. Why do you think the book, The Accidental Product Manager is such a best seller?
There is no Product Management Bachelor, Master, or Concentration even at the MBA level. So how did all these people land their job? The answer? By accident. It was pure chance. In 2019, are you still waiting for accidents to happen or are you going to innovate? I can hear the conversations some of you guys are having right now in your own heads.
“But Rich…I don’t have a technical background, I don’t have a network, I don’t have the experience, or title.”
Neither do many of our students right now and they are still landing product manager jobs.
You don’t need technical or software engineering experience to be a Product Manager. There’s a countless number of Product Managers right now from the most exciting startups to the most established companies that do not possess any technical or software engineering experience.
In fact, let’s take a look at this problem from another angle. There are also plenty of Product Managers with technical experience that are looking for their new position right now that are also unable to convert interviews into offers. We know this because they become our students who become future Product Managers. Even now, our graduates are taking Product Management jobs as we speak.”
Your network is not going to help you land a Product Manager job either. If it did, it would have happened already, and if it has happened, then it most likely won’t happen again.
Why you ask?
Because networking is not scalable. What makes product management interviewing so uniquely frustrating are the number of stakeholders that you have to elicit to endorse you as the next Product Manager for their company. If you’re a Software Developer, then you talk to other developers during the interview. For a Product Manager position, you have to talk to everyone (and yes, that means everyone)! Some of these stakeholders that you talk to don’t even like each other, so why would they allow another person to bring one of their friends in? Product Management is a special function where other people don’t technical or directly report to you, but they kind of do.
There is a legitimate grey area that is very ambiguous. In essence, stakeholders in an interview don’t care about how well you can do the job. They care about how much worse you are going to make their job become.
There are plenty of experienced Product Managers that go on tons of interviews, but never secure any offers. Do you think that is happening because they can’t do the job? No! They can do the job, but most companies just don’t want them to do it there. In a Product Manager interview, you are playing the role of a Politician who is doing your utmost to trade promises for votes. Votes that you need to land the offer, so that you can stop your job hunt. It’s about understanding people.
It’s also not the end of the world if you don’t have the title or experience right now. This is a Catch 22 position, because you can’t get the title and experience until you get the job and you can’t get the job until you get the title and experience. Is this another version of the chicken and the egg? Do you want it to be, or are you ready to grab life by the horns? Are you going to wait for more accidents to happen, or are you ready to create the life that you want? Remember what I said about accidents; don’t wait for accidents or a miracle to happen. Stop thinking about taking a stepping stone job in marketing, growth, or strategy in the hopes that you can transition to Product Management in a few years. It is likely to not happen.
A significant make-up of our students here did take a stepping stone job. Do you know what happened to them after crushing that job for 1 to 2 years? They get the run-around. They get:
“The problem is Jeff… YOU ARE TOO GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO RIGHT NOW, and that’s why we can’t move you into Product.”.
Don’t be another statistic.
You are the most important product and/or side project that you will ever launch. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. In the end, don’t be afraid! Failing, being wrong, and not being fearless to try things is going to be part of your job description as a Product Manager anyways, so you might as well embrace the downsides now. What’s the worst that can happen? You can always go back to doing what you were doing before if this doesn’t work out. But you know that at least you gave it a chance. At least you went out fighting. Isn’t that much better than wondering what if for the rest of your days? Stop leading life towards limited and toxic beliefs that hold you hostage at a job and/or company that is uninspiring and demoralizing. Life is too short to be unhappy.
Please contact us for a Career Consultation if you are struggling with your Product Management job hunt right now. I would love to talk to you about your obstacles and how Product Gym can possibly help.