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What Challenges to Expect in a Transition from Finance to Product Management

If you have a background in finance, you’re set up for a successful transition into product management in more ways than one. There are plenty of skills that lend themselves to going from finance to product management (like tracking metrics). But, like any career transition, coming from a financial background also presents its own set of challenges.

In this post, we’ll cover the three most common challenges finance professionals encounter on the Product Manager job hunt. We’ll also share how our senior members coming from finance backgrounds managed to overcome them!

From Finance to Product Management: The Title Challenge

The first challenge you have is obvious: you are not a Product Manager right now. How are you going to break into the role without having the experience? How can you make your resume seem relevant and convince interviewers that you’re qualified without a single PM title to your name?

How to Solve It

Stop focusing on your title and take a deep look at what you do on a day-to-day basis. You have more in common with a Product Manager than you think! The key here is to focus on all your strengths and what you have to offer. Here are some examples of how your experience might lend itself to a transition from finance to product management:

  • Conducting effective research
  • Experience working under pressure
  • Effectively dealing with difficult people
  • Delivering outstanding results in often unreasonable circumstances
  • Thriving in chaotic and fast-paced environments.

How to Position Your Resume for a Finance to Product Transition

Sure, it may not seem like much considering your colleagues do the same thing, but think about how many more people out there can’t do what you do. You also do it on a daily basis at a high level. Here are three steps you should take to prep yourself for positioning your resume and highlighting your skills in the interview:

  • Go find 25 reasons why you would be an awesome Product Manager and write them down
  • Look up 25 Product Manager job descriptions and note all the ways your experience fits (ignore the job description items that you don’t think fit you).
  • Get familiar with product management language. Then, traslate all the notes you took into the right language for the industry.

The title and function challenge also usually encompasses the “Job Description is Asking for 4+ Years in Product Management Challenge”. For this, the solution is simple: apply to it anyway.

Transition to Product Challenge: Salary

The other challenge you may be facing is whether or not you’re willing to take a pay cut. Let’s face it, you are probably pretty good at what you are doing right now. On the flip side, you may have to pay a premium to get your foot in the door going from finance to product.

The problem with this assumption is that you do not know how much that premium is. How much do Product Managers make in the city you are living in? The ranges vary from city to city; but what are the numbers and ranges? Take an in-depth look into the Product Manager’s salary with this video:

How to Solve It

More important than knowing the average salaries of Product Managers is knowing your own worth. You need to get the notion out of your head that you are going to take a pay cut. Thinking like that will not increase the quantity of the Product Manager interviews that you go on, nor will it improve the quality. These are the only factors — quantity and quality of interviews — you need to consider when making the transition into product management. Once you wow the interviewers, you can negotiate for a salary that reflects your worth.

Even if a company lists their salary expectations on the posting (be it LinkedIn or Indeed) and it doesn’t reflect what you expect, apply anyway. Would you tell your realtor your true budget in buying a home? Probably not. The worst-case scenario is you don’t land the job, but at least you gained practice interviewing for the other opportunities out there.

From Finance to Product: The Technical Knowledge Challenge

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you do not need to know how to code to be a Product Manager. Being a PM does not require the level of technical skills that many candidates seem to think it does. As a finance professional, you may not have a software engineering background, but you have the next best thing: you are analytical by nature. This means you can understand complex concepts and ideas. You have plenty of skills qualifying you for a PM role.

How to Solve the Technical Knowledge Challenge

Here at Product Gym, our business network with Product Managers through all the major tech hubs in the country sets us apart. So we can tell you with confidence that there are many rock star Product Managers without a technical background and many rock star Product Managers that are technical. There are many different PM roles out there, and there’s more than one path into product management.

You can’t change your core competencies of what you studied in school. Forget about the Computer Science or Engineering requirement listed on the job description and just apply to those jobs anyway. Keep in mind that most of these job descriptions were not written by the actual hiring manager themselves. Even if they don’t call you back after you’ve applied, we can guarantee you that they won’t call you back if you don’t apply to the role either.

Transition From Finance to Product Management With a Career Coach

These are the three most common questions and concerns we get here at Product Gym from our friends working in Finance and Banking that are looking to make a transition into product management. Candidates intimidated by these challenges often assume that the transition to product management is so difficult because of weaknesses in their background coming from Finance and Banking. But this isn’t the case. Making a career transition is tough, that’s true, but focusing on your shortcomings rather than your strengths is a surefire way to see your transition fail. Having some support from a career coach can make all the difference

What is a Product Management Career Coach?

Career coaches provide a range of services to help you navigate your career path as an aspiring or first-time Product Manager. Some of these services are tangible and easy to unpack, like reviewing your resume and providing pieces of strategic advice when it comes to interview questions and salary negotiation.

But product management career coaches can also help you in more hard-to-describe ways. For example, a career coach might guide you as you pinpoint which companies or industries you want to target as a Product Manager according to culture fit and what you’re passionate about. They can also help you build your confidence, crush imposter syndrome, and develop a growth mindset. 

Why Do You Need a Career Coach to Transition into Product?

If you’re embarking on a transition into product management from finance or banking, you might struggle to express your transferable skills or shift your focus into the mindset of a Product Manager. What you need is a way to connect the dots between what you can do and what you’re going after.

This is where Product Manager career coaches can offer the most support, especially when compared to other solutions like certificate courses or bootcamps. At Product Gym, most of our Career Coaches have also transitioned into product management from complementary backgrounds like finance.

Having someone in your corner with a similar experience, who had to overcome the same hurdles you’re currently facing, is an incomparable bolster to your job-hunting strategy and your learning experience. Whereas certificate classes are focused on getting you a piece of paper and bootcamps work towards getting you to the finish line of their program, career coaches are focused on getting you a job you love, at a salary you deserve, in product management.

There are so many qualities Finance and Banking professionals bring to the table that would make them phenomenal Product Managers. The real frustration is knowing that if you were just given the opportunity to prove yourself, you would most certainly deliver. If you’re ready to learn more about how career coaching can work for you, give us a call. We’d love to answer your questions and help you get started.