Tips for breaking into a career in Product Management
From Nick Jematta, seasoned product manager, product coach, and motivational and wellness speaker.
Like many, I discovered ‘Product Management’ by accident. It turned out to be a very happy accident 🙂
Sitting at the intersection of design, technology, marketing, and analytics, being a product manager is exhilarating. You have opportunities to change the lives of millions of people every day, working with smart people and cutting-edge technology.
Being a product manager is also not an easy role, and is not suited to everyone. In the wrong environment, product management can be exhausting and overwhelming. This is entirely avoidable but requires individuals to take responsibility for their well-being, and product leaders to build empowering cultures for people to thrive.
So how do you find the right next step in product? Or if you haven’t made the move to product, how can you make yourself stand out?
Yes, being a product manager requires technical skills and knowledge. However, the single most important differentiator between good and great product managers is mindset (and the associated soft skills).
- Do you balance what’s best for the customer with what creates value for the business?
- Do you focus on outcomes and impact instead of output and deliverables?
- Do you recognise the value of data to make more informed decisions?
- Do you care more about building the right thing, than building the thing right?
- Do you want to partner with your stakeholders and bring them on the journey?
- Are you resilient to the inevitable ups and downs that come with building products?
- Are you prepared to reframe your “failures” as feedback, providing opportunities to learn?
- Are you comfortable being challenged and saying no? If not, are you prepared to practice?
Adopting a Curious Growth Mindset
Product management is dynamic – customer preferences change, technology evolves and new competitors continue emerging. To thrive in this state of constant change, product managers need a growth mindset. This means being curious, asking questions, and developing a thirst for learning.
Demonstrating a desire to learn from potential employers will help you stand out. Remember, a critical part of a Product Manager’s job is talking to customers, learning about them, their lives, and how you can improve their life. You will do this best if you’re constantly curious.
No Excuse for Ignorance
Yes, you might not have years of product experience, but you’ve got access to more product thought leaders than ever before, for free. Be intentional about following and learning from the best product minds on the planet.
Spend time building your product knowledge by joining webinars, reading books, browsing Medium articles, and engaging with the various product communities out there.
Applying Product Principles
Once you learn the principles of brilliant product management you’ll never go back. Those principles can serve you well in your career and your life in general
Consider how you apply these principles in your daily life. Adopt a test and learn mindset, be curious, experiment, and create your own rapid feedback loops
It will make you more resilient, increasing your sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. Plus it gives you examples for interviews if you have limited professional experience
As with product principles and mindset, thinking outside the box and showing initiative will impress potential employers.
Consider opportunities to develop your product knowledge with “side projects”. You could help out a friend, volunteer with a charity, explore intern opportunities or build your own website.
As a side benefit, all these side projects contribute to your personal brand
Power of Personal Brand
If you’re not on LinkedIn, get on there! LinkedIn has come a long way since its early days as a glorified job board. LinkedIn is approaching 1 billion active users and is striving to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
This means there has never been a bigger opportunity (or need) to build your personal brand.
Don’t know where to start? Get in touch with me and let’s have a chat
Your Greatest Asset = You
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. It can be tempting to change, to be concerned that your “face doesn’t fit”, or to adjust your vocabulary. You have nothing to prove.
Focus on being yourself and share what makes you unique. Remember, when looking for your first/next product role, it’s as important for you to evaluate the business, as it is for the business to evaluate you.
At EU Remote Jobs, we’ve put together a list of learning resources you can browse the find the best-rated courses for free, or within your product. There are a few product specific schools like Product Management HQ, Product School, or Product Institute – where you’ll find product communities, free resources, and paid courses to progress your Product career. We share these here purely to guide your learning, rather than recommendations as we have not personally tested these resources.
Browse all of the latest remote product jobs open across Europe, EMEA, and around the world.
About the author:
Nick Jemetta is a digital product coach and consultant, multi-award-winning mental health campaigner, speaker, trainer, and organisational wellbeing coach.
He’s on a mission to make work healthier, by empowering product teams and helping people thrive at work. If you think Nick can help your team or organisation, get in touch!
You can reach out to him via LinkedIn: nicolasjemetta or by email; email@example.com