Breaking into PM

Wondering how to “crack the code” for a career in Product Management?  Whether you’re a newbie in the job market or transitioning from a different role, here are some tips from seasoned Product Managers.

Top 10 Pieces of Product Management Career Advice – By Kimberly Berls

As product managers, we all have lots of questions for those who have been in the biz for a long time.  How did they break into product?  How did they advance their career?

A product manager I (virtually) know asked these questions.  She surveyed 30 product executives and senior product managers in the US.

I reviewed the findings from her survey and pulled out 10 nuggets of golden advice that all product managers should read.

This research was done by Madalyn Miki, product management influencer.  You can follow her on Medium, or visit her website with lots of PM resources.

1 – Transitioning within your current company is a great way to break into product management.

40% of product professional surveyed mentioned that while searching for their first PM role, transitioning within their current company was best.

2 – Seek out experienced product managers for help.

73% of product people interviewed said that they sought out more experienced PMs for advice.  We should do this throughout our careers, not just during our first few years!  Product managers can always learn from each other, which is why I always interview other PMs on the podcast.

3 – Be open to change.

Being open to learning and change was cited as a top trait for product managers.

Top Traits to Have as a Product Manager

4 – Lead through influence, and have confidence.

When asked ‘What did you wish you had known before becoming a product manager?’ the top two responses were ‘How to lead through influence’ and ‘Having confidence.’

5 – Get to know your stakeholders immediately when starting a new job.

‘Get to know stakeholders’ was the #1 answer to ‘What should a product manager do in her first 100 days.’

6 – Researching the company is the best way to prep for PM interviews.

Forget reading endless interviewing tactics online – focus on researching the company you’re interviewing with.  40% of execs and senior product managers surveyed recommended reading up on the company before an interview.  Mock interviews were the second most popular method of interview preparation (30%).

7 – The best way to advance your career is to take on more responsibility.

Taking on more responsibility was the #1 answer for how to advance your product management career.  Execs and product managers surveyed also advised to be a better leader, and learn new skills.

The Best Ways to Advance Your Product Career

8 – Skills proactively learned before moving into a product role are all over the map.

Design skills topped the list at 17%, with user research, analytical skills, and ‘learned the jargon’ all came in at close seconds, all at 11%.

9 – An MBA is not necessary.

A whopping 92% of executives and PMs interviewed responded that learning through experience is best.

10 – Practice, and be confident.

The top two nuggets of advice that experienced execs and senior PMs have for beginners?  “Practice” (35%) and “Be Confident” (35%).  There’s that confidence again – notice a pattern?

Advice to Aspiring Product Managers

Images courtesy of Product Popcorn

Kimberly Berls | Product Popcorn
Product manager, podcast host, tech enthusiast.  If your snacks are missing in the office, I‘m the one who ate them. Product Popcorn unites product managers.  It’s a place to share ideas via weekly podcast, blog, and social media. You’ll never be out of the loop again!


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