How do you get a job as a Product Manager if it’s not something you can study at university?
If you have the skills, where are the best places to look?
What are the best tactics to get yourself known and your foot in the door?
Before You Start Looking
Looking for any type of work takes a massive amount of time and energy. The last thing you want to do is go through the whole process of searching for a role, being interviewed and landing the role only to discover the organisation you’ve started working for is not what you expected, their definition of Product Manager means something completely different to what you were expecting, or worse, the organisation has a toxic environment. Here are a couple of things I do before I apply for a role.
The first is research a lot of the organisation’s information online to see what their products are and if it’s something I’d enjoy working on. I also reach out to current employees in the company on LinkedIn and chat to them about the organisational in general. Funny example, I reached out to a Scrum Master in an eCommerce platform and asked him about the Scrum Master role that was being advertised. The role was actually being advertised because he was leaving so he was a great person to speak to.
The next thing is to better understand company culture. For that I use a website called GlassDoor. GlassDoor is a website that allows employees to anonymously leave reviews of their time at an organisation based on certain criteria. While not all organisations are on there, a lot of the larger ones are. As an example, I saw a Product Owner position posted at a large travel agency and thought that might be a great organisation to work for along with some great travel perks. After looking at scores and scores of bad reviews on GlassDoor I came to the conclusion that as good as the role sounded, I value my health and sanity more than working in a toxic environment.
Another tactic I used to see if an organisation or role might be a good fit is to grab a coffee with the Head of Product. I’ve done that a couple of times and found out very quickly about their company culture, hiring process, product and what they’re looking for in a Product Manager. They also get to know you, your capabilities, what you’re looking for, etc. Most importantly, you’re at the top of their mind when hiring comes around. Make sure you stay that way by sending them a short email every couple of months to see how things are tracking or to catch up for a coffee. The best time to use this tactic is after you’ve met someone at a networking event. They know enough about you to give you another 30 minutes of their time over a coffee to see if there could be a mutually beneficial outcome.
Looking Within Your Own Company
The quickest and easiest way to get a role as a Product Manager is to transition from your role in your existing company into the Product Manager role because you know the organisation, you know the product, you know the customers and the organisation trusts you enough for you to be their employee. If you’re able to demonstrate that, in your current role, you understand what levers drive the business and how to translate the business objectives into a product or feature this will go a long way.
This strategy comes with one caveat. If you are working under a manager and ask to apply for the Product Manager position one of a few things could happen. Firstly, your manager could be very supportive and provide you the assistance you need to help you make the transition. They may be ambivalent and deal with the outcome of your interview as the situation dictates. Or, they could view your want to move to a new role as you not being dedicated to your current role or team. As such, this may cause animosity and damage relationships and possible limit career progression. Make sure you have the support of your team, manager, hiring manager, HR to make a seamless transition. If you’re going to leave a gap in the team, help them out by doing all that you can to mitigate that risk and workload they may be facing by your departure.
Upwork is one of the world’s largest market places for people who have skills and need work and people who need work done by skilled workers. It’s amazing the type of skills you can hire from all over the world. There is a small learning curve when you first start using the platform but nothing too intense. As you can see below, I’ve searched for “Product Manager” specifically and the search has returned 106 results. From there, you can scroll through, read the job descriptions, view the job poster’s profiles, rating and pick which jobs you’d like to submit and application for. There is an opportunity to discuss details before the job is awarded and before you accept it. The one think you need to keep in mind is that Upwork takes a 20% cut of your pay so factor that into your hourly or project rate.
Meetup is a platform that allows people or organisations to advertise events and invite other participants based on location and niche. The first meetup I attended was the ProductTank meetup sponsored by ThoughtWorks. There were about 80 product people who all participated in a workshop-style event. After the event everyone on my team connected on LinkedIn. I realised that one of my team members worked at a large airline and coincidentally, I had applied for a role there. I reached out to my new LinkedIn connection and asked if could “put in a good word for me” with the recruitment team. Below, is a redacted copy of the email he sent after seeing how I performed for only two hours.
My name is [REDACTRED] and I work in [REDACTED]. I hope this email finds you well and I hope you don’t mind my emailing you.
Last night I attended a Product Workshop called ProductTank on a whim as I am fairly new to this role at [REDACTED] in Product. I was serendipitously placed in a group with Tres West, a recent applicant for the Customer Strategy and Innovation Advisor role, and I was so impressed with him that when he told me he was actually looking for a new opportunity and had just applied for an open position with [REDACTED]a, I felt I had to reach out as I believe he would be a great fit for the company.
We worked in our small group for two hours and Tres gracefully accepted a leadership role as he was nominated by the others as a good leader. He proceeded to listen to all suggestions and distill complex information and discussion well for the whole group, he tactfully encouraged constructive problem solving among a few negative participants, and succinctly suggested several innovative ideas for the workshop with verbal references to recent research and statistics to back up his strategies.
He is down to earth and approachable, but also clearly very clever and well read in the technology space. I think he would be a great fit for [REDACTED] and though i’m sure you have many qualified candidates, I just wanted to take a moment to mention that after even just meeting him briefly, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Tres for roles requiring great communication and innovative decision making.
Hopefully you can find the best candidate for the Customer Strategy role but if that isn’t Tres this time around, I hope that your team can consider him for similar roles in the [REDACTED] family.
The email above is to demonstrate that by attending a networking event and SHOWING people your passion, your knowledge, skill and how you operating in a team, there are some amazing people out there that will be more than happy to give you a helping hand. I also made some additional connections and am in the front of mind for several Product Managers who are currently putting teams together. I’ve met them using Meetup, connected with them on LinkedIn and caught up for coffee. The point here is, attending networking events, jumping in at the deep end and SHOWING people what you can do is much better than telling them via an email or resume. Get on to Meetup and get your hustle on.
LinkedIn is the most popular professional social networking platform out there. Most people know what it is, have a profile and use it to some degree. My strategy for LinkedIn was a long term play. About 12 months ago, I was living 100km away from work but knew I would move closer at some point. So, six months before my move, I started connecting with every Product Manager, Product Owner, Scrum Master and Agile person in Brisbane. After the move, I have a network of 1st connections that see my blogs, that can look me up easily and that are connected to a whole bunch of other Agile professionals. In one interview I was asked, how did I come to know about the company and reach out to them. I explain the strategy I used and his response was “that’s very clever” with a mildly inquisitive/pondering tone. While LinkedIn is great for networking the job algorithm is horrible. I’ve read and implemented tactics on how to get the most out of my LinkedIn profile, set all the configurations so recruiters can seem me, entered the types of jobs I’m interested in and I still get jobs that are so left field it’s a waste of time looking at them. It’s better to search of the job roles manually and use the additional filters.
Angellist is one of the world’s largest websites for startups and investors. Along with startups come startup jobs… like a Product Manager or Product Owner. It’s a great resource with awesome filters that allow you to pick and choose what jobs you’re looking for and where. I created a profile on Angellist which took a bit of time but was immediately rewarded with some interesting jobs in my local area.
ProductTank is an informal meetup that brings together the local product community in each of those cities – whether they’re Product Managers, Designers, or Developers – to share their experience. ProductTanks are always free to attend, organised by volunteers from the local product community, and supported by our generous sponsors. As mentioned above, I attended one of the ProductTank events via Meetup and met some amazing people who were very helpful. I’ve not used this job board myself but it seems very similar to the others as you can filter by job type and location. Doing some quick research on some of the jobs and it appears the jobs are advertised here but, like most other sites, the is either a contact person, a link to another job site or a link to the company’s career page.
Product Hunt surfaces the best new products, every day. It’s a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations. This is a massive hub of newly created tech applications and, as their “about” page states “product-loving enthusiasts.” What better place to find the Product Manager role of your dreams. Be they one person startups or established organisation bringing a new product/feature to market, all of these businesses will need some kind of product help. The one cool thing I like about ProductHunt is that it has two sections, one for remote work and one for local work.
Hacker News is part of Ycombinator, probably the most famous and successful startup accelerator in the world. There are some pretty awesome organisations doing some pretty amazing things. That said, the jobs board is pretty simple and there aren’t too many job compared to the other platforms. But, it’s definitely worth a look as there are opportunities to work with teams right in the heart of Silicon Valley.
So, there you have it. Eight useful and bountiful places to find your dream product role and meet some amazing product people.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comment below.