35: Product management skills to pay the bills
I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.
So you want to become a product manager? Good for you! But how do you know you’re ready to move into a product management job? Here are some suggestions to start you on the right track.
As with any discipline, you can’t reasonably expect to walk into a plum product management job without any prior experience. How are you going to demonstrate that you can actually do what your potential employer needs? This may sound like a chicken-and-egg problem (how can you acquire product management skills if you’re not a product manager yet?), but this really isn’t the case at all. With some careful planning, you can shape your career trajectory to enable you to equip yourself with many of the fundamental skills you’re going to need.
Expectation management: yes, this will take time. Years, in some cases. So it’s best you get started now, isn’t it?
Product management requires a broad range of skills and you’re going to switching between them relatively often. Your preparation for becoming a product manager starts with taking a long, hard look at your career to-date.
Look for the situations where you’ve been in customer-facing roles, solving their problems. Look for situations where you’ve needed to lead and work with teams of people made up from different professional backgrounds. Find examples of where you’ve taken the initiative to learn a new skill to get something done. Note down when you’ve had to communicate effectively in written and spoken word. Find situations where you’ve learned about and become proficient with different types of technology. Spot the examples of times where you’ve just had to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, regardless of whether it was your job to do so or not.
Where are the gaps you’ve found?
Just like you’re playing product management skills bingo, you’re going to need to start filling in each missing skill before you’re ready to take on your first product management job. This in turn may mean you need to shake up your current role to give you the opportunity to try out new things and acquire new skills. But in the long run, the more relevant skills and experience you’re able to acquire, the easier it will be to become a successful product manager.
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