Over the years, I’ve had many young people approach me with the question: “How can I become a Product Manager (PM) with no experience?”. Yes, the ultimate question of how to get the entry level job when your CV is empty of relevant qualifying previous roles and experience.
If that’s what you’re wondering yourself, here are my tips from years of experience with hiring young and passionate PMs.
We will cover five primary steps to becoming a product manager:
1. Understanding Key Skills
In order to find success in the field, aspiring product managers must first understand the key skills that consistently define success in the role. Product managers work in a unique space — one that blends aspects of IT, engineering, marketing, sales, finance, logistics, and public relations.
1.1 Obtain an Education
There are a variety of viable educational pathways for those interested in product management. Common pathways include bootcamp programs, traditional degrees, and self-guided options.
- Traditional Degrees
- Self-Guided Options
1.2 Test your skills
After gaining an education in the field, new product managers should strive to hone their freshly acquired skills, and a great way to achieve this is to take on projects.
For those just getting started, many practical educational pathways, like this product management bootcamp, offer the chance to complete industry-related projects simulating real-world experience. These projects can also lay the foundation for a comprehensive project portfolio, which can be referenced during subsequent job interviews.
1.3 Gain Certification
Though not every company requires them, product management certificates can be strong resume builders; offering proof of knowledge to potential employers. As with other fields, the product management industry contains several different, notable certifications. The Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM), for example, offers a general Certified Product Manager™ credential, as well as certificates in digital product management, brand management, and product marketing.
1.4 Seek Employment
After you have compiled relevant skills and training, you will be ready to explore the job market. Although this can seem like a daunting task at first, here a few tips to get started:
- Put together a strong resume
- Build a professional portfolio
- Establish a strong professional network
- Prioritize interview preparation.
2. Portfolio projects:
- Think of a problem you’d like to solve — then define and design the solution. Spec it out. Preferably in fields you’re interested to work in. Upload them online so you can link to them in your CV.
- Attend local Hackathons as a product person to help teams build product.
- Pitch your thoughts to companies you’d like to join by already showing them you thought about their existing product and you have new ideas to help them grow.
3. Start observing
- Start writing about Products, Product Management, trends in fields you’re interested in. Publish these posts on LinkedIn, Medium. Share links to these posts in PM related groups (on linkedin/facebook etc). Add links to your top content in your CV.
- Attend local Product Management meetups. Build relationships that will let you know when a door opens.
4. Highlight important skills
Do you have skills that are important for a PM hiring manager?
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking
- Get Things Done
These should be highlighted in your CV. This makes your past experience in different types of positions relevant and worthy of the hiring manager asking you more about it.
5. It’s not about your CV
You are not your CV.
A piece of paper/PDF is not what’s standing between you and your dream job. Product Marketing skills are a great asset for product managers. You are your product. Now promote yourself accordingly to your target audience.
- Design a unique CV to catch the eye of the hiring manager and make them smile, thinking you’re clever. Do you want to become a healthcare PM? Design your CV using a health related theme, using relevant icons, and copy.
- Offline surprises are great. Do you really want this job? Don’t just send your CV through an online form, hoping to be noticed in that big pile of emails. Promote yourself (gracefully) in a nice tangible way, again preferably choosing a marketing tactic that relates to the product/industry.
- Send a popcorn microwave pack with a nice note on it “Just wanted to make sure my CV pops out, as you look for that creative PM”.
- Send a back of sharpies with a note “Just wanted to highlight how much I’d appreciate working for you”.
Don’t overdo it and get your package thrown out the window looking suspicious.And don’t forget to attach your CV with that package.
Did you manage to get that first PM job? Share your story in the comments below.
If you want me to check out your CV and give you some tips, you can send it here.