In this article, we’re going to briefly cover the steps you need to take to get into product management but you should check out our comprehensive guide if you’d like to learn more about how to get product management experience, what skills you should show off in product management interviews and how to get them.
As a college student, a lot of product managers did not get into the field by just going into product management. Rather, they discovered that what they were doing was product management as they progressed throughout their careers – which means you can do it as well!
Let’s see what the most important steps are.
1. Get Hands-On Experience with Product Management
If we consider what a hiring manager or recruiter is looking for in a product manager when they’re filling a role of a product manager, most of the time it’s previous experience as a product manager.
So the first thing you need to do is try to get some hands-on experience working in product management. This means that you should look for internships first – make a list of the top one hundred companies that you like in your area and apply to the ones that have an ongoing internship program.
If you have no experience whatsoever, you can apply to the internship programs of the nearby top companies. If you’re in a large tech hub, most of the top tech companies are offering intern programs so you should look into those specifically.
If you’re in an area where there are not as many tech companies, not as many companies offering product management internship positions, you can still reach out to the product manager, director of product management, or lead product manager in any company that you like and ask them directly if they’re looking for any interns or some help over a semester or particular timeframe.
Don’t be afraid to do this – the worst that can happen is you’ll get no response, but a lot of the time, you’re going to get an actual response if you are honest and are looking to learn, want to contribute, and are generally sincere about your efforts and desire to get into product management.
So what does this mean exactly? First, you should make a list of the top companies in your area where you’d like to work, ideally identify the product management roles available within those companies. Apply to the companies that have interim positions available after you’ve made your resume.
Even if you don’t have the relevant experience right now, after you’ve got your resume, send it out to the people that have an official internship program, like the top tech companies.
2. Add Relevant Experience to Resume
On your resume, make sure to put as much relevant experience as you can:
- Have you launched anything?
- Do you have any experience running businesses or iterating businesses?
- They can be offline businesses or online businesses – they do not have to be large scale? Do you have any organizational experience?
- Do you have any student groups that you’ve organized or events that you’ve helped put together?
- Do you have any leadership experience, therefore from experience where you’ve had to collaborate with lots of different people, lots of different groups, or launch any product service, good, or business?
It’s also important to identify something that has overlap with product management that would have to be in the following areas:
- Business – product launching, iterating, improving, bringing to market, and growing.
- Working with people in any capacity – If you’ve had to work with a lot of different people, a lot of different groups of people figure out a way to demonstrate that in your resume.
3. Use LinkedIn to Identify and Message Product Leaders
For the companies on your list that do not have internship positions available in product management go on LinkedIn and see if you can find any contacts therefrom that company in a product management role.
Look for either product management director, lead product management, head of product, any description that has to do with product development, and just write them on LinkedIn.
4. Keep learning
The other thing to keep in mind is to never stop learning. Read product management books, watch videos, engage, take courses if you can try to get better at product management.
Of course, a lot of this is going to come with on-the-job experience, and it’s very difficult to get without that experience but it’s always a good idea to get a head start.
5. Expand your professional network
Make as many product manager contacts as you can as it will be helpful to know people in various companies. They will be able to provide referrals and also offer open doors that might be shut to others.
So you should develop your network early on. You can always approach anyone in tech companies and just ask a question, offer to grab a cup of coffee, or just a quick chat to see if you can maybe find out a little bit about the company or find out a little bit about product management.
Most people will take the time to answer you if they’re not too busy and you’re going to get a lot out of it.
6. Build a product
And the final point is just to try to launch a product or come up with a side business idea that you can develop and iterate and launch quickly if you know how to code.
Build a site or app – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get traction or a lot of usages. If it has one, two, or three users, you’ve already launched something. If you have already launched something, see if you can market it a little bit further
Don’t spend money – this should not be anything that requires financial investment unless you’re launching a startup, which you’re very welcome to do.
Therefore the best things to do are stay focused on learning, stay focused on getting the internships, get the experience you need, reach out to those in product management positions, and make contacts in other tech companies so that you set yourself up for success.