Anyone can be a Product Manager, regardless of their background and past experience. You don't need a special degree, a specific path, or need a particular skill. However, you can increase your chances of successfully breaking into product management by following these five steps.
STEP 1: Get curious
Product Management is a combination of art and science. Successful Product Managers are analytical and creative. If you are new to this field, the best place to start is by becoming a student of this profession.
Follow some of the most clear thinkers and learn about what they read and share.
Jeff Morris Jr., Formerly VP Product at Revenue & Tinder
Eric Ries, Author of Lean Startup
Julie Zhuo, Formerly Design VP at Facebook
Check out the following books:
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers
Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams
The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change)
Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
STEP 2: Take a course
You don’t need a qualification, require any certification to be a successful product manager. However, a course specially-designed to teach the theory of product management can be a great way to gain a strong foothold in this field.
There are various courses and certifications that you can take online. Any of the following can be a great way to learn:
Product Management Certificate by Product School: Since 2014, Product School has created a strong brand in Product Management training and the 40-hour Product Management Certificate covers all of the fundamentals.
Digital Product Management: Modern Fundamentals: Offered by The University of Virginia through Coursera. This free course is ideal for someone with a general understanding of digital businesses and interested in modern product management methods.
Product Management 101 on Udemy: Not a free course, but it’s a comprehensive overview of all product management topics like market intelligence, strategy, new product development and lifecycle management.
STEP 3: Build something
The best way to gain real skills is to build something. You don’t need to be a developer or a designer to make something. You can use skills you already have to make something that requires creativity, use of analytical skills, and curiosity of digital products.
30DaysOfProduct is a course specifically created that teaches real-world product management skills by guiding you in creating your own web app. By learning about and performing the tasks that a typical product manager does, you will get to apply the tools and techniques to create a social photo sharing app.
STEP 4: Start applying
Now you are ready to start applying for entry-level jobs in Product Management. Entry-level product management jobs are a highly competitive market. So be prepared to invest time and effort if you want to be successful.
The folks at ProductGym have compiled some great tips on how to create a strong resume. Think of your resume as a product that you are creating.
Generic job boards like Monster or job-search functions on LinkedIn are not the best places to look for entry-level roles. The job boards at specific PM communities and groups would be where you should start. Check out the jobs page on MindTheProduct. Specific PM job-boards like this one could be a great source if they are kept up-to-date. Finally, tap into your professional and personal networks - some of the best jobs are best found through your existing networks.
STEP 5: Stand out in your interviews
Just like any role that requires you to tap into your analytical and creative skills, practice makes you perfect. So prepare for the interviews as well as you can:
Cracking the PM Interview is a good book to practice interviews.
If you don’t have access to the book, check out Product Manager Interview Questions, a collection of “over 1,000 product manager interview questions from the best tech companies in the world”.
Go prepared for every interview with a portfolio of products you have created (or helped create). Create a write-up describing the entire product-development-lifecycle of a product if you can. When you finish the 30DaysOfProduct course, you get a full PDF of the entire product development process that you used to create the web app.
Finally, before your interviews, get comfortable by reviewing some mock PM interviews. There are a few good ones you can review on YouTube (example: Lyft Product Manager Interview).