If you are a salesperson, designer, social media manager, data science, ninja or a Zen monk.
Once in a while, we all think that time has come. No matter how long you have been working in a given position or if you were working at all. Maybe you just got a degree you are no more passionate. That happens. And it’s fine.
But you still have to pay your student debt and make a living somehow. You can go to study another field again, or you can take a leap of faith…
Honestly, changing careers is not that much of a drama as you can think. What you have to do is to change your mindset, and that’s probably the most challenging thing you will have to deal with during your transition.
The rest is just easy-peasy. Trust me.
So, you are thinking of changing your career. You have been a sales assistant. Or a designer. Or a data scientist. Or a marketer. And now you think it’s time to try yourself in product management. Because… What possibly can go wrong, right?
But there’s a trick. And a few traps on your way, which you will want to avoid.
I had a great chance and honor to touch on career transition on Pragmatic Leader’s webinar last week. We were talking precisely of the things:
- How to get to the PM filed.
- Is it worth it?
And as I said in my speech:
- It’s not that difficult if you really want to.
- And yeah, it’s fun.
Here are the things I want to elaborate on:
How can I get to the field if I’m a salesperson, designer, HR manager, social media manager, data science professional, ninja, or a Zen monk?
You think that your background defines you, but it’s not. What you have been doing for the past 1–5–25 years is important and relevant but doesn’t restrain you from going farther. Or closer. Or anywhere.
From now on you have to understand that your skills in this field are going to play to your advantage. They will not grant you the job, but they will help you to create a good narrative about why you decided to do the transition in the first place.
A well-explained reason from you it’s a excellent sign for HR to look into your profile and you as a person.
So, no matter what you have been doing, it’s going to help you.
Yes, you can say that “I have been a data scientist, and don’t know what to do now.” But, honestly…
The only problem here is that you are holding too much for your background. As if saying that “You see, I’m struggling because I have been a data scientist.” But it’s your advantage!
You can approach your PM role from the data side. And for some industries, data-driven PMs are just a blessing! You have potential, and you have skills. Now you need to make them work for you in a bit indirect way.
What set of skills do I need for landing a job as a PM?
I honestly would love to give you a set of skills that would guarantee you a job. But there’s none. However… Any of your skills would do the trick!
No matter what your background is, what you need is:
- a human-centered approach to problem-solving;
- an entrepreneur-like mind;
- an ability to multitask;
- be sure that you can separate yourself from all the departments you have to work. You are not a part of sales, marketing or design. You are not a part of software development department as well. You are an independent entity, and you have to remember about it all the time;
- you have to be willing to experiment, test, research, collect and work with data (yes! Your data background comes in handy);
Do I need to learn technology, or have a tech background and know how to code?
You cannot avoid not knowing how to reboot your computer at least or create a Word document if you want to be a PM, especially in software development.
But, you don’t need to code yourself. Or be able to solve engineering problems.
You have to know the platform and programming language of the software you are curating. I mean, there’s no other way anyway. You will know it whether you want to or not.
If you don’t want to encounter technologies at all, do consider a marketing and non-software development transitions. It’s less popular at the moment field, but yet. If you are entirely against technologies, that’s your path.
If you are not, then don’t panic if you have no BS or anything. You can learn code (if you wish) or any other aspect of software development online and sometimes for free. You can do this on the go, and applied to the actual tasks you have at the moment. That’s amazing! Not only will you know the theory, but also how it works (or doesn’t) in the real world. It’s much more valuable than any academic degree.
You can also review the most common misconceptions about being a PM I’m outlining in this article.
How to ace a PM interview?
Do you know how to be a human? Then show it.
You may think that PM is superhero, or even a “CEO of the product,” but you are a human. That’s it. You know how to approach your business and how to do your work.
You know how to use your pain points to your advantage.
You know how to juggle 6–7 tasks at the same time and approaching deadlines.
But you are human. A person. With a fascinating story of being a PM at this very moment.
I prefer telling HR about my projects as if it’s a story that happened to me several years ago. With people, plot and standard introduction-climax-finale style. You can read what I talk about it here.
You can also tell about everything that may seem relevant to your experience.
And, the most important thing to remember, no matter what position you are applying — do research the website of the company. If it doesn’t have a site, do ask an HR manager about it!
Apart from lots of useful information on the website, you can have your suggestions on how to make it better or what would you do if you had the company like you are currently applying. Say what you think, and be honest, but also be polite!
What’s the difference between PM for a startup and PM for a corporation?
I like this question because there’s a huge difference. I’m talking about how difficult your transition from a PM in a startup to a PM in an established company can be here.
You have to have two different approaches when it comes to startups and companies. In startups you will always have more freedom and your decisions can kill a great idea just because you led it the wrong way.
You have freedom, and you have responsibilities.
The atmosphere is completely different for startups. It’s usually more laid-back, more emotion-driven and more flexible.
For example, in a company you are protected from wrong decisions in a sense. Because the environment is safer! You usually do not have to create products from scratch, and the worst you can do is to screw up a new release. But you can always make it up. The reputation will be hurt, but you’ll survive and, naturally, will never make this mistake again.
I would recommend transitioning from any other fields to corporate jobs. You’ll feel safer, and once you grew more confident, feel free to jump in to the whirlwind of startups. It’s going to be cool!
Have you ever changed career? If yes, what have you come from to? If you are a PM right now, what was your journey? Let’s share some stories and encourage each other!