Top Strategies to Advance Your Product Management Career Rapidly – Part 2
Many of the techniques mentioned here are things I’ve seen used by my peers that have worked very successfully. Some are ones that I have used. Some are common sense. Some took me many years to figure out. I’m hoping that by sharing them with you, it will help you move forward toward your goals and what you’d like to achieve.
Become the Expert
Become the undisputed expert for your areas of responsibility.
You have to be the expert on your market and products. You need to have solid data and excellent information so that when the team or management is discussing your product or your market you are able to step in with timely and highly relevant information. Becoming expert will brand you as someone who is truly competent and ready to move up.
Become an expert not only in your market and products, but also in your actual discipline. Whether you do Product Management, marketing, product marketing or even finance you need to become incredibly good at it so that everyone knows you are a master of your trade.
Tips to start
There many ways to build your expertise. Set up a Google News Search for your market and search for anything that is relevant and happening. Read and study all of the market analysis and everything you can get your hands on. Study your competitors and analyze their marketing and product strategies. And follow your company and its main competitors so that you know the big picture.
For the discipline of Product Management or Product Marketing, consider attending a training course, read relevant books, newsletters and blogs. Earn an AIPMM (Association of International Product Marketing and Management) certification to prove your competence. Or you can get involved at conferences and speak or publish your ideas to gain notoriety.
Beef Up Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile—Build Your Personal Brand
Beef up your resume, online profiles, and build your brand. Your resume is essentially your brochure. It is the piece of marketing collateral that will or won’t get you in the door to talk to someone about a great new opportunity. You should keep it constantly updated—you never know how secure your job really is and you may need it at a moment’s notice.
I would highly encourage you to find opportunities to volunteer as a way to differentiate yourself to employers. For example, I spent 3 years as the President of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association. The organization has 550 members and they are constantly looking for volunteers. Having volunteer work like this on your resume will help you stand out. There are Product Management associations throughout the world that need help, so why not chip in? (You’ll also build a great network of local Product Management professionals by doing so).
I would also recommend that you consider getting one or more certifications. For example, I am a CPM (Certified Product Manager) and a CPMM (Certified Product Marketing Manager) through the AIPMM. You can also be certified in specific methodologies such as the Optimal Product Process from 280 Group. All of these are ways to help you stand out as an expert and someone who has proven competence in your field.
Take on a new role
Take advantage of internal opportunities at your company to contribute and lead. I once volunteered to be on the Apple Developer Conference Planning Committee years ago. I got great visibility throughout the company, was able to contribute to a cause that I believed in and had a nice differentiator to put on my resume.
Be the Kind of Employee You Want to Manage
If you have ever been a manager you know there are two kinds of employees. There are problem employees and there are solution employees. You want to be a solution employee.
The trick I used to be a solution employee was to intentionally manage them. Whether they wanted to or not, I would give them a weekly update and let them know all of the day-to-day work and the large scale deliverables that I accomplished that week. I would also tell them what I was working on next week and if there were any issues or anything I needed their input on. If there was an issue I would always come to them with solutions. I made it a no-brainer to manage me—they always knew I was on top of things.
If you’re that kind of an employee your boss will absolutely love you, be on your side, and willing to help you move forward when you’re ready for your next advancement. In particular, if you can free up your time and volunteer to take things off your manager’s plate, you’ll make an even better impression.
Choose the Right Job, Boss and Company
If you are in a stagnant business segment or one that’s either in maturity or decline in the product lifecycle, the opportunities are just simply going to be far less. On the other hand, if you can get into a company and market that’s rapidly growing, your chances of advancing quickly are dramatically enhanced. I have seen this happen time and again—those who go where the growth is advancing rapidly and those who get stuck.
In terms of choosing your boss, it’s always hard to gauge in interviews what a person is really like. I’ve found from a job satisfaction and a career advancement point of view that having a really good boss who truly cares about their people and is really interested in you helping you grow your career while you do great work for them makes all the difference in terms of daily quality of life. Choose carefully and ask lots of questions to the people who report to your potential future boss.
Become an Excellent Communicator
You must learn to communicate effectively and in a way that influences and inspires others to follow your ideas. You have to be concise in terms of speaking and writing. And equally important you must master how to use tone to deliver your message in a manner that makes people listen. You need to learn to speak with the authority of the position that you want next.
For example, if something went wrong on your project, and you didn’t feel the product was ready to ship, you might say to your team in a somewhat meek tone (knowing they are dying to be done with it), “I’m really not sure that we’re ready to ship this. I’m concerned about this and this, and this problem over here.”
Another way to deliver the message would be to use a confident and strong tone and tell them, “Sorry, but we aren’t anywhere near ready to ship this product. I have severe concerns about it that we need to address before we move forward.”
Oftentimes all it takes is the right tone to end a contentious question or a debate that could take you down a real rat hole. Spoken with authority, many comments are perceived as reality.
So become an excellent communicator. If you have a local Toastmaster’s group, join it and practice giving presentations and getting feedback. And if you can, get a communications coach.
Hire Only Those Who Can Overtake You
Hire star players
When you build your team you want people reporting to you who you believe can easily do your job within a short period of time. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, I have seen it work wonders for people in terms of rocketing them to the next level.
The reason why this works is that your team is your brand. If you hire stars you are perceived as a star. If you hire a B player then that is your brand. Think about it this way—it is the mentors you have that will help to pull you up but it is your team that will push you up.
The other important part about hiring is that you must be committed to cultivating loyalty. If you hire excellent people and you let them know you’re committed to helping them move forward, you don’t have to worry about them taking your job. They’ll be loyal to you and help you move up ahead of them.
Stay tuned for Part 3 in this blog series to get even more strategies to help catapult yourself up the ranks in product management. To learn about these strategies more in-depth and receive a Product Management Career Plan Template, sign up for the webinar – How to Accelerate Your PM Career, Part 1: Top Strategies to Advance Rapidly on September 27, 2019.
NOTE: This webinar has passed, you can view the slide deck below:
About the Author
Founder of 280 Group
Brian Lawley is the Founder of 280 Group. He is the author of six best-selling books, Product Management for Dummies, Optimal Product Process, The Phenomenal Product Manager, Expert Product Management and 42 Rules of Product Management and is the former President of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA). He was awarded the Association of International Product Marketing Management Award for Thought Leadership in Product Management, and has been featured on World Business Review and the Silicon Valley Business Report. He is the editor of the Optimal Product Management blog and newsletter, and also writes guest articles for publications such as the Software Development Forum newsletter, Softletter and the SVPMA newsletter.
280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We help companies and individuals do GREAT Product Management and Product Marketing using our Optimal Product Process™.