Advice

How Can I Get Product Management Experience Without Being A Product Manager?

Advancing to the position of a Product Manager is a catch-22 situation. Promotion requires experience as a product manager, but that experience is almost inaccessible without first having the title of Product Manager. So how does the aspiring Product Manager get product management experience? It all comes down to skills, networking, product management certification and management experience

Tiwatayo Kunle
May 18, 2022

What is a Product Manager?

Book author, Marty Cagan, summarizes the role well when he says that the product manager is someone whose job is “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible.”

The product manager oversees each aspect of designing, researching, and marketing products for the company. Their responsibilities include:

  • Market research.
  • Competitor product analysis.
  • Department budget development.
  • Open communication with customer service to monitor customer suggestions and any reported product faults.

A product manager performs the above tasks to improve products for a better user experience and a more successful brand.

Gaining Product Management Experience

As mentioned before, being a product manager requires product management experience. Without product management training and experience, many junior product professionals get caught in a loop. It feels like the position of the product manager is unobtainable without having job experience. And, that job experience is unobtainable without having a job as a product manager. So, where can an aspiring Product Manager gain Product Management experience without first getting a job as a Product Manager?

At Co.Lab, we’ve interviewed hundreds of successful PMs, and the answer is that product management experience comes from product management certifications, skills, networking, management experience, product experience, and industry experience.

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Product Management Certification  

Most future product managers are first exposed to product management skills while obtaining their bachelor's degree. Future product managers most commonly earn a bachelor’s degree in business, advertising, marketing, or technology and in the process of learning about these industries - doing school projects, assignments and writing papers, many skills required to become a Product Manager will be brought to the fore. 

For those who would like to hone the skills they gained from their education or those who didn’t get a degree, product management certification is an excellent means of gaining product management experience. There are numerous product management certification programs available, but many focus on certification rather than developing capable product managers. Certainly, a certificate may look the part, but without building credibility through capability, that certificate means very little indeed. 

Unlike many product management certification programs, Co.Lab focuses on real-world hands-on experience with real teams. Throughout the educational experience, students are provided with information to improve their understanding of product management as well as the overall market landscape.

The Co.Lab product management bootcamp is an eight-week program where students can build something tangible that offers future employers the chance to see a real-world application of their skills. Being part of a cross-functional team also provides the opportunity to show off leadership and management skills in a relevant setting.

Co.Lab takes certification and product management to a new level by providing students with weekly mentorship. Each week during the eight-week course, students learn from dedicated project mentors as they build on their product management experience. 

Skills

Many of the skills needed for a position in product management are skills that can be mastered while working in various other jobs. Regardless of the setting where users learn these job skills, refining them gives students a leg up on their resumes and job application.

Some of the skills that are in demand can vary with the times and the hiring company. Currently, some of the more in-demand skills that may prove valuable to aspiring product managers include:

  • An understanding of web development.
  • Experience working with user interfaces.
  • Technical writing talent.
  • Experience conducting market research.
  • Team experience working collaboratively 

Product Managers do not need to know each and every one of these skills though. It’s really all about collaborating with others and approaching Product Management with an open mind and a willingness to learn. 

Networking

Job applicants can also obtain experience in product management simply by knowing the right people. ‘Knowing the right people’ often sounds like a luxury reserved for those born into wealth. However, it can be as simple as, a future job applicant who works as a product engineer for Company A and aspires to work in product management, reaching out to the product manager at Company A for training tips and any advice they might be able to provide.

This type of networking can be beneficial because it lets users get the work experience they need in product management. This position also allows applicants the opportunity to “prove their worth” should a product management position open up within the company.

Management Experience

Any work experience in a management position applies to a career as a product manager – this includes any job where core management skills get called on. Some of these applicable management skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Decision making
  • Forward planning
  • Communication
  • Task delegation
  • Organization

The more relevant management experience is, the better. For example, management experience in product marketing is more relevant than management experience in veterinary practice; however, both positions still provide a solid management foundation.

Conclusion

Product management positions require product management experience. This requirement leaves many junior product professionals in a difficult spot. Fortunately, it is possible to gain the experiences needed for a product management position in other ways, including education, skills, networking or any of the other ways mentioned above. The experience is not sector-specific. Even if you’re working as a server, there is experi

Co.Lab helps aspiring product managers gain real-world experience…even if you have no PM experience just yet. Interested in learning more? Apply now

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