Breaking into the product management field is hard.
Because most entry-level product manager jobs require either a degree or some experience in the field.
But that just means you have to create your own path.
There is no single path to your first product manager job. Each person enters the field differently.
Here are 5 ways to land entry level product manager jobs
None of these paths are easy or quick. Each has pros and cons.
Path 1: Obtain a degree and learn product management
A degree is not strictly required to work in product management. A degree can help you land your first job, but after that, your experience is more important.
Formal education is still a heavy influence in hiring entry-level roles.
This is probably the longest path to your first product management job.
You will learn a lot of useful things along the way, but you will spend a lot of time in unnecessary classes too.
Path 2: Take a product management course or boot camp
Just like engineering jobs, courses and boot camps exist to train new product managers.
Many of them have job connections for finding your first job too.
This is probably one of the fastest ways to learn and gain the experience needed for your first job if you can afford it.
Path 3: Join an early-stage startup
Joining an early-stage startup in any role can springboard your career in product management.
Take any job you can land in an early startup and be helpful, curious, and kind.
Do the job you are hired to do extremely well and say yes to any piece of work that needs to be done.
Say yes to any piece of work that needs to be done.
Volunteer to help the product or engineering teams when they need help. Ask questions, find a mentor, and learn everything you can.
Path 4: Apply to entry level product manager jobs
There are entry-level associate product manager jobs available.
It may be hard to land one of these jobs with no experience, but you may get lucky and land a job that springboards your career.
If you are early in your career and can sacrifice on salary, you may find a team looking for help but is constrained on budget.
A job where you can learn is where you must start.
Be on the lookout for jobs that have well-established product teams that can offer training.
Path 5: Build something!
A great way to show your ability to be a product manager is to launch a product yourself.
It doesn’t matter if the product succeeds as a business.
The key is to talk about why the product did not succeed. Talk about…
What didn’t work.
What potential customers had to say.
What you learned.
How you would do it differently if you started over.
If you can speak to these topics convincingly, you will have a good shot at breaking into your first product manager job.
You are going to have to work hard to land entry level product manager jobs
Those are just a few possible paths to becoming a product manager. The key in all of these paths is to obtain relevant experience to springboard your product management career.
Without experience, you are going to have to put in some hard work.
Be prepared to do jobs you don’t find very fun or exciting. Learn from those experiences and apply those to your next jobs.
4 things you need to learn to land your first product manager job
Regardless of which path you take, here is what you will need to learn in order to succeed as a product manager.
Product management fundamentals
There is no substitute for this. You cannot break into this field without having knowledge of the fundamentals of how to do the job.
Read books, take courses, find a coach.
Do everything you can to learn as much as you can about the product management function.
All successful product managers must have a strong working knowledge of business basics.
Finance & accounting
All of these functions will have an influence on the products you build as a product manager.
Learn how these functions work and how they will help you succeed as a product manager.
Leadership and communication
Being a product manager requires you to be a leader.
You will have an immense influence on many initiatives, products, and projects. This requires you to adapt your communication to the audience.
Product managers have to flex from communicating high-level vision and strategy all the way down to tactical execution.
Empathy and listening skills
You will not succeed as a product manager if you lack empathy.
The most critical function of a product manager is to empathize with people’s pain such that you can create solutions to remove their pain.
This requires active listening and constant questioning of your own assumptions and biases.
Entry-level product manager jobs will springboard your career
If you work hard, remain curious, and learn constantly you are likely to succeed in landing your first product management job.
No product manager graduated college knowing how to be a great product manager.
We all learn along the way and build the career we want from the first step.