If you're looking to make a career switch into product management, networking can get you places. Networking essentially means identifying decision-makers, key influencers, stakeholders, and other authoritative professionals in the world of product management and building profitable relationships with them.
Connecting with the right set of people opens doors to exciting advancement opportunities and provides a peer-learning advantage that is crucial to succeeding as a product manager and land high-paying roles.
Here's a listing 3 effective networking tips for Product Managers in 2021 that will help you transition into your dream product management role.
Begin with managers and leaders at your existing company
Possibly the first person you should seek support from is your manager who is already in charge of your career trajectory and has access to relevant product management groups across the business. They are also key influencers of your professional growth and decide whether or not you face challenges, learn, and are considered for higher-up positions in your organisation.
However, how you approach a conversation with your manager depends on how your existing relationship is with them and therefore, requires tact.
- Do you have a transparent professional relationship with your manager?
- Have they been supportive of your pursuit of new opportunities and endeavors in the past?
- Does your existing company foster a favourable attitude towards professional growth?
This will give you an idea of how integral your manager will be in this new phase of your career and whether or not you can pursue opportunities internally.
If you are fortunate and your manager reacts positively to your decision to pursue your interests, you are likely to learn about interesting opportunities at your existing company. They might also provide relevant books or podcasts to help you supplement your knowledge, and put you in touch with niche communities and groups to maximise visibility.
When it comes to connecting with senior leaders at your company, you can hope to glean unique and valuable insights into the career track you are looking to pursue. They might even volunteer helpful resources in the form of books, blogs, email distributions that will serve as drivers of success in your path.
In addition to this, it's also a good idea to invest efforts into cultivating relationships with professionals at your company who share similar interests and hold job titles you are aiming for.
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Leverage product management guildes
Most companies have a product management guild where product managers get together on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss ongoing operations or new developments in the field. If you are looking for networking opportunities, a product management guild can provide you exposure to senior leadership, new product people, and outside talent, all of whom can invariably contribute to your success. This is also where you can build long-lasting professional relationships and even get to know experts on a personal level.
Get in touch with organisers at your company to find out if there are any such product management meetups, guilds, or book clubs you can be a part of. Also, find out if there is any relevant training you can undertake to develop agile skills.
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Network externally to aid your product management transition
It's possible that your existing company doesn't employ Agile methodologies in software development. Furthermore, depending on the size of your company, networking opportunities may either be abundant or limited. If it's the latter, there may be no product managers for you to seek counsel from.
For these reasons and many others, leveraging external resources to get ahead in your product career is your best bet.
There are several key areas you should concentrate on:
- Reach out to organisations that aspiring individuals in your organisation, managers, and leaders recommend.
- Research and get in touch with experts and influencers who are actively posting product management content online.
- Several communities online and niche groups on Facebook and LinkedIn can leverage to get in touch with product managers and start networking with them. Online resources like meetup.com or a simple google search ("product management groups on LinkedIn" or "product management communities") are enough to find out about interest groups that will direct you to upcoming events or meetups.
For instance, Mind the Product is one of the most reputed communities for professionals in product management which organizes meetups in over 175 cities around the year. Members also have access to its daily newsletter and the coveted Mind the Product’s Slack channel.
Here are a few other external resources, online groups, and communities to get in touch with like-minded people:
Provide Value for Effective Networking
Cultivating productive relationships requires meaningful networking efforts, and continuously aligning them to contribute to the success of your partners. Therefore, your primary objective should be to provide value to fellow product managers and work towards shared success.
As it happens, people are usually willing to give advice or help you out if you ask nicely and are within the boundaries of social conduct. Also, considering how easy it is to connect with people in the current digital age, you are likely to receive positive responses at least 7 out of 10 times.
So, here's how you can go about networking with PMs online:
- Research and find out where your target group hangs out.
- Pinpoint people who appear to know what they are talking about.
- Engage with them on their blogs, podcasts, LinkedIn/Twitter posts.
- Reach out to them personally on social media or via email — initiate a conversation about something they posted that was helpful and inspirational to you or simply thank them for the content.
- Be valuable to them — share their work, or connect them with individuals who could be beneficial to them.
- Ask them if you can help them in any way and offer any insights you might have.
- Once you've invested sufficient effort into developing a meaningful relationship with them, ask them if they'd be up for a 15-minute phone call, a session over skype, or an in-person meetup where you could discuss their experiences in product management. (Remember to be cognizant of people’s time when networking!)
If you've been consistent in providing value, there's a good chance that they'll agree to your proposal.
Networking with the right professionals can help you to think like a product manager and use that product mindset to impress key decision-makers and land an interview. So, when you do enter conversations with peers and visionaries, make sure you ask them insightful questions to get an in-depth look at the role product managers play and the problems they seek to solve.
Here are a few questions to focus on:
- What does a typical day in the life of a product manager look like?
- What helped you to reach where you are?
- What makes you stay at X organisation?
- Do you have any recommendations for me in terms of books, people, commodities or podcasts I should be leveraging?
- What are some tips to prepare for a product management interview?
At this point, you are likely to get referrals that will help you secure interviews that may not have been possible otherwise.
We hope this gives you an idea of how you can leverage networking to rapidly speed up your transition to Product Management. Let us know if you have any questions!